The GM of the Villa Copenhagen details the challenges the pandemic has presented and how it has led to several delays in opening the property.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark—The Villa Copenhagen hotel was slated to open on 1 April and was ramping up staffing before the Prime Minister of Denmark started implementing restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Peter Høgh Pedersen, GM of the hotel, said the property had signed “the last of 180 employment contracts” the week before Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen issued the first coronavirus precautions to the country, and the hotel had 40 people working in the hotel in early March right before Frederiksen closed Denmark’s borders.
Two of the Villa Copenhagen’s employees also were asked to self-quarantine after vacationing in certain parts of the Alps, he said.
“These were very awkward things to have to deal with in a ramp-up,” Pedersen said. “But at that time (in early March) … we didn’t have any anticipation to what extent this would be affecting (us). But boy, did we get a wake-up call over that week.”
By 13 March, the hotel “had already seen a lot of cancellations for April, May and June, and we decided to start to adjust the organization,” he said.
Once Pedersen and his team realized they would not have enough cash flow coming in to support the preopening ramp-up, they had to start making some changes. He said he had to “say goodbye to a great number of people in the process.” From there, the hotel’s opening date was moved to 14 May, before being postponed again because “the billing side (was) not there yet,” he said.
Pedersen said Denmark is starting to open back up, and the hotel is now aiming for an opening date in early July.
Q: Moving toward that goal of a July opening date, what are you doing now with less staff, and are you expecting to have a different type of opening than what it would have been if you could have opened in April?
A: “Certainly because the business environment is just not there to the same extent that it would have been. We are downsizing all of our activities. Of course, we want to have the hotel online in the sense of brought to an opening. It’s been a project going for more than two and a half years. It’s very important for our companies. … This is a bit of a flagship, both for the company and for Copenhagen, so we think that opening it will be a little bit of a sunshine story … a positive story both for us and for Copenhagen despite it all. We are able to, of course, engage some of the staff and bring a fantastic property to the market under difficult circumstances. Nevertheless, we are working hard for that to happen in (July).”
Q: What are you working on now to ensure the safety of guests once you’re open? Are you having discussions with your team about how serving guests and operating the hotel is going to change?
A: “First and foremost, we are planning to follow whatever recommendations and guidelines are given from our government at the time of opening, so we are pretty much well-dressed there. We think that people will anticipate even better hygiene in any corner of the guest journey, and we’re working hard to be even more mobile when it comes to technology to give guests the opportunity to check in on their own device as opposed to a self-check-in device on arrival. I think most people are happy to touch their own phone, but likely not an iPad of somebody else. So we’re looking at these type of things. Then, with a restaurant we’re looking at how we can do our food servings in a safe manner, how we can place guests with a certain social distancing, how we can find good alternatives to a full breakfast buffet, how we can maybe improve on room service servings and how to deliver that food in a safer manner. And of course, how we can improve and sanitize the basic day-to-day cleaning of the entire property.”
Q: The hotel’s not open, but are you engaging with potential and future guests on social media to update them on the hotel’s opening and cleaning procedures?
A: “We have focused a lot on continuing our storytelling online and being very open about what’s going on (at) the property, shooting images of maybe a close-up of details as we could not show a whole room because it’s not complete yet. … We’ve gone a little bit out in the neighborhood and started to tell some neighborhood stories and giving people more insight to where we are in Copenhagen, highlighting some of the partners, highlighting some of the designers and so on.
“In this very distressed environment that we’re anticipating for the summer, we are trying to do some special offers and engage people in that way and knowing that we have to focus very much on the local or the Danish market for this coming summer. I think we are standing quite good as opposed to a regular hotel just closed down for some months that will reopen the same product. We have still done quite a good amount of local PR, and there’s quite some anticipation in the market as to when we open so I think amongst them all we will be shining, but it will be amongst a lot fewer guests, unfortunately.”