The hospitality industry has always been quite sensitive and vulnerable when exposed to natural or human-made disasters such as pandemics, climate change, weather hazards, street crimes, cyber-attacks and terrorist attacks.
The last decade alone was sufficient to realise that in times of such disasters, hospitality businesses are compelled to look into new strategies, opportunities and ventures. Tourism statistics prove that there was a drastic decline in tourist arrivals during the pandemic.
Steps for disaster recovery in the hospitality industry:
Ensuring guest and employee security
The protection of the masses during a disaster is vital in a highly people-centric industry like hospitality. In addition to their own staff, hospitality businesses are responsible for the safety and security of their current as well as past guests.
Initial steps to manage such situations include a strict maintenance management system. A lesson to comprehend from incidents such as the Surfside Condominium collapse in Florida include negligence of maintenance, which, in turn led to a major threat to those who utilised the property. Hotels can use maintenance management modules that consolidate maintenance-related queries, register complaints and assign jobs facilitating staff to track the due maintenance tasks and rectify them before damages become irrecoverable.
Guest and staff protection measures also include ensuring post-disaster safety. For instance, usage of thermal imaging systems in popular tourist and shopping spots post-lockdown ensured safety against COVID-19’s highly contagious nature.
Hotels have also commenced investing more in contactless technology during the pandemic. Integrated solutions that combine ordering, POS operations, and front desk management through mobile engagement facilitate the staff to host the guests with minimal contact. Even before the pandemic’s effects completely simmered down, such solutions kept both parties safe but interactive.
Data backup and recovery with cloud migration
Most contemporary businesses rely on cloud computing for damage control and disaster recovery. Digitalising helps hoteliers distribute more health and safety protocols easily, have uninterrupted access to vital data and safeguard multiple operational systems against physical damage.
“At the heart of every hotel process or SOP there is software that relies on cloud computing. It took a global pandemic for many hoteliers to realise this, but the trend will only accelerate as hotels staff back up quickly, create differentiated customer experiences, and recoup losses…”
Jordan Hollander, co-founder of HotelTechReport.com
However, this new movement makes businesses susceptible to attacks that leverage cyberspace, and it is now vital for hotels to invest in robust cybersecurity protocols to keep their digital operations uncompromised. It’s essential to ensure that hotels don’t give a chance for attack vectors to exploit vulnerabilities in digital architectures to access sensitive information.
This means several hotel cybersecurity best practices like zero-trust security architectures, multi-factor authentication and enterprise-level encryption, cybersecurity training to staff and investing in cloud solutions compliant with local and international data security regulations.
Secure cloud operations—PA DSS certification and GDPR compliant, for example—have a much better chance of surviving the digital revolution.
Renewing sales and marketing strategies
From hoteliers’ standpoint, the continuity of revenue amidst and post-disaster requires special effort. The sales and marketing plans may have to change and be re-evaluated to respond to new economic situations.
For instance, the recent campaigns launched by Sri Lanka’s tourism authorities and other conglomerates like “Save the Sri Lankan Smile”, #VisitSriLanka and #SoSriLanka, aim to recover the country’s tourism. The campaigns were launched in response to the country facing a series of disaster-related events, including a terrorist attack, the pandemic and a financial crisis that crippled tourism, the main foreign income source of the country. Taking to social media with content relevant to tourists has proven time and time again to be effective in encouraging them to travel.
Another opportunity for increasing sales and brand image post-disaster lies in data monetisation. Hotels need to review their analytics and sales/lead data collected pre- and post-disaster to learn the changing demographics and buyer behaviour. The first global marketing campaign since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 by Hilton Hotels “To New Memories,”, reflects this strategy. The insights-driven campaign monopolised the consumers’ desire to reconnect with the people and places they love.
For hoteliers using software, such data is often available in EPOS, catering or even ordering and reservation modules which can easily be retrieved and shared between the decision-making parties and make new marketing and sales strategies.
Strategising inventory management and pricing
Particularly in disaster periods, the demand for hotel services tend to collapse immediately, only to be followed by an increase in demand due to humanitarian efforts. Such major shifts in market dynamics create a need to re-evaluate inventory and sales strategies.
For instance, the decline of room reservations in most South Asian countries was followed by a sudden reservation spike during the lockdown period as the hotels allowed the government to carry out monitored quarantine programs in their properties.
A solution to highly changing demand levels also comes in the form of local food and local menu offerings; it resolves the food sourcing issues amidst low supply and rising global inflation. Similarly, 68% of global businesses were looking to reduce their reliance on working with only one supplier and look for alternatives.
Investment in inventory management solutions also rose during the pandemic, leaving an example for the industry in future; investing in modules that can manage the supply chain across the hotel properties, review the cost and profit, and manage the audit trail successfully, enabled hoteliers to minimise the inventory damage during a disaster.
As businesses are forced to look into a diversified supplier base, such solutions can make the transition smoother and prevent operational downtimes.
Leveraging analytics and forecasting
Predictive analytics and forecasting have become elements that make businesses vigilant, particularly against disasters and the new market dynamics they create. Especially when supply and demand shift and markets are rehabilitated, the ability to interpret temporary changes, determine what to expect, and identify patterns can help control the damage.
Using short-term data, such as booking pace and order preferences to discover immediate changes in demand, and historical data to compare performances and patterns is immensely helpful to stay strong during market fluctuations. Having cutting-edge analytics tools integrated with the rest of a hotel’s service modules lets decision-makers view business-critical data in real time and make decisions backed by valuable insights.
Hospitality businesses can gain significant rehabilitation and recovery progress when potential risks are pre calculated, understand the climate, socio-cultural as well as economic changes that affect them and develop better disaster management and contingency plans.
Hospitality operators face several complexities during crisis times. However, effective management and implementation of suitable strategies will assist hoteliers in going through difficult situations with ease.
A combination of secure systems, cloud migration, out-of-the-box thinking for marketing, sales, inventory and pricing, along with efficient and intelligent forecasting tools, will contribute to the hotel industry to build an efficient strategy to prevent and recover faster.
Vice President & Country Head of Sri Lanka and Maldives
Looking after entire Sri Lanka and Maldives, Nandika as a VP is responsible for the Sales and Operations team encompassing hospitality software. His years of expertise in IT and strategic management has helped in contributing to streamlining the technological needs of IDS clients.