The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a serious toll on the hotel industry, greater than anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. Occupancy and booking are down, airlines are hardly operating, vacations have been canceled, and the summer surge that many hotels rely on probably won’t happen at all.
As a result, belts are tightening across the board. Hotels are trying to determine what they can and can’t cut during this crisis in an attempt to keep their budgets afloat and stay in business. Many of them are shutting down parts of their hotels to save on costs or having their staff work mostly remotely. Some are even offering hotel rooms to first responders, hospital staff, the homeless, or victims of domestic violence who can’t follow normal shelter-at-home orders.
During all this, communication will continue to be one of the most important aspects of your hotel’s operations. Here’s how to keep your communication standards high even when things seem crazy.
Don’t Wing It
The last thing you want to do during a crisis is fly by the seat of your pants when it comes to communication. Your employees are already nervous — they’re wondering if their incomes are secure, if their jobs will stay intact, if the business will stay open, and when they can get back to normal. They’ll be talking amongst themselves, speculating about any news story that mentions your company’s name.
You need to stay ahead of that. Start with a general risk assessment, thinking about what kind of things you might have to tell your staff or customers. In this case, we can think of several pieces of news that hoteliers might need to forward on:
- Whether you’ve received a Payroll Protection Program loan that will help you keep staff on board and when that money is likely to arrive
- Whether you’re closing locations, parts of locations, or departments
- Whether you’re laying off staff, how many you’re laying off, and whether there are likely to be more rounds of layoffs.
- What your plan is to keep income rolling in during these uncertain times.
Think about what your message will be in those circumstances. How will you inform everyone of the news? What phrasing will you use? Who will do the talking? By planning ahead and establishing a communication strategy before you need it, you’ll avoid coming off as flustered and unprepared.
Keep Staff Informed
Your existing and past customers will be an important lifeline to keep revenue coming in when you can’t afford to spend on acquiring new customers, but your staff are the foundation that keeps your entire business running — without them, you don’t have a business, so you should prioritize being honest and clear with them.
That means being forthright with bad news as well as good. If your staff have work phone numbers but aren’t in the office, you can forward those numbers to their personal numbers so that they can stay caught up.
If you have to deliver news to a lot of people at once, a live video is a good way to do that. It’s hard to convey tone or emotion through text, so executives can easily come off as callous or uncaring. Putting a face and a voice to your message can help alleviate those problems.
These have been scary times for a lot of people — whether you’re sick, laid off, or worrying about friends and loved ones, the stress level of the nation is high. Now more than ever, your customers and staff need to feel stability from their leadership.
You might be worried about revenue, layoffs, or even keeping your business running, but you should do your best to keep it from showing. That doesn’t mean you should lie and say that everything’s fine, of course. It just means that you need to be honest, measured, and composed when you deliver news, whether that news is good or bad.
We don’t know how long this crisis will last or how quickly we’ll come out of it, and there’s only so much you can do in the meantime. The most important thing is to keep up clear, current, helpful communication with the people that rely on you. If we can do that, we can make it through this.