Hoteliers are doing their best to stay positive in the current climate and are getting prepared for recovery after the lockdown. Many hoteliers are focusing on the vital role hospitality continues to play, with an eye towards the future, to see them, their properties, and companies through these challenging times.
One of them is Floris Kemper from the Kruisherenhotel in Maastricht. We caught up with him to discuss his experience over the last two months, and how he has adapted to keep the business going.
Floris: ‘‘Within our company, we have been very much focussed on plans that will soon help us to pick up the thread. Before the coronavirus crisis, we sometimes got distracted by the issues of the day, and therefore didn’t always get to some things such as refurbishing monumental flooring and painting work in our historical buildings. When we have guests, these maintenance jobs are almost impossible. Now, we have had the time do all the refurbishing ourselves. In this way, we kept our employees working, in a useful way. Our staff were given the opportunity to think of tasks themselves, tasks they believed needed to be done. Freedom to employees is very important; maybe you don't like painting but would like to write a new manual. This brought spirit, involvement and meaning to everyone’s roles. It adds something special if employees are involved. We never had discussions about whether we’d rather be working from home, because everyone enjoys coming to work; it also brings structure to the week. We did give people the opportunity to stay at home and holiday days could be taken with a so called ‘doubler’.’’
How can you adapt business models to work in COVID-19 times? Are you doing things differently to provide alternative revenue streams?
Floris: ‘‘Time is a godsend. You must make the most of the chance now as this might be the last time we get to stand still, and really think and analyse together. I think that hotel managers will become aware that long-term strategy is more important than we thought; back to the core - why are we here, and who exactly do we want to be?”
How can you assist the recovery?
Floris: ‘’After this crisis we will be more cautious with investments and look more critically at what is possible. Normally, we save a specific ‘refreshment-budget’ for every room. But why? The value of the investment is suddenly so much more important. We must ask ourselves every time: does this really add value? Something I thought was important to do two months ago is no longer important to me. Necessity forces better-considered choices.’’
Floris believes that nothing will be the same again.
‘’Over the last couple of months, we’ve had the time to think about, for instance, how to deal with F&B in the future, and to make new strategic choices. The concept just wasn’t distinctive enough. I believe that most restaurants offer the same nowadays; the same menus and the same plate-decoration, with a lack of own identity. Our restaurant has always been at the top of its segment, often booked by tourists and less local, mainly older, and wealthy people. Now, we should make F&B more accessible to attract locals and a wider target group. But a retired couple who come every week is a different guest to the new generation.
Floris believes that consumption behaviour will change.
Floris: “Consumers will see the value of money more after coronavirus and will think twice about where to spend it. I expect a countermovement for a more local and sustainable market.
I attended a conference in Georgia last year about the consumer of the future, and the predictions are becoming very real. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware that you are what you eat. Pro-active nomads who are aware of everything they consume will no longer opt for 5-star luxury, but for a local connection, the opportunity to give something back to society and to be aware of the choices that they can make as consumers. Local relevancy becomes key. This has always been the basic thought of Oostwegel by preserving historic buildings and nature. Now is the right time to have that conversation again; why are we here and how do we radiate that to our guests? Guests will then choose you, which is favourable for business results.
Kruisherenhotel will also start cooperating more with other local entrepreneurs. For instance, with a local menswear store in the city. Tourists can go shopping there during the day, stay in the Kruisherenhotel, and the next day receive their tailor-made clothes before returning home. This way, we aim to support the community.”