I think that we can all agree that is one of the toughest periods in the history of Hospitality in Malawi – so what’s next?
The impact of COVID 19, cannot be underestimated in any walk of life or industry anywhere in the world – but the Hospitality sector has seen an impact like no other. It is safe to say that the impact of Covid 19 worldwide is as bad as both the 1991 financial crash, SARS, Ebola and the great depression all combined.
As I am writing this – In terms of Hospitality in Malawi; its more than tough; We have had periods where 95% of hotels and lodges were closed for business between April & May, currently those properties that are open are operating at around 10% of revenue when compared to last year and if we look at the current figures they are suggesting that the industry has suffered a loss of 35,000 jobs to date; those business that haven’t retrenched have put in place working hour / salary reductions, and we are still expecting further job losses as every business to try’s to survive and be able to still be in place to operate when a level of business resumes.
The Malawian market has a limited domestic travel market; this is slowly coming back and it is great to see; but we are all driven by both regional and international travel.
So What`s Next?
We are hoping that we may start seeing a return to international travel from mid to end July and potentially limited international links re opened and operating fully by October with travel slowly starting to drive demand and I hope people back to work, but I don`t believe that it’s going to be business as usual.
If you had asked me as I returned to Malawi as the leader of the most prestigious hotel in the country with a highly dedicated team focused on providing the very best service with a smile and being the true example of Malawian warmth and friendliness, is a true privilege that only few have been lucky enough to experience. Would I be operating the iconic 21 Grill on Hannover as a gourmet take away alternative – I am sure I would have had a bit of a giggle at such thoughts. But as now it is one of the key concepts that we have successfully launched; we have had to become even more flexible than before, even more customer centric – we have needed to innovate, create and look outside what would be considered to be our “Normal” market and offerings.
I believe that this will become the new normal for Hospitality – I truly believe that we will all travel again and I am positive that we will experience the pleasure of this sooner than we think; but in the short term I believe guests are going to expect more; from increased and uplifted hygiene protocols, reduced capacity restaurants that will allow social distancing, more reliance on locally produced items than on imports, increased usage of technology – but more than any other a demand for more flexible & creative options and services than ever before.
We have been working on a variety of products and items to proactively meet guests needs now and in the future; from creating a new cocktail offerings using fantastic local products, our own inspired & flavored Malawi Gin & Vodka, looking at the new trend of meetings & there requirements; how can we offer items such as video conferencing, interactive and unique outside dining experiences that can catering for a meeting for two to a wedding for over a 1000; improving our on arrival experience to increase guest satisfaction, enhanced room quality control and management as well as continuing to drive our training and development of our associates. These are a few of the approaches that we have taken as a business, with a lot more to come.
Proactive or Reactive
There is no “Magic Shot” that will heal all of our current issues in the hospitality sector. At present we can see no signs as yet of Government intervention of other means, the same as many other business may experience, but Hospitality has a great advantage as we can offers dreams and experience like no other sectors, but we need to get those dreams and offers out to the world.
We have a choice at this stage we can decide to become Proactive or Reactive –
I believe that we should become Proactive – we need to highlight the best Malawi & African Hospitality has to offer; we all have to be proactive; but we all need to lend our weight and drive for the benefit of us all.
For me it is key that as an industry we need to be as flexible, customer centric as our operations will have to be in the near future – we have to be ready to offer and implement change and new ideas for the benefit of us all.
Written By David Church, General Manager Protea Hotel by Marriott® Blantyre Ryalls, Advisory Board Member AAHP