For the serviced apartment and co-living industry, Covid-19 is less a passing comet than a meteoric impact. From the immediate effect on bookings, cash flow and staffing to the long-term ramifications of social distancing, the coronavirus presents a host of immediate and lasting operational challenges. However, “Innovative Living” companies can successfully ride the Covid wave by focusing their energies on these four business areas.
OTAs, Revenue Management and Direct Bookings
With online travel agents (OTAs) in trouble, the post-lockdown message is clear: use OTAs, but don’t depend on them. Instead, forward-thinking companies must take bookings from various channels, diligently checking their lead times and cancellation profiles. They also need to seriously look at direct bookings and ensure they’re building direct relationships with customers or working with professional agencies who look after their supply chain.
In particular, companies must target those who ‘need’ to travel as the restrictions ease. For business travel, think domestic contractors, collaborative workers like scientists and those with specialised work which cannot be done from home. For leisure, the expectation is that younger travellers, who are less at risk, will move first.
Short Stay vs Long Stay
Covid has exposed the fragility of an exclusively short-stay business model. However, a blend of short and long stay provides greater business diversity and resilience against issues like Covid-19. It also underpins a shrewd revenue strategy. Companies can promote medium-long stays over quieter times and pitch short stays in peak season. Similarly, companies should offer short stays in long stay units to offset long-stay seasonality. Companies can bring long-stay units back to the market at high demand periods boosting revenues by 5-10%. Greater diversity, greater flexibility, greater profits.
Meet & Greet / End-of-Stay
With social distancing in place, it’s time to review the meet & greet and in-person checkout. Some companies already use key safes, but innovative companies need to implement online door entry systems. They’re easy to retrofit, easy to manage and enhance customer experience for tech-savvy guests and those concerned about Covid.
Setting door codes remotely and using mobile apps for access also cuts internal costs, minimises interaction and enables companies to keep track of arrival and departure in real-time. What’s more, it allows serviced apartments and co-living businesses to make last-minute room changes and cuts the chances of human error (lost keys) and theft (duplicate keys). Covid has further reduced lead times on bookings and automated systems allow companies to stay one step ahead.
Housekeeping is the stand out factor in the post-Covid age. Expect to see ‘cleanliness’ become more important than pricing (‘clean’ will replace ‘cheap’ on Google searches). Expect customers to want proof of cleanliness and control over cleaning options. Expect cleanliness accreditation - such as Quality in Tourism’s Covid-19 cleaning protocols and the Association of Serviced Apartments Providers (ASAP’s Stay with Confidence Promise - to become the search criteria.
In that future world, companies that offer real-time updates of cleanliness (photos, completed checklists etc), notifications of cleaning times and a range of cleaning options (i.e. no contact service - bins, old towels outside - to targeted rooms and timings) will instill the most trust and confidence in consumers.
Embrace the future
Covid-19 might seem purpose-built to reap havoc in the industry, but the virus also expedites the need for change. Digitally-agile firms will adapt to the ‘new normal’ more successfully and embracing a data-led service like res:harmonics will help companies remedy operational heartache, keep costs low, improve efficiency and maximise profitability.