A December Wrap up on the Hospitality Market

From the small beginning of running the mini bar, to running two of the Best Leading Hotels in the world, Shaun Wheeler has seen it all. He has managed the biggest hospitality name brands in the business, from IHG, Marriot, Sun International, Southern Sun and Radisson, and has operated across the globe from South Africa, Egypt, Dubai, Thailand and Malysia and then back again to the City of Gold we he currently occupies the role of General Manager at the Radisson Blu Hotel Sandton.

We sit down with Shaun to hear about the learnings he has experienced in the year that was, and the lessons he takes with him into what is set to be another arduous year for the travel industry.

2021 Learnings:

  • When you work with people day in and day out, I think I speak for everyone when I say that is demands a level of flexibility and understanding. COVID19 has humanized and humbled the best of us. It has proved outright that only the pliant survive. The Radisson Blu Hotel Sandton went from being a 4% leisure destination to an 88% leisure hotel during this period, which meant we had to ensure change and flexibility from our part to survive.
  • Bill Gates once said that if he ever found himself down to his last dollar, he’d spend it on marketing and PR and to be frank, that’s what I think set us apart and kept the property afloat during the difficult times. As an industry, we often talk about maintaining relationships and conversations with the market and that’s never been more necessary than now.
  • Prior to the pandemic, we all expected to see the implementation of AI with automated check-ins and the like. However, from our perspective, guests have responded positively to personal interactions with our staff, perhaps because they’ve felt robbed of the human experience of nuance during periods of isolation. This enforces the importance of listening to your customer to allow them the experience they crave and having the flexibility to execute it.

Lessons for the Year Ahead:

  • One cannot afford to sit back and wait for the business to roll in. Aggressive marketing is a must to demonstrate to guests that the necessary PPE investments have been made to create a safe environment for all.
  • Less Zoom conferencing, people are making decisions with smaller groupings, as a result the decision-making process has been forced to speed up and three- or four-day conferences are less likely.
  • Travel bans have decimated airlines. It’s likely to take a minimum of two years for airlines to return to their original fleet, therefore relying on international travel bookings isn’t wise. Focus efforts on the local market as best you can.
  • It is obvious that we will never return to what once was, and that’s ok. In general, we have adapted well as a species and need to change the negative narrative around the current pandemic. Living in the past of how things use to be is futile, it’s now a way of life and something that we need to roll with. Make provisions, open the economy, and adopt a more positive mindset to the reset and be happy that despite all the frustrations along the way, we have endured.
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