Since April 2020, we have been running the Hotelier PULSE Report series to track the evolution of hotel industry trends as hotels embark on the road to recovery. Each month we survey hundreds of Hotel industry leaders from CEOs to General Managers on hot topics that remain top-of-mind during these unprecedented times.
For the upcoming November edition of The Hotelier PULSE Report, we have launched a brand new Hotelier Spotlight segment, where we interview Hoteliers to get insight on how their businesses have responded to the crisis and what the sales and marketing priorities are for recovery and beyond.
For the first Hotelier Spotlight interview, we had the pleasure of catching up with Jørgen Christensen, CEO at Small Danish Hotels to understand the Group’s journey through 2020 and what’s on the agenda for 2021.
I always ask myself is: Where will our next hotel guests come from?
What was your initial reaction to the crisis and your hotel group’s short-term priorities to overcome it? Has this changed today?
Shock was the initial reaction for all of us at Small Danish Hotels, and I am sure every other hotel and group worldwide. To suddenly go from a record-breaking 2019 to facing permanent closure, privately-owned or family-run hotels felt this shock more severely. In the first few weeks of the crisis, I felt more like a shrink than a Hotel CEO because everyone was very preoccupied with what was going on.
But fortunately for Small Danish and other hotels and groups here in Denmark, the Danish government was very quick to deliver help packages to the hotel industry.
One month into the crisis, after the initial shockwaves passed, we all began to think about the new world our hotels would reopen into and what the restrictions would be. More importantly, we wondered: “Will there be any guests visiting? Where will our revenue come from?”
In May, when most hotels reopened in Denmark, there was a significant shift in focus towards sales and marketing. Luckily for us, the boom came almost straight away and reservations poured in from local guests and travelers from surrounding markets such as Germany and Holland. This trend replaced our initial concern with hope for the summer months.
What is top of mind for you and your Hotel Group right now?
Over the past six months during this unprecedented period, our sales and marketing strategy has remained top-of-mind for our group of hotels in Denmark. One question I always ask myself is: “Where will our next hotel guests come from?”
Although Covid-19 is largely under control here in Denmark, we do see areas where cases increase more than we want them to. Immediately this affects our hotels, and we see the impact in the cancellations.
For the wider industry here in Denmark, a major concern is the extremely low levels of business travel, both domestic and international. Currently, leisure travel is the segment where most hotels in Denmark are generating business during this time.
What has the industry implemented that you think will be an improvement to the industry going forward?
There is certainly an even bigger focus on the customer journey right now. There is no doubt in my mind that many hotels are ramping up their sales and marketing efforts to tackle new markets, and particularly local guests, given how domestic travel is the number 1 segment for us right now.
There is also an increased focus on the reasons to visit a hotel. I expect more hoteliers will be actively creating special packages to set their hotels apart and communicate the benefits of booking a stay, such as local attractions in the area or discovering cultural experiences.
Direct bookings have also increased in importance because hotels are looking to save costs. Here in Denmark, we have already seen this trend over the summer, with some big campaigns urging guests to help local hotels by booking directly. I also expect many hotels will be reconsidering OTA partnerships, which don’t really distinguish one hotel from another, apart from price.
And of course, the industry is now increasingly focused on the wellbeing, health, and safety of guests. In Denmark, the industry launched an initiative called, “Safe to Visit”, where hotels that implement enhanced health protocols can showcase compliance to reassure guests.