The story appears on

Page C3

September 28, 2020

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » Feature » Mice

How MICE adjusts to COVID-19 challenge

1 The MICE business has been severely hit by the COVID-19 outbreak this year and the global hospitality industry is on track to shrink. In your opinion, what short-term and long-term influence will it bring to the industry? How should hotels and restaurants adapt to these changes?

Yu Yu: The current situation of the pandemic worldwide is still not optimistic. Countries are adopting more stringent epidemic prevention measures, not to mention international travel restrictions. The hotel business’ target customer has shifted toward domestic cities, as the number of foreign tourists in Shanghai is still low. High-end hotels with a relatively bigger foreign customer base have faced more pressure.

With the epidemic in China now under control, consumer demand, conferences and exhibitions have been gradually restored. The price-driven model is gently shifting to a value-driven one. The profit margin for hotels between the middle and high level has been further squeezed, as the operation of economical chain hotels return to normal, coupled with the downward price of high-end hotels. But the brand effect role can cope with this dilemma better than the smaller chains.

How to stand out in a group of hotel brands is a problem every hotel is trying to figure out.

The hotel industry, as well as the entire catering industry, is widely affected by the pandemic. Therefore, the catering industry should try to revise its operating methods, such as improving its offline-to-online service with the application of the Internet of Things, or exploring the cultural heritage of its brand and keeping up with trends.

Manoj Mehta: It is true that all business travel has been hit hard because of the COVID-19 aftershocks. Corporates are shoring up their discretionary spending, which includes business travel and events. In my opinion this has hit the city hotels much harder than the short-distance drive resorts like naked. The main reason is that naked has not relied on international MICE business at all, so corporate restrictions on travel wouldn’t cause too much impact on it. For example, more and more people prefer outdoor natural locations to enjoy a safe and healthy life with friends and family at wedding and anniversary celebrations.

We believe domestic business travel demand will start to recover in the last quarter of 2020 as most companies get back to their pre-Covid-19-level business activity. Moreover, they will fully recover in the first quarter of 2021. International MICE will probably take a long time before it returns to pre-COVID-19 levels, if it ever will.

So as these are macro-level changes in MICE demand, we believe the answer lies in improving the efficiency of your operations and being more adaptable to these “new” demand levels. Technology will certainly be a key differentiator between losers and winners: Those who adapt technology to improve efficiency and provide better service to guests will be able to grab a share from those who try to simply cut cost and service levels.

Johnson Zhuang: In the short term, the impact will be greater, and there will be no demand due to safety considerations. In the long term, in areas where the epidemic is stable, such as China, in order to stimulate economic recovery, the government will weigh economic recovery considerations. It will encourage the organization of MICE activities. Hotels should pay attention to countries and regions where the epidemic has recovered relatively well. They should pay attention to countries and regions where the government strongly supports economic recovery and targets industries with good traditional MICE business. Hotels should also launch a flexible company pricing strategy, which has met the budgets of these companies, and focus on industries that benefit from the epidemic, such as express delivery and medical equipment, etc.

2 As life in China is gradually returning to normal, there are steady increases in demand for traveling and dining out. What strategies will you mainly focus on to navigate your business in a time of uncertainty?

Yu Yu: First, we will stick to our corporate cultural heritage and center on the group’s global and domestic strategies, adhering to the concept of blending Chinese and Western cultures and highlighting our brand values.

Next, we will explore the possibility of cross-border cooperation through resource integration. By revealing the history of our brand, we will highlight brand values according to the different characteristics of each member hotel, as well as strengthening market prediction and analysis capabilities. Guestrooms and catering products, in line with brand values, will be launched to meet market demand. We will persist in the integration of Chinese and Western cultures for tea, wine and coffee making. We will actively improve the concept of “new retail” and strive to increase the added value of hotel products to effectively increase hotel non-operating revenue.

Furthermore, we will pursue the ultimate customer experience and increase online interaction and offline communication between the hotel and guests. Each member hotel will focus on cultural output and product promotions through a multiple of online forms, including short videos, live broadcasts on WeChat, Douyin and other platforms. They will then subdivide customer categories and launch more targeted activities to maintain customer royalty. We will improve employee satisfaction and a sense of belonging to provide hotel guests with a better staying experience.

The demand for comprehensive talent will continue to surge, with outsourcing becoming an employment trend in some non-key positions.

Last but not least, the hotel industry is transforming from an operational service platform to a resource integration one. They need to take advantage of the situation and continuously improve their soft power for the future development of the hotel industry.

Manoj Mehta: Yes, it seems that life is returning to normal but there is an undercurrent of uncertainty. A few new Covid-19 cases in a given city can send tremors throughout the region and you may see everyone returning to their protective shells. So, it is very critical to be flexible and use the lessons learnt during the lockdown period in the first quarter of this year. Our group launched a “contactless service” at our resorts when we reopened to give a real sense of security to both our associates and guests alike. We were able to leverage technology to provide guests with a great experience with none-to-minimum contact. As we return back to the “new normal,” we are investing more in technology to enhance guests’ experience that provides them a needed service with minimal invasiveness. Additionally, naked villas, bungalows and single detached units (Sino-African earth huts and cliffside suites) provide a safe and healthy environment to friends and family in stunning natural surroundings versus tall buildings with shared hallways and elevators.

Johnson Zhuang: Pay attention to the domestic market and maintain the segments that have already had business before. At the same time, pay attention to the business of different segments, contact the segments that have not been involved before, and contact the business that is one grade lower than your hotel. Hoteliers need also consider whether revenue can help you cover the existing fixed costs.

3 Some said the hospitality revolution happened in the digital age. What do you think the Internet-plus economy will bring to the hospitality industry? Do you use any social media to approach your guests?

Yu Yu: There is a huge shift on consumer spending and shopping for the right MICE venue online. Pricing is always an indicator, however, it is also extremely important how well your storefront looks, and how accessible and friendly the storefront of your hotel is. We have to be present on every storefront to keep driving business. If you miss out, you may lose out.

Yes of course, we are very active on social media. We found that it is the best way to get real-time feedback from our guests. Social media allows us to be innovative and stand out from our competitors. Since our target audience is very active on social media, keeping up to date with them may just provide a different view on how hoteliers should conduct business. One positive WeChat post might be more influential than a big billboard advertisement these days.

Manoj Mehta: I believe the “next” revolution has already started and we are part of it. When naked launched and grew its “co-working” business — naked Hub — which we called “hospitality for workplace,” we learnt a lot can be done with technology in the world of hospitality that not only enhances a guest’s expedience but breaks the existing inefficient cost mold. The key is that we must provide an enhanced, better experience with technology — not just use technology to be “cool” or to reduce cost. We are going long on technology and bringing simple innovations in the world of hospitality using the Internet economy. We use social media to engage with our guests and to understand their likes and dislikes rather than being intrusive and spamming them. There is a fine line, and one must be careful to not cross it.

Johnson Zhuang: In the digital age, the development of Internet-plus economy has already affected hospitality. Social media have replaced traditional media as the main channel for hotel promotion. In my opinion, the era of big data will have a more profound impact on hospitality. Some hotels have installed chips on their linen so that there is no need to check it manually. The frequency of linen use will be displayed in the data on your computer screen. Robots will send items, do cleaning, do check-out and will eventually replace labor.

4 What do you think is the most important trait or skill for the person who is in charge of providing strategic direction for a hotel group and overseeing daily operations?

Yu Yu: There are many highs and lows, of course the obvious highs would be achieving all KPIs while the lows is not achieving those KPIs.

Adding to that, seeing the development of my team, watching them climb the ladder and knowing you have played a part in that have given me great satisfaction. If we talk stress, one great trait you must have is not to show any signs of stress and keep everything in control, knowing what move you need to make next in order to guide the business in the right direction. That skill to react to a situation is one of the most important. It is extremely important to respect and adapt to the culture you are working with.

Manoj Mehta: As group CEO, my first responsibility is to ensure we attract, retain and grow the right person(s) to be the general manager of naked properties and provide a strategic direction and guidance. However, at naked we empower our general managers to be fully in charge of daily operations. That said, the most important difference between a naked general manager and other hospitality general managers is that our general managers do not have any responsibility to achieve occupancy targets — that is done centrally by our head of sales and head of marketing.

We compare our general managers to the pilot of an airplane — the pilot is not responsible for selling the seats, the pilot’s job is to ensure that each and every passenger is safe and enjoys a great experience provided by his/her onboard crew. Much like an airline pilot — naked general managers are fully focused on delivering a memorable experience for our guests in a safe, natural and healthy environment. So the most important trait for a qualified general manager at naked is that he or she is able to coach and inspire his/her team to deliver an amazing and memorable experience for each and every guest who comes to naked. We do not sell rooms — we facilitate creation of lifelong memories.

Johnson Zhuang: Love your work with selfless dedication; set high standards and continuously pursue perfection; be creative; care about your employees and their lives to ensure customer satisfaction; serve the community and have corporate social responsibility; pay attention to environmental protection and sustainable development and communicate with the owner and management group to ensure that both parties support your work.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend