Something’s gotta give
As I closed the doors to my Hampton Inn for weeks, then months, I found myself wondering what the equivalent would look like for business owners. Where would we get our sustenance to survive?
While the pandemic is far from over, we’ve seen those lines dwindle, as people are getting back to work and businesses are back open. But for hotel owners, a helping hand and short-term relief isn’t sustainable. I’m grateful to remain in business thus far, but I’m frustrated and concerned about the future, and I know I’m not alone.
I run a family-owned branded property in LaPlace, LA, about 30 minutes from New Orleans. As I try to run my hotel and keep the doors open, I’m faced with a million and one problems as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the hotel industry. Labor costs are rising, guest expectations are increasing, and profit margins for hoteliers are shrinking – rapidly. So, what do we do? Do we hire fewer staff members at a higher rate? Do we cut out other guest services? Risk lowering brand standards because there’s not enough money to invest in the hotel?
Again, a million and one questions and no right answer. We can’t predict the future, and we simply don’t know what will happen.
The franchisee-franchisor business model needs to be reviewed and changed, as it’s obviously not working in our new reality. If all stakeholders aren’t profitable, the model collapses. What’s most frustrating is that the industry seems to forget the primary investor is the franchisees. I don’t have all the answers, but I know that when decisions are made, they can’t come at the expense of franchisees, whose margins are already paper thin. These decisions have ramifications well beyond the hotel owner’s business as they also deplete money from the local communities in which we operate.
As a hotel owner, I’m striving to lead broader discussions in the industry, to create open dialogue, and bring awareness to the bigger issues we’re facing at a time when there’s so much uncertainty. Franchisees need a seat at the table as stakeholders in the brands in which we choose to invest.
If we don’t advocate for ourselves, who will? I want my children to grow up knowing their father fought for what he believed in. If we can’t be vocal about our fundamental beliefs and what we believe to be right and just, then what are we teaching our children? What are we teaching the next generation of hotel owners who will come after us?
The entire industry is suffering, and everyone needs to work together to find a solution. We need continued communication with brands and we need to form better relationships as equals coming to the table together for the betterment of our business.
As hotel owners, we need to look inward to also hold ourselves accountable for leading the change and the open dialogue that will lead to the betterment of the industry we love so much. As we know, not everything is one-sided.
There is no guidebook on post-pandemic recovery. If we don’t start working together as we face the issues plaguing our industry, the industry will be decimated.