Sincerely, BLLA

Getting Ready for the Comeback

Boutique hotel experts weigh in on operations In the first live session of the day of the Investment Track at the Boutique Lifestyle Digital Summit...

Boutique hotel experts weigh in on operations

In the first live session of the day of the Investment Track at the Boutique Lifestyle Digital Summit by BLLA, Jonathan Falik, Founder & CEO of JF Capital Advisors, interviewed Dan Daley, Chief Operating Officer of Relevant Group, and Dan Flannery, Senior Vice President & Managing Director of EDITION Hotels. The industry leaders discussed challenges of reopening and their predictions for the future of hotel operations. 

The panel started out with the question on everyone’s mind: when will we return to the normal occupancy rates of 2019? Since there is no clear answer at this point in time, only speculation, Daley is focusing on the short term, which includes restructuring the operational models of hotels to ultimately yield the same bottom line as before the pandemic. Flannery reported that the EDITION properties in China are already making an incredible comeback at 70-90% occupancy. Leisure travel is currently leading the travel market due to limited business travel during the pandemic, so Flannery believes resorts are in an optimal position to recover quickly. 

Now more than ever, hotels have a responsibility to be conscious of their guests’ needs. So much has changed in light of the pandemic, but one pertinent topic of conversation was housekeeping. EDITION Hotels have allowed guests to opt out of services if they wish, while Daley revealed that Relevant Group has instituted housekeeping on demand, something he believes will continue after COVID since it is such an integral part of hospitality. 

As we have also seen this year, employee safety is just as important as that of the guests. Daley found difficulty in staffing upon reopening due to government subsidies, but has retained a loyal group of team members who were eager to come back to work. Fluctuating occupancy rates have also proven challenging, but Daley is seeing more willingness to come back to work, which was evident through the hundreds of resumes Relevant Group received upon the opening of a restaurant. 

Flannery has also found difficulty in the uncertainty of occupancy rates. At first, EDITION was conservative in staffing efforts to avoid overstaffing at a 30% occupancy rate. However, Flannery shared that the Miami Beach EDITION struggled with occupancy rates in the teens as cases in Florida were rising, unfortunately resulting in layoffs. Now, the hotel has returned to operating at 30%. 

Each industry expert offered advantageous advice to the audience. Daley instructed, “Take this opportunity to try to reinvent. This is a moment for our industry when we can reinvent ourselves and position ourselves for the next decade.” The hotel business has always operated in the same way, so Daley urged the audience to take advantage of the onset of technology to see where the industry might be headed. 

On the other hand, Flannery reminded viewers that hospitality is a cyclical business. He explained that the industry is suffering now, but the cycle always comes back. In fact, he claimed the best six years of his career as a GM were the years following 9/11. Flannery advised, “Just hang on and get through 2020 and into 2021, and I think we’ll start to see some of the clouds clear.” The industry will make a comeback, and when it does, Daley and Flannery will undoubtedly be ready.

Article written by Drew Stephenson of BLLA

BLLA members can watch the full session in the BLLA Collective member portal here

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