For the first time in our history, all nine Point A Hotels were closed to the public.
For us in hospitality, it was hard to envisage a scenario where our sector would grind to an entire halt. As with many others, the early reports of a new coronavirus spreading through parts of China felt like a distant and largely insignificant threat to us.
However, like everybody else we were taken aback with how quickly things changed. By early March, business at Point A Hotels was far from normal as both corporate and leisure bookings started to decline day-on-day. The priority rapidly shifted to protecting our guests and our teams, until we inevitably had to close all our premises on 24 March in accordance with Government direction.
How do we manage a hotel with no guests?
Since we closed doors, our teams have had to pull together to manage issues across the board: from organising furlough applications and supporting those who continue to work (we managed to enrol half of our people on the government scheme, whilst the other half stayed on to help manage our buildings), to carefully monitoring cashflow, all the while un-winding existing bookings and protecting the high quality customer experience we pride ourselves on.
It was a momentous task, but once we were confident we had the right support in place for our guests, we turned our attention to making sure our teams too were supported personally and professionally, to make it through lockdown.
We’re proud of how we managed this, right through from our partnership with Hospitality Action – the UK’s leading charity for hospitality workers to give our teams access to professional, confidential support relating to finance, legal, relationships, wellbeing and more – to our engagement opportunities that encourage colleagues to participate in book clubs, quizzes and even a Dragon’s Den style programme whereby people can submit creative ideas to enhance the business.
What can we give back to those who have sacrificed so much?
Once we’d made sure our own people were safe and secure, we wanted to give something back to the thousands of NHS heroes who were putting themselves at risk in hospitals up and down the country.
In order to learn a little more about what sort of sacrifices health workers have been making we spoke to 250 frontline staff about the fight against Covid-19: one in three said they have seen relationships with family, partners or friends deteriorate in recent months, whilst regular sleep schedules and healthy diets have become unmanageable for over half. One in seven health workers admitted to having no ‘downtime’ at all during a typical week fighting the pandemic.
With these sacrifices in mind, we set the wheels in motion on an NHS Thank You Weekend, offering NHS workers the opportunity to enjoy a special weekend of R+R with us, totally for free.
Over the August bank holiday, we’ll be opening up 1000 room nights (whilst ensuring we can still meet social distancing standards) across all nine of our hotels. NHS staff can book a free two-night stay for themselves and one guest at any point from Thursday to Monday, allowing them to enjoy the signature Point A experience in addition to the perks of our A-list membership.
Reopening in earnest – safety first and a boom in staycations
As the weeks somehow continued to speed by, and government guidance suggested the sector might be able to return in July, we began to turn an eye to how we can best manage our reopening later in the summer.
Experience tells us that ‘staycations’ and domestic travel are traditionally resilient to economic downturns. Given the challenges of opening international travel back up, we anticipate a relative boom in this type of holidaying.
The priority for us now is reassuring potential guests that health and safety protocols are being meticulously followed. That is why we have partnered with an independent Health & Safety expert to make sure that we can provide guests with this peace of mind.
On top of revamping our reception areas with protective screens and physical floor markers, we are reviewing the right processes for cleaning and, where possible, will implement ‘distancing’ policies between occupied rooms to minimise guest crossover.
All this means that we’ll be able to reopen in absolute confidence that our teams and our guests will be able to enjoy Point A in the safest way possible.
Despite the process of reopening drawing near, it’s clear to us all at Point A that we are not likely to return to the trading environment we had pre-COVID-19 for many months, if not years, to come.
Opening our doors again is undeniably exciting but the conditions under which we will do so remain uncertain. What we do know however, is that here at Point A we will continue to operate as we always have done… by putting our guests and our people at the very top of the priority list.