The chief executive of GLH hotels tells Katherine Price how he is keeping staff morale high through lockdown and how he hopes his business learns from this experience to bounce back better than before
What is the current situation with your hotels and staff?
All the hotels across the group are closed, so the commercial impact has been significant. More importantly though, like so many others, some of our teams have sadly lost loved ones to the virus.
Each hotel has a small team working on-site to look after the property and direct any queries coming through. We have a small senior team still working to raise cash in the business and also plan for reopening; however, the rest of the team are furloughed.
Have you applied for any loans?
The loans have proved to be more difficult to access for companies in our revenue bracket, so this has been a challenge.
How are you looking after your furloughed teams?
The senior team, general managers and I are all in regular contact with our teams to ensure they are keeping well and are kept as up to date as possible. Recently we ran an afternoon tea recipe competition. Three winners won a cash prize each for themselves and their chosen charity.
What changes do you think will need to be made to hotels when they reopen?
It will no doubt mean a total rethink on the customer's journey; from how they check in with the least possible contact to how they enjoy a great experience in one of our restaurants while keeping social distance.
Would you reopen all your properties as soon as possible or stagger openings?
It is unlikely we will open all the hotels at once. We are working on a plan that assumes a phased opening based on demand.
Do you foresee guests returning quickly once lockdown restrictions are lifted?
In general, no. We expect a fairly slow pick-up for hotel bookings. As always, the situation is likely to be different for different people. I have no doubt that some locations and types of business will recover more quickly than others. It's highly likely that international business will take a long time to recover, but given the right level of confidence in safety measures, the domestic market could be more positive. I do however expect business guests in general to return much quicker than leisure or tourism.
What is your outlook for 2020?
I think 2020 will be the year that many of us tragically lost loved ones, but also a year that we learned to pull together as human beings and truly appreciate the different roles people play in society.
I'm sure this will lead to many organisations reviewing the way they work and behave – I certainly have. Commercially, yes, 2020 is worse than lost, we have many more problems to face as we reopen, but in other ways, there is reason to have hope.
I was taught many years ago that the outcome of an event is based on two things: the event itself and then your reaction to it.
I couldn't be any prouder of the way my team has reacted to this situation to ensure we will be the best we can be when we reopen.
What do you need from the government to ensure the business can survive?
The most important things will be continued direct support after opening for employee costs and the sector's crippling rent bills until business recovers. Once businesses reopen with social distancing measures in place, the ability to run profitably will be almost impossible for some time. We will need the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to continue until businesses can operate in a profitable way.
We will have to find a way of managing the impact on the business fairly with its landlords. Some landlords have been understanding and tried to support us, while others have been less helpful. The best way of government helping with this is to back the #NationalTimeOut scheme.
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