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Lockdown II: How operators can make best use of the downtime

Lockdown II: Return of the Lockdown. It may be one of the most unwelcome sequels in recent years. Same cast, same plot, same set location, albeit with a slightly different running time. For some serviced apartment and co-living operators, it may also bring back memories of the not-so welcome original, but our in-house reviewer and innovative living guru, Giles Horwitch-Smith, is focusing on the positives. 

 In this interview, the res:harmonics CEO explains how Lockdown II is an opportunity for operators to get their house in order and prepare for the future. It’s ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (the interview, not the lockdown). 

Hi Giles, with Lockdown II released in England yesterday, what’s the best way serviced apartment and co-living operators can spend the month-long running time?

Hi Steve. For this lockdown, I think operators need a mentality shift: less focus on what you can’t do and more on what you can do. Although welcoming new guests is limited (but not entirely so), there are other business areas that operators can look to enhance over the next month. 

In particular, I’m talking about internal operations. This is the time to optimise in-house structures, be it how you manage remote teams, organise housekeeping and maintenance, communicate with guests or take bookings. Analysing current processes and coming up with an improvement strategy will set operators in good stead for a profitable Christmas and beyond. 

What tools should operators use to do this? 

Tech is the present and the future. Every week, there are new features that operators can use to benefit their sales, streamline operations and maximise growth. To analyse internal performance, for example, there’s advanced dashboard reporting. To improve guest experience, there’s tailored communication. To encourage bookings, there’s bespoke booking engines. 

The point is, there are many operators that use a PMS and appreciate the tech benefits. There are less operators that know how to make best use of the continuously-updated tech at their disposal. Lockdown II is the perfect time to refresh. To get staff up to speed with all the latest PMS features. To learn about new integrations. To review your current tech options and ensure you’re getting the most out. 

Focus on tech, eh? As a software provider I thought you might say that. 

Well, it’s not just about software. Operators should use this time to look at their websites too. Are you coming up on Google? Are you getting hits? At a time when operators have less direct marketing opportunities, it’s clearly important to be as visible as possible online. This starts with your website. It should be full of keywords and information, great content and updated listings, high-quality recent photography and Covid-friendly policies, such as flexible cancellations, extended stay discounts and guest control over cleaning rotas. 

And social media?

Well, the ins and outs of social media campaigns is best left to professional marketers, but with more people at home using social media and scrolling on screens, it’s a must-do. One thing I would say is that operators should have strong, clear, consistent and empathetic messaging across all channels. 

Channels. I’m glad you brought that up. I’m a big fan of direct booking, do you recommend operators investing in a direct booking engine during Lockdown II?

Absolutely. At all times, though, not just for the next month. Having a bespoke direct booking engine enhances operator-client connection, improves brand presence and reduces overheads from OTA commissions. At the same time, operators should review the OTAs they use and make sure the partnership is fit for purpose. Are they bringing in business? Are the prices right? Are the descriptions and photos still accurate representations of the apartments? Are you listing what long-term Covid-age travellers want to see, such as wifi speeds and cleaning protocols?

Lots of companies sign up with large OTAs and think that’s it. Set and forget. But, you wouldn’t do that with other parts of your revenue stream. 

Point taken. There’s been talk of more lockdown sequels in the new year. What can operators do now to safeguard them from future lockdowns?

The key is to prepare a sustainable revenue strategy. For me, that means focusing on people who are still travelling - those with specialist workplaces, project work or key workers - and then cater for them by offering automated services, loyalty discounts, real-time communication and Covid-assured policies. 

Secondly, and this is linked, we’ve seen more guests want to book places that they can easily extend if lockdowns come. Operators need to therefore diversify their length of stay and encourage longer bookings through preferable rates for 30+, 90+ and 180+ day bookings and make sure their apartments are lockdown-friendly (i.e. outdoor space, great work amenities etc). In other words, think what you would want as a guest right now and implement it. 

That sounds like res:harmonics’ bread and butter to me.

Ha ha. Well, yes, there’s lots of ways res:harmonics can help. From revenue and channel management to direct booking and length of stay, but we also offer bespoke consultancy services to operators looking for a more tailored approach at this time. We can liaise with you during the downtime and ensure you are set to take advantage from Christmas onwards. 

Sounds like res:harmonics consultancy should be top of an operator’s Christmas wish list. To finish with, what would be your billboard review of Lockdown II: Return of the Lockdown?

Stay positive. Look after those that work for you. Prepare for the future. 

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