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How COVID-19 can stimulate healthier hospitality leadership

Much has already been written about how travel and tourism will be irrevocably changed by the coronavirus pandemic. Optimists and realists alike are focusing on more environmentally friendly ways of reaching our chosen destinations, more sensitive ways of considering local culture and more sustainable, ethical methods of sharing and distributing the financial benefits of tourism.

But what about the hospitality and in particular the hotel industry itself? If there was ever a time for us to engage in honest, unflinching self-reflection, this is it. As travellers and vacationers are ready and willing to change their habits, so the hotel industry must look to reshape its practices for the future.

Responding to the crisis
Facing possibly the toughest situation it has ever encountered, the hotel industry now needs fresh solutions to these challenges. Management cannot simply fall back on “we’ve always done it this way”. In the post-COVID-19 marketplace, only different approaches and attitudes will succeed.

A new style of leadership
When the hotel sector goes back to work, the most urgent need will be to reassess staffing needs, operational procedures and ensure our guests return sooner than later. Ultimately, recoup lost income, re-establish cashflow and focus on the quickest returns on investment.

Operating structures will have to be pared-down and become more efficient. Leaner, more agile leadership with effective change management skills must create imaginative, practical plans to get businesses back on track.

Managers will have to adapt to the new situation with new-found agility. The days of a Hotel Manager shut away in a back office are over. They will need to be multifaceted: even more present throughout the hotel, taking care of guests and staff, mobilising their teams, coaching / teaching and leading by example. In this new climate of lower hotel occupancies and reduced income, one role per employee has become an unaffordable luxury. Staff will now need to be trained to take on a broader range of disciplines. Managers should emphasise the positive aspects of this: employees will enjoy more varied work and gain a wider range of experience to help them progress their careers.

Creative, cost-efficient business models will be needed for operations, sales, marketing, revenue management and distribution strategies. Trusted employees should be invited to contribute to management decisions; their perspective ‘at the coal face’ will help shape your recovery policy and make them feel more involved and valued.

It’s vital these new initiatives are communicated clearly throughout the business, to ensure they are adopted successfully.

Keeping your teams motivated
There are undoubtedly difficult financial decisions to be made, and it can be tempting to focus wholly on saving cash. But this is short-sighted. Hotel businesses which have laid-off the majority of their employees will find it difficult and expensive to recruit the skilled talent they need as the market recovers.

Conversely, firms who have furloughed as many employees as possible to give them some degree of security can expect greater loyalty and renewed commitment. Identify your core people and work hard to retain them.

Management who also display integrity and a sense of unity, for example by ensuring fair pay cuts during this difficult time, will be more highly regarded by the workforce after the crisis.

This is the ideal moment for top executives to show strength, empathy and vision. Employees will respond best to leaders who inspire through their energy, optimism and sense of purpose, and create a collaborative, environment that encourages and nurtures development.

Whilst it may seem counter-intuitive, now is the perfect time to invest in your most talented employees, for example by encouraging and providing cross-training. In the hotel’s immediate future there will be fewer staff, and employees and managers alike must be ready to use new skills.

Mitigating the impact on employees
For hotel staff, the pandemic has bitten hard, and with countries taking separate routes to easing their lockdown restrictions, it is unclear when and how the worldwide travel and tourism industry recovery will kick in.

This leaves many employees worrying about their income now and their job security mid to long term. The situation is especially tough for those already on low wages, with few savings, yet the anxiety is also felt right up to senior management. Are their positions safe? Would they be able to find a similar role elsewhere?

Great C-level leaders and managers are those who stay connected and communicate regularly with their employees, sharing objectives and building that vital sense of hope for the future.

Part of the recovery process must involve making the workplace more attractive and productive. Ensure the work environment is balanced, with genuinely equal opportunities and fair rewards for everyone. Revisit how you evaluate performance; is it an objective and positive system? Failing to address these aspects could lead to your talented employees looking elsewhere. 

Image and perception
Hotel leadership responses to the crisis have varied. Many have taken positive action. In the absence of paying customers, some hotels have opened their rooms to help isolate patients who are not critically ill, easing the burden on hospitals. Or temporarily taken in homeless people, who would otherwise be especially vulnerable to the virus. Others have kept kitchens running, to help feed emergency workers who haven’t had time to source meals for themselves.

These positive actions, displaying a spirit of generosity will mean these businesses are better perceived by potential guests. Those who have been distant and unsupportive during the pandemic will find that empathy and integrity are important, and guests and employees have long memories.

Goodbye old order, hello new era
There is a broad consensus that the travel and tourism industry cannot return to how it was before COVID-19. The lockdown has given guests, hotel business owners, directors, managers and employees time to assess how we all live, work, travel and relax.

Personal well-being, work/life balance, the vulnerability of the planet and a stronger determination to protect it, will change how hospitality is perceived and must perform in the future.

Some hotel businesses, however, seem to have learned little from the experiences of 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis. Those who cling to the old, pre-COVID-19 model are unlikely to prosper. Companies and leaders with the sensitivity and emotional intelligence to address guest and employee concerns, with policies that demonstrate fairness and diversity, will fare best of all.

The pandemic cannot be ignored or wished away. For hotel employees at all levels, it should be seen as an incentive to develop fresh skills and become more valued and marketable, as multi-functional, hands-on and strategically savvy individuals. For hotel owners and management, this is the start of a new era: the opportunity to learn from experience and use the freshly gained insight to develop more dynamic, creative, sustainable leadership that is fit for a brave new world.

Source: https://www.traveldailynews.com/post/how-covid-19-can-stimulate-healthier-hospitality-leadership

REITs see long-term opportunities, but market stalled

REIT executives see the chance to make deals in the future as the hotel industry continues to cope with the COVID-19 downturn, but many said deals are put on hold for the time being.

REPORT FROM THE U.S.—While many are eager to see the deals market open up, with the expectation that distressed assets could be available, executives with real estate investment trusts said they are still examining the market before ultimately making moves.

Here’s what executives had to say about potential deal making during first-quarter earnings calls:

Neil Shah, president and COO, Hersha Hospitality Trust
“Generally, I think smaller assets are easier to sell, and assets and investment opportunities that don’t require … traditional capital markets are more likely to get done today. Frankly, I think the four (deals) we have under contract were probably the most likely to get done in an environment, generally. But since we have hard deposits on these four, that is where most of our effort and focuses (are) … expecting those to close. We continue to always consider inbound inquiries for other hotels in the portfolio, and we’ve had conversations with a lot of investors. But you’ve seen the math. A buyer today for … a traditional institutional grade hotel asset needs a pretty high return to justify making an investment. There’s no debt market that they can use to support their investments or they’re thinking of it as an unlevered deal without any clarity on when operating losses stop. Most investors consider pretty long drag on operating losses. When the math generally comes out to where you hear buyers or private equity talking about interest in deals, is that kind of 11% to 12% kind of cap rates on 2019 kind of performance? I don’t think there is many sellers at that level.”

Dan Hansen, chairman, president and CEO, Summit Hotel Properties
“I think it’s fair to say that everybody is in some level of distress right now, particularly the smaller owner-operators. I don’t know that there is an immediate opportunity regardless of the level of leverage or operations. Banks have generally been supportive of smaller owner-operators and giving them time to get their feedback under them. As far as opportunities, our priority right now is really on the portfolio. And based on our portfolio, the locations, the chain scale and the operating model, we think there is a lot of value to be created from here simply with that. But to the extent there is an opportunity in the future, we do have as good a relationship with our lenders as anybody in this space.”

Justin Knight, CEO, Apple Hospitality REIT
“Our expectation is that in the early phases of recovery, there will be an increase in the number of opportunities that would be attractive to us. Our first preference, though, is getting back to cash positive. I think it would be reasonable for us to assume that while we are eager to pursue opportunities from a capital allocation standpoint, which would drive shareholder value. Our No. 1 priority at this point is getting back to a position where we’re producing positive cash flow from operations. Until we get to that point, I think it’s fair to say that we would be conservative in pursuing optional uses of cash.”

Thomas Baltimore, Jr., president and CEO, Park Hotels & Resorts
“Park is not interested in (deals) at this time. We are laser-focused on all the initiatives that we’ve outlined, laser-focused on getting through the recession so that we are well-positioned when the recovery begins.”

James Risoleo, president and CEO, Host Hotels & Resorts
“We are in a unique position given the strength of the company and the fact that we came into the year at 1.6x debt to (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) with $1.6 billion of cash on the balance sheet, we are truly in a position to persevere through this downturn, through this pandemic and come out the other side in a position to play offense. Now when does that happen? I think right now it’s very premature at this point in time, I don’t think you’re going to see us or anybody else in a position to acquire hotels until we have greater visibility on the case of how the U.S. economy is going to perform and how it’s going to recover. Everyone is in agreement today that we are in a recession. We just don’t know the depth of the recession, nor do we know the duration of the recession. There are numerous conversations occurring between hotel owners and lenders today with respect to waivers, interest forbearance, it’s a question of how that’s all going to play out and where the opportunities are going to be. It’s a little too soon to know. But when we have visibility and when we start seeing opportunities come to market, we will be in a position to take advantage of those opportunities. We’re talking to our bank group about giving us some optionality to acquire hotels as we move forward.

“Obviously, the hotels are going to have to be a strategic fit for us. They’re going to have to be priced appropriately, they’re going to have to allow us to believe that we’re going to be able to create shareholder value or we’re going to continue to be disciplined in our approach to capital allocation. We think it served us very well toward the end of this cycle and given us an opportunity to play offense.”

Sean Mahoney, EVP and CFO, RLJ Lodging Trust
“As we think about deploying on acquisitions, which we still need to get through COVID-19 before really focusing on acquisitions in any meaningful way, but certainly, the new normal will factor into our thoughts around geographic reallocation within our portfolio. But our footprint today, we have a portfolio for a reason, which is we like to have a diverse geographic dispersion and we’re comfortable with our footprint today.”

Keith Cline, president and CEO, CorePoint Lodging
“These deals that closed were deals that we had struck pre-COVID-19. Generally, the vast, vast majority of the people that are buying these hotels are existing hotel owners that may either own a La Quinta flag or potentially even other flags. I will tell you from the onset, these deals were closed for the purpose of continuing to operate a hotel. Now, that may change over time, but the deals that we’ve struck, the vast majority of those are for continuing hotel operations.”

Jon Bortz, chairman, president and CEO of Pebblebrook Hotel Trust
“We also expect there to be significant opportunities over the next few years to acquire properties in distress, due to a likely prevalence of cash strapped and over-levered owners and many properties that go back to lenders.

“Our team has been through two prior crisis-driven opportunistic periods, including the creation of Pebblebrook in late 2009 following the tail end of the Great Recession. Following that crisis, we were able to fairly quickly and aggressively assemble a very unique portfolio of high-quality hotels and resorts at very attractive prices that also had substantial upside opportunities. Given our ability to operate our properties more efficiently than the vast majority of buyers … our unique strength and redevelopments and transformations, we believe we’ll have a significant advantage as opportunities arise over the next few years.”

Source: http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/Articles/302855/REITs-see-long-term-opportunities-but-market-stalled

Wyndham Continues to Grow New-Construction Pipeline

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts announced today that the company is continuing to forge ahead with new-construction growth, opening 11 newly built hotels across the United States in the first quarter and breaking ground on a number of hotels in its new-construction pipeline. In the same period, the company executed agreements for more than 25 future new-build hotels in the United States, further expanding its pipeline and planting roots for travel recovery in the long term.

New Openings in Q1

The company’s 11 new-construction openings in the United States represent nearly 1,000 rooms. The recent openings—including properties across its La Quinta by Wyndham, Wingate by Wyndham, Days Inn by Wyndham, and Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham brands—are in destinations primed for domestic, drive-to leisure travel such as Miramar Beach, Fla.; Houston, Texas; Spokane, Wash.; and Wisconsin Dells, Wis.

Pipeline

Developers are also starting construction on hotels in the pipeline, reinforcing optimism for the industry’s recovery. Developers for Wyndham-branded hotels broke ground on approximately 10 new hotels in the United States year-to-date, including a Microtel hotel in Hot Springs, Ark.; a La Quinta hotel in San Antonio, Texas; an extended-stay Hawthorn Suites hotel in Oklahoma City, Okla.; and a Trademark Collection by Wyndham hotel in Leavenworth, Kan.

“Despite a rapidly changing landscape for hotel developers around the world, a number of our owners are pressing forward with new-construction projects in the economy and midscale segments, reinforcing our overall confidence in the long-term viability of our industry,” said Krishna Paliwal, head of architecture, design, and construction for Wyndham. “New-construction growth, however gradual, represents our optimism for the future of travel.”

Conversions

Though construction has generally slowed across the industry, Wyndham continued to add new conversion projects in the first quarter—the company’s conversion pipeline increased 8 percent globally year-over-year.

Looking Ahead to Recovery

As the pandemic begins to abate in the United States, Wyndham maintains that its existing franchisees are well-positioned for recovery: The company operates a nearly 90 percent drive-to business in the United States with a concentration in the select-service chain scale segments—which have outperformed higher-end full-service hotels during the pandemic—and more than 95 percent of its domestic guests originate within the United States, making them less reliant on air travel.

Wyndham also recently announced “Count on Us,” a new initiative to build confidence among guests and to support franchisees as it prepares to welcome travelers back to its U.S. hotels.

Source: https://lodgingmagazine.com/wyndham-continues-to-grow-new-construction-pipeline/

Wyndham’s Coronavirus Survival Strategy Is Signing Struggling Indie Hotels to Its Brand

Wyndham is banking future growth will come from independent hotels converting to flagged properties, but continued uncertainty in travel will dictate the opportunity timeline.
— Cameron Sperance

Wyndham is taking a page from its Great Recession recovery playbook to guide future growth.

The hotel industry is in coronavirus survival mode, grappling with cratered occupancy rates and revenue per room. But executives at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts also see room for opportunity from the downturn. Wyndham leadership expects independent hotel operators to rush to branded opportunities to capitalize on bigger reservation systems, loyalty programs, and marketing budgets.

The global hotel company grew its room count by 3 percent during the last recession from independent operators converting to a Wyndham-flagged brand, according to a Tuesday investor presentation.

“We have a long-proven track record of growing net rooms through lodging cycle downturns by igniting our conversion engine, which is fueled through the strength and flexibility of our value proposition,” Wyndham Chief Financial Officer Michelle Allen said on Wyndham’s first quarter earnings call.

Wyndham, which owns brands like Days Inn and La Quinta, expects conversion rates to remain slow in the near-term but accelerate as soon as travel begins to return. The hospitality company has initially earmarked $30 million for development opportunities but that figure could increase, Allen added.

There are more than 15,000 independent economy and mid-scale hotels in the U.S., Wyndham CEO Geoff Ballotti said. The company’s franchise and sales teams have been restructured to increase Wyndham’s conversion coverage by approximately three times current rates. Wyndham’s new construction salespeople have also been redeployed to convert independent economy and mid-scale hotels to Wyndham flags.

Wyndham’s strategy comes as analysts predict travelers will return with a heightened focus on safety and cleanliness. Branded hotels that offer a better sense of familiarity or increased display of cleaning standards will likely be in a better position than independent properties. If the anticipated travel trend pans out, independent hoteliers will likely migrate toward flag affiliation.

“Converting independent hotels to our brand has always been a consistent part of Wyndham’s growth through up and down cycles,” Ballotti said.

TOUGH TIMES TO COME

There are still choppy waters to overcome before Wyndham can fully chase opportunities.

First quarter revenue was down 12 percent to $410 million. Wyndham’s adjusted net income, at $47 million, for the first quarter was down 8 percent. Revenue per room or RevPAR, the hotel industry’s key performance metric, was down 23 percent.

The second quarter will most likely perform even worse. Preliminary April results show RevPAR at Wyndham’s U.S. properties down 66 percent, Allen said. U.S. occupancy was at its lowest point the week of April 11, averaging 22 percent but showing slight improvements in following weeks. Occupancy in China, where roughly 200 of Wyndham’s 1,200-hotel portfolio remains closed, is running in the 20 percent range, up from single-digit lows.

The company last quarter generated more than $250 million in cash savings, of which Allen expects $100 million will be permanent savings. That stems from about 440 eliminated staff positions and reductions in facilities and other discretionary expenses like spending on vendors.

About 5,900, or 94 percent, of Wyndham’s U.S. hotels remain open. The majority of the hotels need an occupancy rate around 30 percent for owners to continue to make debt service obligations, Ballotti said. But government assistance like a Paycheck Protection Program loan lowers that breakeven number considerably.

More than 95 percent of Wyndham’s franchisees have applied for a PPP or Economic Injury Disaster Loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, Ballotti added. Nearly 80 percent have been approved for one or both.

THE DRIVE-TO BOUNCE BACK

Wyndham’s biggest selling point to independent hoteliers during conversion talks will be how most of its portfolio is positioned.

More than 90 percent of Wyndham’s hotels is in the select-service sector, which is less labor intensive and operates at a higher profit margin than full-service hotels. A typical Wyndham-flagged property requires less than a dozen full-time staff members, and staff levels are “highly scalable to demand,” Ballotti said. Nearly 90 percent of the Wyndham portfolio is in drive-to locations, which travel industry analysts and executives expect to be the first sector to recover from the coronavirus crisis.

“Our customer profile in the U.S. is about 70 percent leisure and 90 percent drive-to,” Ballotti said. “While the impact of Covid-19 continues to evolve, as this pandemic abates in the U.S., our franchisees should be the first to benefit.

Source: https://skift.com/2020/05/05/wyndhams-coronavirus-survival-strategy-is-signing-struggling-indie-hotels-to-its-brand/

Swiss luxury hotel chain offers special quarantine package

Le Bijou, a luxury hotel chain in Switzerland, is offering a quarantine package to its guests that includes in-room corona virus testing, doctor visits and 24-hour nursing care.

Le Bijou is a part hotel, part serviced apartments company, and operates its luxury accommodation across Switzerland in cities including Zurich, Geneva and Basel. Switzerland, which shares a border with Northern Italy, was impacted early.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, Le Bijou already catered for a very exclusive clientele, playing host to the likes of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Jordan Belfort and even the Saudi Royal Family, charging between £700 to £1,700 per night.

But even the most luxurious hotels have not been immune to the plummeting demand, which has led to the co-founder and CEO of the hotel chain to get creative.

After the disease reached Europe, traditional reservations ceased, but the hotel was getting new requests from people who wanted a luxury place to stay away from the outbreak, avoid hospitals, while still cook their own food and have access to doctors and nursing care.

To meet this new demand, Le Bijou began advertising quarantine-friendly perks to attract guests, including contact-less check-in (to avoid contact between strangers) and medical services in guest’s rooms provided by Double Check, a Swizz private medical clinic.

This five star service does not come cheap, and different packages are available. Coron avirus testing can be bought for around £400. A twice-daily check in from a nurse is £1,500 while the 24/7 nurse service costs £4,000.

The accommodation provides daily food deliveries and personal chef services, but to meet government regulations the management have cut the daily cleaning service to just sanitising the rooms between guests.

Source: http://www.tourismnewslive.com/2020/03/27/swiss-luxury-hotel-chain-offers-special-quarantine-package/

More Than a Number: Forging a Path When Millions of Hotel Workers Are Losing Their Jobs

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic—not even three months after the disease was officially reported to the WHO Country Office in China on December 31 of last year. Since then, the world has changed dramatically. More than 200,000 people globally have died from the disease, according to the New York Times, and the U.S. death toll is climbing, nearing 50,000.

COVID-19 has had an overwhelming impact on everyone’s way of life. All over the United States, people are being told to shelter in place, refrain from meeting in groups, practice social distancing, and even start wearing masks when out in public. Businesses have shut down and commerce has slowed significantly. These changes have been deeply felt in many industries, but our industry—hospitality—has been hit harder than most.

Almost overnight, occupancy plummeted. On April 8, STR reported that U.S. occupancy averaged 21.6 percent for the week of March 29 through April 4. This drop in demand has led many hoteliers to either greatly reduce operations at their properties or shutter their hotels entirely for the time being.

This has had a profound impact on the hotel industry’s most important resource—its people. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hotel industry supported more than 8 million jobs and was facing a massive labor shortage, with some experts saying that there were more than a million vacancies. Now, the industry has gone in the opposite direction.

In response to the outbreak, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) conducted a study with Oxford Economics regarding the impact COVID-19 will have on the hotel industry. That study, which came out in mid-March, estimated that almost 4 million hotel jobs have either been eliminated or will be eliminated in the next few weeks. “I think we all can agree this has been an extraordinarily crippling time for the hospitality industry in particular,” said Rosanna Maietta, AHLA Foundation president and EVP of communications and public relations at AHLA, when she spoke to LODGING in the beginning of April. “In this time, when travel has virtually come to a halt, it’s been heartbreaking to see hotel after hotel close, and hotel workers so recently in high demand now facing reduced hours and furloughs.”

As Maietta noted, for a people-focused industry like hospitality, this reality is absolutely devastating. Furthermore, the situation is evolving so quickly that many hoteliers and their teams don’t even know how they should be responding. Despite the uncertainty, the hotel industry is one of action. On March 17, hotel leaders, including AHLA president and CEO Chip Rogers, met with President Trump, Vice President Pence, and members of the cabinet seeking urgent financial aid for hoteliers. Rogers told journalists after the meeting, “As it continues to be unknown how long this public health situation will last, the coronavirus has already had a more severe impact on our industry than 9/11 and the 2008 recession combined.”

Since the meeting, AHLA and its charitable giving arm, the AHLA Foundation, have moved to make as many resources available to hoteliers as possible. They launched AHLA’s Hospitality for Hope Initiative, which “was created to boost collaboration between the hotel industry and local, state, and federal governments to help employees, communities across the country, and the industry during this unprecedented health crisis.” The AHLA Foundation announced on April 1 that it would be offering free professional development courses for hotel workers through the initiative through the end of April. On April 6, AHLA reported that 15,000 U.S. hotels signed up to participate in Hospitality for Hope, volunteering to provide temporary housing for emergency and healthcare workers. Brands have also taken steps to assist the overtaxed healthcare industry. Hilton, Marriott, and Red Roof have launched programs that offer free stays to frontline healthcare workers.

Major hotel companies, too, are taking steps to provide assistance to hospitality workers who have been laid off or furloughed. Hilton, Wyndham, and IHG have developed tools to connect furloughed employees with temporary jobs.

Some companies have also taken steps to assist franchisees. For example, Best Western is waiving half of its franchisees’ monthly fees and property revenue management fees.

Even with all of these efforts, there’s no doubt that the industry is struggling. Sagar V. Shah, principal at Yatra Capital Group LLC, told LODGING at the beginning of April that he’s not sure how much longer his properties can stay open—his company owns a 135-key Holiday Inn Express & Suites and a 140-key Best Western Plus. “As far as my hotels, they’re open, we’re trying to hang on, but we’re dealing with single-digit occupancy, so fiscally, it might not make sense for me to hold on. I’m going to reevaluate in the next week or two, maybe give it another 30 days,” he said. This is a reality facing many owners and developers.

There’s no doubt that the next weeks and months will be a challenge for the hotel industry, especially with so much changing each and every day. But hospitality is one of the world’s oldest industries, and it’ll be ready to pick itself up and start welcoming guests yet again when this crisis passes.

Source: https://lodgingmagazine.com/more-than-a-number-forging-a-path-when-millions-of-hotel-workers-are-losing-their-jobs/

Accor CEO: We Won’t Be Investing Equity in Our Struggling Hotels

While Europe’s largest hotel operator is struggling amid the global decline in travel, Accor also has $2.7 billion cash on hand. But it won’t use that money to bail out operators struggling through the coronavirus downturn.

Operations at 62 percent of Accor’s global hotel portfolio are suspended due to coronavirus. The French hotel company saw a 17 percent decline in revenue and 25 percent drop in revenue per room, or RevPAR, in the first quarter. March was the weakest month of the quarter, but April and May are expected to be the worst months of the year due to uncertainty in when the global economy will reopen, according to Accor’s first quarter earnings report out on Wednesday.

Accor CEO Sebastian Bazin acknowledged the company has a grim outlook for the year, but the company does not plan to divert from its asset-light shift in recent years to assist struggling operators of any Accor-flagged property.

“While we’re not there yet, we have to foresee some tiny level of owners may not have the means or will to reopen,” Bazin said Wednesday on Accor’s earnings call. “Under absolutely no circumstances would we inject equity in those different owners, permitting them to reopen. We are asset-light and have no plan to go back to asset-heavy.”

The hotel company isn’t looking to get back into widespread property ownership, but Bazin said it has worked with struggling owners in areas like franchise fees in the past. Accor’s financial strength — the company can go “much further than nine months” with its current cash levels, Bazin said — is due in part to shedding real estate and completing an asset-light transformation at the end of 2019.

“We have far sufficient time to cope with what could be nine to 12 months. We’ll have better clarity after summer where we are on the shape and strength of a recovery,” Bazin said. “I can tell you we are not depending on any other sources than from cash we have on the balance sheet.”

A VERY DARK HORIZON

Accor still has to account for a weak quarter and uncertain year ahead for global travel. First quarter revenue was down 17 percent to $831 million, and Accor expects a $184 million shortfall in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization — or EBITDA.

“Since we don’t know the shape, the time, the nature of the recovery, everything we plan for is the worst. Every assumption we have made in Accor over the next 12 months is on a very gloomy, pessimistic scenario when it comes to EBITDA and working capital,” Bazin said. “Hopefully it’s going to be better than expected, but no management team should be preparing for blue sky when you simply don’t know how to spell it. I know it’s coming, but we’re preparing for the worst.”

Both Bazin and Accor Deputy CEO and Chief Financial Officer Jean-Jacques Morin said they expected Accor’s financial outlook to improve once the results of cost-savings measures enacted at the end of March materialized in coming months. The EBITDA shortfall estimate does not incorporate the cost savings moves. The company has furloughed staff, shuttered properties, suspended dividends and stock buybacks, reduced executive compensation, and deferred projects.

Morin estimated the company burned through as much as $217 million in cash over the first quarter, with $162 million of the loss coming in March alone.

“One thing we’ve learned is the next week is not the week you had planned for the week before,” Morin said. “It’s a very dynamic way with which we work with operations.”

GROWTH STILL POSSIBLE

Accor still added 8,000 hotel rooms to its global portfolio in the first quarter and has a 208,000-room pipeline. Properties in China have begun to reopen, and occupancy at Accor’s upscale Chinese properties has improved into the 20 percent range. The company still expects 3 percent global net supply growth for all of 2020, Bazin said.

A leading source of growth will likely stem from “instant noodles,” a term Bazin said applies to growth from smaller or independent hotels looking to become flag-affiliated. While there is debate on if the downturn in travel will lead to a hotel brand shakeout, analysts and Bazin see it as an opportunity for growth when smaller operators look to tap into a global brand’s increased exposure to whatever level of travel occurs in the recovery.

“There are independent hotels talking to Accor on having Accor put brands on quickly to weather the storm and have access to third-party financing they wouldn’t normally have if Accor wasn’t there,” Bazin said.

Source: https://www.ehospitalitytimes.com/?p=90191&preview=true&_thumbnail_id=90192

Europe’s Hotel Industry Reports Unprecedented Performance Lows for March 2020

Europe hotel occupancy fell 61.6% to 26.3% in March, ADR dipped 8.1% to €96.13 ($104.17) and RevPAR decreased 64.7% to €25.27 ($27.37).

Reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Europe’s hotel industry reported unprecedented performance lows during March 2020, according to data from STR.

Euro constant currency, March 2020 vs. March 2019

• Occupancy: -61.6% to 26.3%
• Average daily rate (ADR): -8.1% to EUR96.13
• Revenue per available room (RevPAR): -64.7% to EUR25.27

The absolute occupancy and RevPAR levels in Europe were the lowest for any month on record.

Local currency, March 2020 vs. March 2019

Italy

• Occupancy: -90.8% to 6.2%
• ADR: -22.0% to EUR89.60
• RevPAR: -92.8% to EUR5.52

The absolute occupancy, ADR and RevPAR levels were the lowest for any month in STR’s Italy database. Key markets in the country, Rome and Milan, each reported absolute occupancy below 10.0% at 6.6% and 4.0%, respectively. The country’s downward trend in occupancy began in late February.

United Kingdom

• Occupancy: -50.8% to 36.5%
• ADR: -9% to GBP79.49
• RevPAR: -55.3% to EUR28.99

The absolute occupancy and RevPAR levels were the lowest for any month in STR’s U.K. database. At the market-level, London’s occupancy fell 60.0% to 32.7%.

Source: https://www.hotelnewsresource.com/article110357.html

Hilton, Marriott donate free hotel rooms for medical workers responding to coronavirus crisis

Beginning Monday, Hilton and American Express will donate 1 million hotel rooms for medical professionals working on the coronavirus pandemic response.

The rooms will be available to doctors, nurses, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and other workers through the end of May, according to Hilton.

“They truly are heroes,” Hilton President and CEO Christopher Nassetta said in a statement. “We are honored to extend our Hilton hospitality to them during this difficult time.”

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The American College of Emergency Physicians is one of 10 medical groups the companies are working with to make the rooms available for those who need them.

“Knowing that there is a safe, clean and comfortable hotel room waiting for you at the end of a long shift can make all the difference in the world right now,” said William Jaquis, the group’s president.

Marriott is donating $10 million in hotel stays for doctors and nurses. The company’s efforts are focused on the areas of the country most affected by coronavirus, including New York and Newark, New Jersey; New Orleans; Detroit; Los Angeles; Las Vegas and Washington.

Marriott lets its customers donate their reward points to a variety of coronavirus relief efforts, including World Central Kitchen, Unicef, the American Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Source: https://www.msn.com/en-us/travel/news/hilton-marriott-donate-free-hotel-rooms-for-medical-workers-responding-to-coronavirus-crisis/ar-BB12wost

Industry insight: How smart tech is reshaping hotels

With technology being a catalyst in the competitive arena of hospitality, hoteliers are focusing on offering guests a unique experience that attracts them toward their services. The hotel industry has changed over the years, explains STAAH.

Smart technology is changing everything from the homes we live in to how our cities are managed. The hospitality industry is no exception. In many ways, the hospitality industry is leading the charge in the adoption of smart business technology.

From operations to guest experience to marketing, smart hotel technology offers a variety of cost savings and revenue opportunities, and it is enabling hotel owners to reach new levels of profitability. Here are some ways in which smart technology is reshaping how hoteliers operate.

Self check-in

Today, the guest does not want to wait at the reception desk, and they are expecting everything digital in your hotel. However, self-check-in service by a mobile app is the best solution for customers as well as hotel management staff.

Also, with this, the guests can easily find out whether their room is ready, can make requests for amenities and many more.

Mobile room keys

A smartphone app that provides guest room access, eliminates the problem of attendees losing their key card or the environmental impact of countless plastic cards. This could help your corporate social responsibility image. It’s a win-win!

Reserved Parking

Smart sensors and hotel apps will allow guests to not only reserve parking spots ahead of their visits, but to also have their spot assigned at their arrival. This will give your guests an effortless experience from the minute they pull up.

Online Reputation Management

A hotel’s online ratings can not only help predict future bookings, but they offer owners valuable insight into how well a property delivered on guest expectations. Therefore, operators will continue to invest in platforms such as STAAH’s review minder, that help them monitor online reviews, manage their online reputation and use that feedback to improve both their operational and guest experience standards.

Room service

Hotels will be able to push menu notifications to guests’ smartphones when they are in their rooms using smart occupancy sensors. They can also schedule texts tailored to fit their preferred ordering times, including personalised menu suggestions based on previous orders.

Other smart technologies such as customer surveys, smart loyalty-program management and smart hotel management will play a bigger role in how hotels operate in 2020 and beyond. The key to smarter hotel operations is implementing the right technologies that meet guests’ expectations and hoteliers’ needs to get to know these travelers better.

Source: https://hoteldesigns.net/industry-news/industry-insight-how-smart-tech-is-reshaping-hotels/