By Greg Scott, owner Quest on Eden, Quest Henderson
With the emergence and rapid spread of Omicron and potential further variants on the horizon, 2022 is likely to see the continuation of disruptions to the hospitality sector.
We will see huge fluctuations in MIQ numbers and constant changes with border restrictions, and inbound tourism may not reach pre-pandemic levels for years to come.
What does this mean for the industry, and what will the future look like for accommodation providers?
If we embrace change, we can force innovation that can carry the sector through. As one of the owners of two Quest apartment hotel properties in Auckland, I continue to use my commercial experience to look for solutions and innovate through these very trying times .
Engaged with Government
I have been actively trying to engage with Government agencies, MPs and industry stakeholders to advocate for change in how managed isolation caters to travellers.
I have formally proposed a solution to Government to allow more people to enter New Zealand safely and timely – this would involve using facilities such as apartment hotels to enable fully vaccinated and boosted, negative-tested Kiwis to be able to isolate outside of the standard MIQ set-up.
This solution would free up space within existing MIQ facilities for those who need it (positive community and border cases, which will continue to increase with Omicron); allow thousands more Kiwis to return home without greater delay; and help the Government manage critical labour shortages by bringing essential and skilled workers into the country.
We have been researching cost effective air purification systems which eliminate pathogens like Covid and other flu viruses as a means to providing safe passage in large building like hotel and apartment complexes. Once installed you would have what I call safe buildings, where people can’t catch or transmit Covid.
Disappointingly, at this point there has been minimal engagement and uptake from the relevant Ministers and Government departments. We hope to engage further with these decision-makers as they ramp up the year.
In our hotels we have introduced best practice procedures and protocols to keep our staff and guests safe. We have made the decision to install a globally leading air purification system in our Quest Henderson property that kills any pathogens in the air including COVID. Then we will do the same at Eden if Body Corporate approval is forthcoming.
These measures and our processes will ensure people who are required to travel for work either inside or outside of New Zealand will have a safe building and a fully contained apartment to isolate on their return, ensuring protection and peace of mind for themselves, their families and colleagues.
Strict health and safety protocols are followed, and guests can rely on our Quest team for access to goods and services that otherwise might not be accessible in a home isolation scenario. This business support programme has been ready to go since November and our hope is that this can be offered in the next phase of the Government’s COVID response in 2022.
Staff efficiency and how to pivot
Your team is paramount to success and our teams, and their safety has been a major driving force behind our pivots. With change comes uncertainty, and the most significant element has been transparent communication and clearly defined rules of engagement. If you communicate with your staff and look after them no matter what, you can start laying the building blocks for a great team.
For staff efficiency and safety, you need to measure staff wellness, stress and burnout levels constantly, each level of lockdown creates different stresses. Everyone’s situation is different, and their requirements will be different. The team (everybody in the organisation) needs to understand that we are all in this together and are reliant on each other. Don’t underestimate the significance of reward, recognition and remuneration in building that great team. The bottom line is everyone has to look out for one another and work together to embrace change.
My top tips for hospitality business leaders who want to adapt and embrace change within their business plan are:
- Accept that change is inevitable and embrace it.
- Have a ‘beer and pizza day’ with your staff to discuss everything you can do to change your business and make it more successful. Take notes; the longer the session, the better the ideas. Don’t stop until you have workable solutions.
- Research the ideas thoroughly and solicit feedback.
- Get acceptance/agreement for the changes required.
- Build a team to get it done. Now. Then reward the team.
Epidemiologists are advising that Covid is becoming endemic, which means new strains will emerge. As an industry, we must decide how to operate in this new reality. Not everyone is entrepreneurial, if you don’t have this ability solicit feedback form others because without the ability to look outside the square, the future is bleak. Those who are creatively minded and determined to find a new way forward in the sector should seek advice from other like-minded entrepreneurs or start focus groups to generate new ideas and build a community.
We need to embrace change and accept that the Government, is doing its best with the resources it has but will not always offer help to the degree we ask for it; we therefore need to find our own creative, collaborative solutions. The future is in your hands.