How important was for you to open your property first half of September? – especially considering many luxury hotels in Paris remain closed and some without any concrete reopening date in sight.
The hotel closed for the second time in its 90th history in March this year due to the global pandemic. We have used the time of this exceptional closure to improve our product and engaged in some important maintenance and renovation works that would have been difficult to perform when the hotel is open. At the same time we have completely refurbished our Food and Beverage outlets with some very exciting new concepts with a phased opening which started in early September together with the rooms department. We carry a great responsibility vis à vis our employees, shareholders, suppliers and local businesses and therefore we are convinced that it was the right timing to reopen to send a signal and to rebuild consumer confidence in this new business environment.
Which are the competitive advantages of your hotel which will play a key role in the gradual recovery?How important is your affiliation with a major chain such as Marriott International.
The Prince de Galles has a niche position in Paris as it the only 5 Star hotel in Art Déco style. The high quality of our interiors through the recent renovation paired with our legacy of over 90 years of excellence in the best location in Avenue George V makes us stand out amongst the many 5 Start hotels in the city. Often guests tell us that they find us more approachable than some other options in the city and that they feel that they get at the same time an excellent product and service that goes with it.
The affiliation with Marriott has always been important to us and especially in these challenging times it proofs to be very beneficial as we can tap into a vast network and client base that other properties in the city cannot access, just to mention our loyalty program Bonvoy as +120M members worldwide.
Tell us more about the challenges and hardship you are already facing. Which are the opportunities you anticipate when looking ahead?
Of course the operations of the hotel became more complex with a number of new procedures and hygiene protocols to follow and respect in order to ensure the safety of guests and associates, however I think that this increase in cost of doing business is a fact that we have to accept in this current environment. We must earn the consumers trust in order to compete; but of course every crisis has also its opportunities and I am therefore convinced that we will come out stronger on the other side;
We continued to invest in new technologies and our product even during these challenging times; besides the new Bar and Restaurant space and our magnificent patio with its lush garden atmosphere, guests can now for example choose if they wish to check in directly into their room with their smart phone without passing from the front desk or to order room service on their own phone through Q-Code, these are just some examples but it demonstrates the importance to adapt to fast changing customer requirements; I am convinced that this will pay off in the future.
With key feed markets such as the U.S. and China unlikely to return to Paris this year, do you see potential from other markets?
We see some good potential from the local market of course since we have already a good number of French customers which are loyal to us over many years and we are building on that. The UK and Germany are in focus as these are traditionally big travel markets but also smaller countries like Belgium, Netherlands,Luxembourg or Switzerland have good potential for our destination.
How have you adapted your commercial strategy as well as your marketing communications?
We have completely refocused our efforts on local and regional travel as we anticipate international travel to Paris will remain at a much lower level than in previous years for some time to come. While we kept our pricing structure unchanged we developed new experience based packages that are especially appealing to the local and European markets; more and more Parisians come and stay at the hotel for a weekend on a staycation. We have also developed offers for long stay guests who wish to reside with us for a month or two and we developed a co-working space offer where guests can rent a guest room and use it as an office if they wish.
So far, what has been your perception regarding what guests are expecting in terms of safety, hygiene and disinfection measure against Covid-19?
Guests are expecting from us to do the right thing of course, they rely on us to provide them with a safe and comfortable stay; this is a big responsibility; I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised on how comprehensive and cooperative guests have been so far when it comes to wearing a mask or respecting some of our other safety procedures. As important as all the measures and procedures are, we try to find the right balance in order not to create a hospital like atmosphere as we believe that this would be counterintuitive.
All our associates have been trained on the new hygiene protocols and procedures and we have also invested in advanced technologies like anti-viral films on door handles or electrostatic sprayers for public spaces. Our hotel is also certified by an official body for being compliant with all Covid-19 protocols and procedures.
Tell us more about your approach in ensuring the highest service standards that despite increased costs and a reduced personnel?
I think that the priority is to regain consumer confidence through consistent performance and actions, people need to feel safe to travel again. For us it is important to make the guest feel comfortable and safe of course above all, this is more important in the short run than the pure bottom line; if we can build on that we will see a quick uplift in our performance once business is coming back to more normal levels.
What is your view of your performance for the rest of 2020? Do you have any concrete expectations from authorise which may help and support the hospitality industry?
In France we could benefit from exceptional support measures put in place by the Government that we are really grateful for. So far I have to say, these measure were quite remarkable in comparison to what I have seen in some other countries. The extended furlough support system allows hotels to recover up to 70% of their payroll cost. It appears that the situation will not improve any time soon hence it is extremely important for our sector that the government will extend these measures for as long as needed in order to avoid negative long term impacts on the sector. Our industry is amid to most hard hit in this crisis. We estimate an occupancy between 20-25% in the coming months and are eager to see occupancy levels going back up to pre-covid levels.
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