The Hospitality industry: Navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced many variables that are obscuring the prospect of recovery of the hospitality sector.
Dr. Heba Aziz, Professor at the Faculty of Business and Economics and director of MBA programmes invited the General Manager of Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton Hotel, Katrin Herz, to a virtual talk to students of the International Business and Service Management (IBSM) department recently to gain insights into crisis management in the hospitality industry amid the covid-19 pandemic.
“I am pleased that students enrolled in my course “Contemporary Issues in Tourism: Crisis Management” had got the opportunity to learn about what is happening in the hospitality from a hospitality practitioner with an extensive local and international experience.” Commented Dr. Heba Aziz.
Herz gave her thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton Hotel, in particular and the hospitality sector in general. A sector that has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. She started off by pointing out to the importance of having a crisis management team during this difficult time, inclusive of key personnel from finance, communication, marketing, human resources, and procurement. This team is tasked with addressing all sorts of aspects relating to communication, staffing and contracts, hygiene and cleaning standards to new procurement initiatives.
Addressing a question from Fatma Al Madhani, Herz confided that a rise in operating expenses and direct costs is imminent as hotels will be required to acquire all sorts of protective equipment including, shields, masks, gloves, alcohol-based sanitisers and disinfectant installations, to maintain social distancing and ensure a touch free guests’ interaction across the hotel facilities supported by solutions such as QR scanned menus in restaurants and mobile applications for check-in.
Speaking via Microsoft Zoom to students, Herz shared how Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton Hotel, is gearing towards a staycation strategy to circumvent the pandemic’s painful impact on the hotel’s revenues, and developing package deals to attract local guests and families.
Students got also to learn that most hotels rely on external subcontractors for operating their facilities. Negotiating these contracts are among the tasks any hotel manager would start with to minimise losses. Besides, revisiting personnel’s contracts and agreeing with employees on salary cut to avoid redundancies.
The student Reem Al Khalili raised the question about gaining customers back after the pandemic. To this, Herz emphasised the importance of transparent and clear communication about social distancing practices that the hotel is planning to put in place. Besides, the hotel has been very flexible with its refund policy, allowing customers to claim their deposits or reschedule their events at no additional cost.
The virtual talk offered the opportunity to students to learn how the hospitality industry is reorganising and redistributing resources to develop and cope with new hygiene protocols for a better customer experience. From identifying all touch points in a hotel, to dedicating personnel who will be focusing on the hygiene aspects, are among the changes a hotel will have to prepare for.
Caption: Katrin Herz, General Manager of Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton Hotel.
(c) GUtech/ Text: Fatima El Madkouri; Photo provided by Dr Heba Aziz