“Now is the time for people to prove that they are customer centric and win their guest back, long term, not short term” Diane Scott, Senior Hotel Consultant at Katten Muchin Rosenman told Hospitality Insights.
Following a busy few months, Scott praised Katten’s response to lockdown and credited “brilliant avenues of communications and clear intentions going forward” to an on-going flow of work with new clients across the firm including the real estate and hospitality team.
Whilst client work includes advising hotel purchases, Scott and her team have yet to see sales but Scott feels these are yet to come. “Towards the end of the year when banks are looking at a proper repayment scheme from their borrowers, that is likely to be a time when people reassess. At the moment there are repayment holidays and a freeze on interest but that can’t be sustained forever.”
Scott believes serviced apartments are the “jewel in the crown” and provide a safe and hygienic accommodation option that caters for cautious travellers, particularly those travelling for business. Quoting a speaker on a recent webinar for Katten's Serviced Apartment Networking Group, Scott said they were advising all their employees travelling for business to stay in serviced apartments. Positive news for this particular segment, as echoed in a recent podcast with Asli Kutlucan, Chief Development Officer at Cycas Hospitality.
Looking at opportunities for creativity and inventiveness in the sector, Scott pointed to hotels with extensive conference and meeting space who could explore converting those areas to isolated co-working spaces. “There are opportunities, people just need to think outside the box. The more creative you are, the more opportunity you have to get the guest into your establishment.”
On the balance between maintaining rate, absorbing the additional costs of sanitary products and equipment and adapting hotel operations to a lighter touch, Scott thinks the way forward is clear marketing messages to guests to reassure and differentiate their offering.
With over 40 years of banking experience, Scott is well placed to comment on the lending environment. “Funds are gathering to pick what they see is good stock. Banks are probably wary and may step back a bit to consider how to move forward. At some point they are going to want to see a healthy repayment plan after all the banks have played their part in providing support to businesses throughout the COVID pandemic and the challenge will then be to navigate the relationship with hoteliers who have found their businesses closed for four months.”
On government support for the sector Scott said: “I think it was slow coming but they have done the best they can. I think we all need to be aware that if they’re giving money out, we’re just going into more debt. Every industry has had their hands out. Crucial to economic recovery is consumer confidence and that requires clear and consistent advice.”
Finally, on her hopes for the sector in a post COVID-19 world, Scott’s aspirations were that the sentiment of ‘guest is king’ is genuine and that the high standards of care, hygiene and safety are sustained, long after the virus is under control.
Katten Muchin Rosenman are proud sponsors of The AHC Reimagined: Reconnecting UK Hospitality and Diane will be moderating the Ending the Standoff: Managing the Lender-Owner-Tenant Relationship panel session which will broadcast on the 8th October during The AHC Reimagined: Reconnecting UK Hospitality.