To me, it all started with the ITB Berlin cancellation. It was t he first bitter blow to the travel industry. A lot of business is done at this exhibition, so it was the exact moment when everybody understood that situation was getting really serious. From then on, the market has changed dramatically.
One week later, all Europe faced border closures and travel restrictions. Airlines and then hotels were among the first to feel the disastrous impact of the COVID-19 epidemic.
The harsh new reality leads to a shock and a kind of depression. The scepsis was about time - with no vaccine against the virus, nobody understands indeed how long the shutdown will last - a month, a year? It all looks like an endless road. I heard and saw many depressing messages from the market.
Hotel tech impact
It seems that not only hoteliers but also hotel tech companies are in very low activity.
A couple of weeks ago, all the young VC-backed hotel-tech highflyer "start-ups" informed us about new superlatives. Killing the market with THE new System. Every single product and each new round of funding was celebrated, the amounts they raised and being invested were beyond every market comprehension.
Now I read no better news or information about cutting off 60-70-80 percent of their people - support, sales, marketing specialists. How can this happen that these highflyers who have just received millions and millions of euros now decrease their working power that hard?
In my understanding, it's impossible to run out of money in that short amount of time. Do these companies no longer believe in the self-called unicorns?
And it brings about a huge question: why spend so much money on recruitment, find talented people that create value for the company, and then get rid of them so abruptly? Is it a sign of solidarity to fire people who actually helped achieve these million rounds?
Human life and health as a top priority
After the ITB was canceled, my first reaction was to start moving everybody to home offices and shifting all processes in a decentral manner. We canceled all external sales visits a.s.a.p. For us it is nothing new, we are an IT company, many of our communication ways between us internally (we have 3 offices) and our clients (worldwide) are already decentral. Even before the major shutdowns in most EU-countries, our whole team was already safe at home, we paid the salaries before time, so everyone had the chance to buy all the necessary things to stay safe at home.
This is how I understand leadership and crisis management to show value to my team and our clients. Solidarity, human health and wellbeing of my team colleagues, is a standard.
The HotelFriend way
● Take care of our people
● Pay salaries on time (full amount)
● Our team is working at full capacity and grateful for working sometimes harder
● No one has been and will be sacked
● Home office for all employees before the shutdown
● Full booking refunds to travelers
● No fees to hotels for canceled bookings
● Provide our solution free of monthly charge to our clients
● Free remote working management workshops for hoteliers
● Workshops on the benefits of SaaS solutions
I believe HotelFriend can be a role model for the whole hospitality market in this regard.
Free access to the system
Most hotels now have zero to very little income. Therefore, for our SaaS direction, we decided to cut the payments or give access to our system for free. Especially to those partner hotels that turned into temporary hospitals during these difficult times. More details
This is the way for us to live up to our name - a real Friend of the Hotel - HotelFriend.
Workshops & Webinars, our busy Support Team
Besides, our support team helps hotel owners and directors who placed their key staff on leave and have no experience dealing with crucial parts of the system like Channel Manager, to adjust all the necessary settings.
The very idea of HotelFriend is about giving hoteliers and their guests the choice of the kind of interaction they want to have. I hope social distancing will never become a necessity. However, contactless servicing and cashless payments are not only safer but they are also much faster. Perhaps, after it is all over, the guest will want to communicate with front-desk personnel more than ever, and with our Concierge App , hotel staff will have enough time for this, with all the other processes optimized to perfection.
Solution for the F&Bs
Food and beverage delivery is experiencing an unprecedented rise. And we also offer a ready-to-use app to restaurants and cafes at a predictable fixed cost, so they don’t have to pay a commission fee to third-party services.
Opportunities for Hoteliers
Are there any new opportunities in this chaos? I speak a lot with our clients. Everyone believes that all the bad things end sooner or later. With zero or few guests, hotels have now a great chance to modernize their rooms or IT Infrastructure. The EU has many specialized programs, bank loans (like KfW in Germany) for Hoteliers these days, and I highly recommend using these. Our support team will be very happy to add new rooms and improved facilities to the system for our clients.
After a short shock, I believe hotels will adapt to the situation they are in. Most of them are positive and enthusiastic. Some of them close (one of my clients told me that he had his first vacation after 8 years!), some of them modernize, some are now hospitals, many are doing home-food delivery. In Germany, we use the word “Unternehmer”- “entrepreneur”, from the verb “unternehmen”, which means “to do”. So let's do it, together. And grow stronger with a deeper understanding of all the advantages of cloud based software, remote access, cashless payments, digital ordering, door delivery, and a healthy level of social distancing.
Stay healthy & keep going