This week I read a really interesting article featuring the President and CEO of Marriott, Arne Sorenson and if any of you follow interviews with Arne, you will know that he has repeatedly said that the impact of Covid-19 is worse than 9-11, the tech bubble crash and the 2008 financial crash combined. But this week his comments were more upbeat when he quoted, “I don’t think it will look that much different afterwards than it did before [coronavirus],” Sorenson said Monday during the Goldman Sachs Travel and Leisure Conference. “I just think the last three crises I’ve experienced with my relationship with Marriott…In every one, we’ve heard there are some aspects of your business that will never come back.”
He went on to say, “I think group travel will be the slowest of the segments to come back, but I think group will generally come back. The importance of being together is well-recognized and well-understood,” Sorenson said before later noting, “It may take a few years to get back to the levels we were at before. Don’t mistake my words as Pollyannaish.”
What I love about this quote is something that as hoteliers we already believe, in that ‘being together is well-recognised and understood’. We do believe that our meeting and event business will come back – eventually, but what do we do in the meantime? Well, I personally believe that not everything is doom and gloom and I do think that if we take this opportunity to re-think our M&E business, there will be winners.
We all know that the rapid advancements made in video conferencing; an acceptance of remote working and the unwillingness of businesses to be seen to ask their teams to travel or meet in groups will impact our business. However, many of you may have seen a recent survey on social media asking people to vote for ‘work from home, back to the office or both’ and the resounding winner was both! So why don’t we take that as a positive and try and adjust our business?
My advice is to firstly re-think all of your spaces and how they might work. I am sure that many of you have already done this but how will they work under changing scenarios? The UK and Ireland are in the minority of countries who adhere to a two-metre social distance and there are many politicians lobbying for us to fall within other European guidelines of one-metre. How would that affect your capacity?
How up-to-date is your wifi and how new is your AV equipment? I ask because we as an industry are now perfectly placed to serve a whole new market… Many businesses have already announced that they are considering not renewing office leases. Working from home has become so successful that they are happy for their teams to work remotely – but again, not all of the time. So how do we react?
- why not speak to your customers and offer meeting space for their ‘all-hands’ meetings. They may want to bring their teams together once per week or once per month, so why not guarantee office space that suits their needs? You are perfectly placed to host these meetings as you have great wifi, up-to-date AV equipment and excellent catering. You literally have no upgrade in service to do to meet the needs of these clients and it could be a great solution for both parties.
- customers may need only space to conduct video conferencing in a confidential location (and without children running around and the distractions of home life), so there could be the potential to offer working space for one or two people to have great meetings in a private setting.
- hot desks will (in the short term) be a thing of the past. Who on earth wants to go into a space that has a large amount of through human traffic! So why not offer small meeting rooms to individuals who need office space. Or go one further and consider renting your bedrooms to a company that may previously had communal working spaces. I know of at least two hotels doing this successfully already. Companies are taking over a set number of rooms on a guaranteed area within a hotel where their teams can work in a bedroom all day (private bathroom; work space; tea and coffee on tap; catering facilities) all make this a very attractive solution for companies who want to bring their teams together in a work environment where they feel like a team but also feel very safe. And let’s face it, if you need the room in the evening, it is very easy to turn a room quickly when bed linen doesn’t need to be changed!
It goes without saying that all of the above, come with the understanding that you need to be very clear in your safety and hygiene messaging but the facts are very clear to us all – meeting and event business will recover but not for a while. So we have a choice to accept or to change. Any of you who know me, know that I hate the word ‘pivot’ as it is over-used in start-up world. My personal belief is that there is no such thing as a business pivoting – it is in fact an awkward shuffle to find something that ‘lands’ but if we don’t try to adapt we will be the dinosaur who doesn’t survive.
I wish you the very best of luck and here’s to a whole new way of doing business – for now anyway 🙂
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