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Two hotel veterans assess the road ahead

Getting back to the spirit of 2009 may help us get back to normal…or the new normal. Hear two hotel industry veterans talk about how the coronavirus crisis might impact the future of the hospitality industry.

HOTELS is reaching out to the global hotel community to find out how they are reacting to the coronavirus crisis and how it might impact the future of the business. Today, we share frank comments from Laurence Geller, hotel owner and chairman of Geller Capital Partners, Chicago, and Roland Fasel, chief operating officer of Aman.

HOTELS: Assuming an opportunity to “reset” when business starts to return after COVID-19 calms, what one change would you like to make to your operations?

Laurence Geller: Revert back to the 2009/10 protocols and not let anyone (GMs, chains, channels of distribution) do the endless slow creep in amenities, people, layers of management, facilities, standards, brand standards and programs without commensurate reductions elsewhere. The creep kills us!

H: What is the most effective contingency plan you have enacted to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19?

Geller: Back to the spirit of 2009, and no mercies.

Roland Fasel: COVID-19 has been a daily conversation for us since early January because we have four hotels within China and thus had already implemented many crisis scenarios there. We were, therefore, ready when it began to roll out in a European, United States and, in fact, the global context. The short-term impact on Aman’s portfolio is tremendous, but we are doing all we can to mitigate the impact and, of course, play our part in stemming the spread of the virus and ensuring our global family – including our guests, teams and their loved ones – are safe and supported at this time.

H: Can you share one plan implemented or individual decision made to help team members?

Geller: We started to reduce executive committee size and line managers, and make the remainder work smarter and more.

Roland Fasel (l.) and Laurence Geller

H: How will this experience change the hotel business longer term from an operations, marketing and development perspective?

Geller: It won’t. We will slip back to our bad habits because people have short memories and forget. Old people like me who have been through recessions since 1973 know that very few look back at history and, if they do, ignore it at their peril because they think they are smarter than everyone who has been through it before. The brands are probably the biggest culprits as they encourage more and more programs and standards without commensurately reducing the more redundant programs. But they are not alone, and while I admire the energy and vitality combined with creativity, we need balanced fiscal prudence.

Fasel: Without a doubt it has highlighted the complexity of running a global business with a multitude of stakeholders – and add to that an ever-changing and evolving situation. COVID-19 has pushed us to increase our intensity and focus, and ultimately the team spirit and comradery has soared amongst all our senior leadership.

In addition, we have had so much support and well wishes from our community of Amanjunkies who want to check in on our Aman family across the globe. So many personal friendships and connections have been made within our resorts between guests and staff and that feeling of warmth and genuine concern has been a such beacon of hope in these times. This is something that I will take away from all of this, a reminder that hospitality is all about connection.

I know that after all this social distancing and unsettled times that our marketing efforts will really be once again focused on the genuine warmth and hospitality that our sanctuaries offer and, of course, celebrating those communities in which we inhabit. All in all, I really believe – and hope – that this is a short-term situation and that our industry is resilient and will come out of this stronger than ever.

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Written by Jeff Weinstein

March 24, 2020

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