It’s no exaggeration to say that many of us are still reeling and staggered by the speed with which Coronavirus, or COVID-19, has impacted every aspect of our lives over the last few weeks. We know that for many hoteliers and property owners, these are very dark days that are hugely stressful.
There are many things we can’t influence at the moment and this loss of control is contributing to the anxiety that many people are experiencing. While we don’t know when travel restrictions will be lifted domestically and internationally, and are still to see the peak of this impact, we do know that it will eventually pass.
So what can you do to get through this testing time, and how can you set your hotel up to survive and bounce back when we finally turn a corner with COVID-19? In this first blog post, we’ll be looking at the most immediate things you can do to keep your head above water.
Of course, the first thing to do is to make sure you are taking advantage of all the available business relief packages that both the state and federal governments have put in place. This includes the $130 billion Jobkeeper Payment package announced this week.
The Queensland Government website also has details of the business support available to you, including payroll tax relief measures, job support loans and power bill relief.
Also check your local councils to see if they have any specific support that might be relevant to you. For example, City of Gold Coast has a range of measures in place to support local businesses.
If you are unsure what you are entitled to, speak to your accountant. They should be completely up-to-date with all the latest government measures being announced. They will then be able to look at your individual circumstances and advise what you’re entitled to.
There is only one reason businesses go under: running out of cash. Like so many businesses out there, you are no doubt under significant cash flow pressure right now. Implement a weekly cash flow forecast for the next 3 months, 6 months and 12 months. Include in the forecast the worst case, best case and most likely scenarios. Then consider all the options for conserving or injecting cash into the business. Next, start having discussions with any stakeholders whose ability to pay their bills may be affected.
It’s important to recognise that your rates aren’t the issue preventing people from staying with you right now. Aside from the obvious Government restrictions, travellers’ main priorities will more likely be health and hygiene. While it may be tempting to start discounting your future rates to try and stimulate bookings, the long term effect on your property’s image and profitability may be difficult to recover from.
It may seem like a low priority given the scale of the impact of this crisis but keeping up communication with all your key stakeholders is actually really important. Whether it’s staff members, suppliers and of course guests who have now had to cancel or postpone their travel plans: maintaining regular contact is vital.
In times of crisis, ‘marketing’ is often the first thing that people deem unnecessary. However, it’s important to remember that old adage: ‘out of sight, out of mind’. At some point this situation will change. And when it does, you need to be ready to bounce back. So it’s important to adopt a longer-term perspective with this situation.
While you don’t want to come across as self-serving, you can and should keep the lines of communication open. One of the big differences between this situation and previous crises the industry has faced in recent years is how much more prevalent digital marketing strategies have become. So if you’ve always had a strong presence on social media, now is not the time to ‘go dark’.
We’re all more connected than ever before, so cultivate your relationships and help people to look forward to the day when they can once again look forward to staying with you.
Aside from the measures you can take to protect your business, it’s equally important to recognise the mental and emotional strain this may be putting on you and your family. If you are feeling worried, anxious or overwhelmed by the current situation there are tools and resources available to help you manage this.
Try and take regular breaks from the media coverage. The 24/7 news cycle that we are currently in means many of us are glued to the TV or internet waiting for updates and the next raft of changes that we’re going to be hit with. While it’s important to stay informed, remember to manage your media consumption. Take regular breaks from following it and only get your information from trusted sources.
It’s become something of a cliche but remember that there are so many property owners and hoteliers in the same boat as you. In times of fear, isolation (both physical and social) and uncertainty, it is so important that we strengthen our sense of community by connecting and supporting each other. Now would be a great time to join business associations and networks where you may feel a greater sense of solidarity with people who understand exactly what you’re going through.
Lifeline also has some really valuable tips for looking after your mental health during this crisis.
And remember that when the travel restrictions are lifted, many people will be ready and eager to start travelling again, particularly in the domestic market. And depending on how well we weather the storm in Australia, we might be seen as a good destination for international travellers too. In Part 2 of this blog, we’ll take a look at some more practical tips for preparing your property for the bounce-back, when it eventually comes.
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