Together with leading experts from tourism and the hotel industry, on 15 December 2020, we from RateBoard had the pleasure of looking back on the challenging year. In this blog article, we reveal how the tourism experts Matthias Trenkwalder, Erich Falkensteiner, Dr. Gregor Hoch, Michael Walchhofer, Anja Daoudi and Wilhelm K. Weber dealt with the challenges of the Corona year.
The year 2020 was characterised by ups and downs. Especially the hotel industry experienced very unpredictable times due to travel restrictions, lockdowns and hygiene regulations. In this webinar, moderator and Marketing Manager Daniela Stöhr asked tourism experts about their personal experiences and their success strategies of the Corona year 2020. (Watch the complete webinar in German here.)
Matthias Trenkwalder is one of the co-founders and current CEO of RateBoard. He has been in touch with the tourism and hotel industry since his early years. At RateBoard, he is responsible for Sales, Business Development and Customer Success.
"I think Corona was a big accelerator. Trends that had already started before Corona were intensified again", Matthias Trenkwalder reports.
The developments mentioned include especially the topic of sustainability - in particular the green footprint of a hotel as well as the quality and value of travel, but of course also the important topic of digitalisation.
Despite the crisis, according to the CEO of RateBoard, there were also many courageous hoteliers in 2020. They took advantage of the time and decided for further digitalisation of the hotel and in this course also for RateBoard. When asked about the winners and losers of the Corona crisis, Matthias Trenkwalder answered with the theory of "survival of the fittest". Hotels that were able to adapt to the new situation quickly and creatively were also those that were able to benefit the most.
Erich Falkensteiner is a successful hotelier and entrepreneur. With the Falkensteiner Michaeler Tourism Group (FMTG) he is the owner of more than 30 hotels, apartment complexes and premium campsites in 7 countries.
According to Erich Falkensteiner, it is particularly important in these challenging times to communicate with each other and to consult with one another in order to be able to evaluate the situation in the best possible way.
"I think I would be lying if I said we had expected it. We were honestly NOT prepared", Erich Falkensteiner replies openly when asked if he had already anticipated the crisis.
Nevertheless, Erich Falkensteiner tries to take the positive out of the situation. He compares the time he has won involuntarily to a Safety-Car-Phase in Formula 1: "You just go out to the pits, change the tyres and see that it will pass." For the successful hotelier, crucial factors to survive crises like this are the support of the family, a strong partnership with the business partners as well as the own employees.
The Falkensteiner Hotels were able to increase their direct booking rate from 65% to 75% this summer. But Erich Falkensteiner also gave exciting insights into their guest structure. For example, the average age of the customers in the South Tyrolean Falkensteiner hotels has become younger by about 20-25%. Erich Falkensteiner explains the change in target group by the fact that a large proportion of these guests had already visited South Tyrol as children and had to hike all day long. "They were horrified by South Tyrol and Austria holidays", says Falkensteiner.
Due to this year's travel restrictions and the lack of long-distance travel, many of the guests have chosen to spend their holidays in the Alpine regions and have noticed how attractive South Tyrol or Austria is as a holiday destination. Erich Falkensteiner is convinced that this target group is precisely the one that is coming back. Together, we should think about the new opportunities that have been gained as a result. One of the great advantages of this crisis is possibly that we can reinvent ourselves again, which is certainly an enormous challenge but also an equally great opportunity, the successful South Tyrolean hotelier concludes the conversation.
Dr. Gregor Hoch
As president of honour of the Austrian Hoteliers Association and owner of the Sonnenburg Hotels in Oberlech, Dr. Gregor Hoch of course also experienced the Corona crisis in the hotel industry very closely. The village of Oberlech is located on the Arlberg, one of the most popular and largest ski resorts in Austria.
Gregor Hoch describes the European start of the pandemic and the rapid departure of the guests as a drastic event. March 2020, he says, was almost surreal: masses of snow, bright sunshine, a full house and then the complete stop! "Helping desperate staff and desperate guests cope with the situation and enable them to get home safely, along with the economic uncertainties - that was a pretty tough act to follow", says Hoch.
After the Austrian hotels were finally allowed to reopen from the end of May 2020, the focus shifted to the issue of cleanness in addition to distance regulations and the wearing of masks. The already very high hygiene standards of the hotels had always been carried out in the background, almost invisible to the hotel guests. After the reopening, the Sonnenburg Hotels at the Arlberg noticed that the guests appreciated the feeling of complete cleanliness.
"We changed the cleaning process so that we did the work more directly in front of the guests", explains Dr. Gregor Hoch.
On the one hand, this conveyed the seriousness of the hotel's efforts and, on the other hand, it led to very positive guest feedback, Hoch adds.
When asked how he experienced the issue of existential fear and how he personally dealt with the topic, the Arlberg hotelier lets us know quite honestly "there has been a lot of desperation".
Nevertheless, Dr. Gregor Hoch is also optimistic about a rapid recovery as soon as the circumstances allow. Until then, it is important to survive the enforced hibernation as good as possible. "There will be a point, and it's not far away, when people will look back at Corona and say, wow, what a hard time - it's good that it's over", says Dr. Gregor Hoch.
The titles of Downhill World Champion, Olympic Silver Medallist and Vice World Champion testify to an extraordinary sports career. Today, the Austrian ex-Skistar Michael Walchhofer is, among other things, the managing director of Zauchensee Walchhofer GmbH and successfully runs three hotels in Altenmarkt/Zauchensee together with his brother.
If the Corona crisis is applied to Michael Walchhofer's previous sports career, the crisis could certainly be compared to the technically very challenging downhill runs.
"The better-prepared skiers will do better. Wengen, Kitzbühel and Bormio demand everything from the athletes, and the field of favourites will shrink there", says ski star Michael Walchhofer.
The summer of 2020 was a special memory for the Salzburg hotelier. As a family business, the contact to the guests is a USP of the Zauchensee Walchhofer Hotels, which is lived by the hosts through and through. This summer in particular, the Walchhofers realised how important it is to show emotions in such situations. "On one hand, that was also the nice thing about the whole summer, that it worked very, very well despite Corona. On the other hand, it was even nicer that the guests were even more satisfied - they were somehow just happy that they could be there. And we as a family, of course tried to do our best."
The former professional skier sees the smooth implementation of hygiene measures in the hotels as another positive point. The Corona summer in particular showed how well the cleaning and disinfection processes work- which have actually always been done - in the hotel industry as well as in gastronomy.
Nevertheless, also the hotels of Zauchensee Walchhofer GmbH were clearly not allowed to open at the end of 2020. "It would have been completely unrealistic to have said that the hotels would be closed for Christmas and New Year's Eve", says Mr Walchhofer.
To the question if we will have to live with the current arrangements in the future, Michael Walchhofer sums up: "I believe that in five years some things will remain but not in this intensity as we are experiencing them right now."
Since 2018, Anja Daoudi has been Revenue and Distribution Manager for the Göbel Hotels. The Göbel Hotel Group represents "Holidays in Germany", has its headquarters in Willingen in the Sauerland region and operates 16 hotels with different orientations.
At the beginning of the conversation, Mrs Daoudi gives a transparent insight into the performance and the numbers of the Göbel Hotel Group. For example, longer stays, fewer single room bookings and higher average room occupancy were recorded in 2020. This, in turn, led to a higher hotel revenue, but also to growth in the F&B sector.
The Göbel Hotel Group quickly reacted to the Corona-related loss of business and conference guests by shifting its focus to wellness and active holidays. The service portfolio for special target groups such as family or active tourists as well as best agers has been expanded. This resulted in a faster positive development and the achievement of a new guest portfolio, explained Anja Daoudi.
All in all, the Corona summer was more positive than expected. From June to October, an 11 per cent decrease in occupancy was recorded with an ADR increase of up to € 27.00 in the leisure hotels.
"Quite honestly, I see us as winners", reflects the experienced revenue manager.
According to Mrs. Daoudi, there were also some changes in the distribution department in the summer of 2020. For example, the booking segments of Göbel Hotels moved from online travel agents and tour operators towards more in-house marketing and direct bookings. In terms of price management, the use of RateBoard also made it possible to continue to enforce prices according to the market and not to offer discounts. This led to a higher quality promise and reaching a more affluent target group. "Looking back, I would not change anything, but possibly be even bolder", concludes Anja Daoudi.
Wilhelm K. Weber
The last guest Wilhelm K. Weber - also known as Wilko - provides exciting insights into the globally operating luxury hotel chain Kempinski. Since 2019, he has been responsible for Global Revenue Management and Digital Strategy. Before that, he worked for 10 years as a partner for the successful Swiss consulting company Swiss Hospitality Solutions (SHS).
The Kempinski hotel chain is also represented in China with around 20 hotels. At the time of the webinar in December 2020, Wilhelm K. Weber reported that a recovery could slowly be seen in the hotels in China and that the luxury hotel chain noted an occupancy rate of just 50 percent. Of course, these numbers would only be attributable to Chinese domestic tourism. "This takes place through completely different channels and, unfortunately, at completely different rates than the international business", Wilko said.
" However, it shows us that a return to normality is possible", adds Wilhelm K. Weber.
Regarding a return to normality in the area of conferences and seminars, even the renowned revenue manager cannot give any exact details. "I really have to admit that I am always quite proud of the fact that my team and I forecast so well. I have never been as wrong as I was this year at the beginning of March", admits Wilhelm K. Weber.
In this time of uncertainty, however, there are some basic rules that can be used as a guide: for example, we know that the national seminar market comes before the international one, that meetings of small companies will take place again before those of large enterprises, and that it is possible to calculate with a certain time in advance for seminars.
"If the seminar room is not booked next week, it will probably remain empty", Wilko explains.
In addition, Kempinski's revenue manager reports that the hotel chain expects a complete recovery and even growth in the business segment in the long term. The reason is quite simple: Globalisation. "If we were to assume that there would be no more business travel, what would a globalised economy look like?", Wilko formulates the antithesis of globalisation.
Until the recovery of business travel takes place, according to Mr. Weber, "especially the faceless, boring hotels, where we all don't want to stay voluntarily", will have problems. His opinion regarding the return of the business segment is in summary: "In the big run - that's coming back!"
We at RateBoard would like to thank our tourism experts and of course the many interested participants. We are already looking forward to further exciting events and discussions.
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