Omni Hotels & Resorts, like most other brands, had to furlough employees and close some hotels at the onset of the pandemic, but EVP and Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Rubinacci said the brand adjusted quickly and set new goals.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—The pandemic hit the industry fast, but Omni Hotels & Resorts has been able to stay nimble when it comes to strategic shifts, according to EVP and Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Rubinacci.
During a video interview with Hotel News Now in conjunction with the recent online Hotel Data Conference, Rubinacci, who has been through multiple downturns in his career, said the COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things, and Omni’s “goals (for 2020) got thrown out of the window.”
“Normally when you’re in a downturn, you make sure your salespeople are taken care of, make sure your marketing resources are taken care of. This was such a deep drop, we actually furloughed some people in sales and furloughed some of our marketing (team),” he said.
That caused some things to be put on hold, he said, as consumers didn’t want to hear about travel in the beginning of April and May. Omni then created a whole new set of goals.
“It’s how many reservations do we get in a single day in a single hotel and how many group leads are coming up, how far are we off of last year. … It’s really day-by-day, week-by-week and month-by-month growth that has been the overarching goal against every metric,” he said.
Navigating the unthinkable
Though a vast majority of Omni’s hotels are now all open, the brand wasn’t left unscathed.
Because impact came in at full force, cancellations “went through the roof” during the second week of March, he said. By the third and fourth weeks of March, several of its hotels were running at single-digit occupancies, he said.
“We did talk about it in one meeting I remember, on a Thursday or Friday, someone said ‘hey, maybe we’ll have to close a hotel,’ and (we thought we’ll) never close a hotel. By Monday, we had a list of hotels we decided to close,” he said.
“The one thing I learned about this downturn is, if you could think it—even if it was unthinkable—within three or four days, you were doing it.”
But because Omni is “one brand, one owner, one management company,” it was able to adjust quickly and make operational changes five to six weeks before some of the other major brands, he said.
Omni is now doing “fairly well in some of the markets,” he said.
Rubinacci anticipates 2021 will still be a tough year for hoteliers, likely the second-worst year following 2020. And he thinks group business won’t fully recover until 2023.
“We’re going to learn how to do things differently. In the industry, we’re going to be much, much more efficient,” he said. “I think we’re going to really give customers what they want and not try to do a lot of extraneous stuff … it probably bodes well in the long haul, I think we’ll be better operators, give the customers what they want, price things accordingly—but we’ve had to go through a lot of pain in order to get there.”
For more from Rubinacci on Omni’s revenue management and distribution strategy as well his industry outlook, watch the video below.