It’s difficult to imagine that just a few weeks ago, very few people were talking about Covid19 and hardly anyone had heard the term furlough. And yet here we are in the midst of the greatest crisis to hit our industry and our wellbeing in living memory. The need to learn fast and adapt is something I’m sure we can all relate to.
Of our two hotels in Dundee – we had to close Hotel Indigo. Our Staybridge Suite was more easily able to meet government guidelines and we already had guests with no alternative accommodation – so we kept Staybridge open and it has now become a hub for key workers.
Both of our hotels are owned privately and the immediate stoppage and reductions in cash flow offered extreme challenges. The government incentives offered to industry are by necessity not ‘simple’ to obtain and with future business being completely uncertain, there have been many tough decisions being made.
Furloughing the majority of our staff has been difficult but completely necessary to safeguard them and the future of the business. We are currently dealing with the furlough process which in itself is a challenge. I use an accounting firm and have a great Financial Controller, but this process is difficult to say the least. I really do expect some operators to really struggle with using this lifeline. Ideally furlough would have allowed us to retain a wider spectrum of key team members on a ‘part-time’ basis, but the guidelines were specific, and this was not allowed. So, we’ve reduced to a minimum operational team.
Aid in relation to Business Rates, and VAT returns were in effect much easier to navigate and these are readily welcomed. They will in themselves though not replace immediate cash flow – essential for supplier payments and current staffing needs. And with the uncertainty of the future trading climate, the low rate business loans on offer are still a risk that many businesses may not be willing to undertake. There is no doubt that our economy and our industry globally has many years of recovery ahead of it.
Operationally, we’re having to adapt what we do in order to safeguard my team and my guests. We’ve become minimalist. In many ways, we’ve reduced service levels through necessity – and our guests have been absolutely magnificent.
There really has been a genuine sense of ‘we’re all in this together’ As the only major hotel in Dundee to remain open, we are genuinely offering refuge for key workers only – we’re very specific at check-in. Reasons for stay have to be checked and supported by documentation by the employer. For those staying, they are genuinely grateful that we’ve been here for them.
The team that has stayed on to look after the business are going above and beyond. I’ve named them as SuperHeroes. Each day they make the day special for our guests – and although we’ve reduced some services, we’ve also added some genuine daily surprises – little parcels of kindness outside every guest suite – a token of thought, sometimes a gift, or a joke, a beverage – a connection. Many of our guests are alone and away from their own family. In some ways, although we are all respecting our distances, we’ve gotten even closer to our guests.
Eventually I am sure that much good will come from all of this. For the time being we are mindful of those who are dealing with loss and we know that many of us will be touched by this. We respect the real heroes of the NHS and the service they are delivering ahead of personal safety. In contrast that really makes the challenges we face ourselves seem all the more manageable.
Hospitality will survive this crisis and will in time be stronger than before, because every hotel has its own Superheroes.”