This blog post is dedicated to everyone in the hospitality industry who has been fighting like a lion in the past month, is getting a bit tired and needs some encouragement to carry on.
I must admit I am a bit tired.
Do not get me wrong – I am not throwing the towel. Not even close! And especially not now that there is clearly some light at the end of the tunnel of this pandemic. The last 10 months have been very hard on all of us working in hospitality, but it seems to me that right now is the hardest part of it all. I am struggling to figure out how close or far that light at the end of the tunnel is and if it takes us another two, four, or six months to get there.
To feel this uncertainty so close to the finish line is exhausting.
At the very beginning, when the borders and airports closed, it was all new and we were pumped up with adrenaline. We had to shut down all hotel operations within a few weeks after experiencing our best high season ever. It was hard as hell to let go of almost half of our staff at the hotels and put the remaining on a 50% payroll deduction. We were in “war-mode” and fighting hard and looking for opportunities.
And the teams responded incredibly well. We developed solid health and hygiene protocols in record time and reopened our hotels successfully for the local market in June. We managed to keep the hotel infrastructure in impeccable condition and quickly hired back more than 25% of the staff. We raised salaries again and had a better-than-expected occupancy for December and Festive Seasons. We even successfully implemented an innovation contest.
But here is the challenge. January and February (a.k.a. high season) reservations are very slow. And that is a problem. Our operating costs have gone up again with higher payrolls and full amenities being offered to our guests. To maintain high quality standards in terms of guest experience, sustainability, and health protocols, we do not participate in price wars and heavy discounting. Guest expectations are higher than ever. But thankfully our guests are raving about their experiences and we promised to not cut corners. We are holding on…
Of course, we continue to be optimistic. That is the Cayuga Way. We know that we are very well positioned with our focus on excellence, nature experiences in small and sustainable luxury hotels, and lodges. We believe in this industry. We are passionate about service and our people. We love seeing the opportunities that exist for our local employees. Not just for simple employment but for career growth and entrepreneurship.
The hospitality industry has taken a beating. We are all hurting badly. But it is still the best industry ever. I could not imagine working in any other industry, despite the 24/7/365 schedules and long, often underpaid, and undervalued hours. However, I know that what we do matters through the conservation of natural habitats, improvement of local communities and people.
And now, our roles as hospitality professionals have taken on a whole new level of importance. Through vacation experiences, we will help people heal their mental wounds from this pandemic. It has not only been a physical strain on all of us, but mostly a mental challenge. We all have struggled in one way or another with this. What better medicine than a hike in the rainforest with your family, a stroll along a secluded beach with your loved one or a socially un-distanced meal with your feet in the sand next to the ocean with your best friends.
So here is to my great team at Cayuga and all the warriors and heroes out there that work in the hospitality, restaurant, airline and tourism industry right now. I know you are tired as well. It does feel like we just finished the 2020 mega marathon and now they ask us to do another ten miles uphill in 2021. Don’t give up now. It is crunch time. Yes, we all need to give our best. We are getting close and our guests will really appreciate us being there for them when they feel safe to come back. Our industry can and will make a difference. A big difference.
Oh, and one more thing. Stick together. We are not competitors right now. We are all one industry, and we need each other. We need to unite to save our industry. Lend a helping hand to your colleagues if you can. We continue to be strong today for an extraordinary tomorrow.
Please feel free to share your story of how you find strength to carry on in the comments below or send me a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.