Lani Shufelt, Proprietress, The Chanler, Newport, Rhode Island, New York


What is the status at your resort?
Our hotel and restaurant are currently closed, but we are offering "Mansion at Home,” a new takeout option for Newport locals seeking gourmet meals.

What have been some of the challenges you are facing and how are you addressing them?
Our greatest asset is our people. Having closed the hotel and restaurant, we do not have work for our team. Many of our colleagues have been with us five and 10 or more years and we feel so lucky to have them, so we have been creative in developing projects that allow us to keep the team engaged. Our takeout allows us to keep some of our culinary team working, provides a program for the marketing team to focus on and opportunity for our rooms team to take orders and carry out to cars. We have also decided to focus on some capital projects, such as painting the exterior of the hotel, which provides work for our colleagues as well during this time. We are so fortunate to have an incredible sense of community amongst our team at The Chanler — almost every team member has been in touch with me, checking on how things are going, how they can help in any way. I feel incredibly grateful to have the support of a great team and I make it a point to speak with different team members who are currently out of work every day.

Do you anticipate a strong rebound? What is your strategy over the next few months?
We anticipate our guests will want to travel and have new experiences. We are discussing a lot around what about Food & Beverage program will look like in the immediate future when we reopen, and potential long-term effects. We feel comfort food will have a huge comeback — as we are already seeing with our takeout program — and are working on reinventing a collaboration of fine dining and comfort food. During the summer season, we open our outdoor terrace restaurant which abuts a large lawn overlooking the ocean. We feel guests are going to continue to practice social distancing in some capacity, so we are looking at ways we can spread our terrace tables out over the lawn by at least six feet apart. We also anticipate that guests will want grab and go items on a more regular basis, so we have a luxury gelato cart in the works that will allow guests to experience the property and views without too much close contact.

 

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Karen Whitt, VP of Sales & Marketing at The Palms and The Shore Club, Turks and Caicos


What is the status at your resort?
The Hartling Group manages three resorts in Turks and Caicos Islands, The Sands at Grace Bay, The Palms Turks and Caicos and The Shore Club Long Bay Beach.

Currently, all resorts are closed; PLS international airport was closed on March 24th, and expected to reopen on April 14th, and the government has also mandated a 24-hour curfew for the country which began on Friday, March 27th and is currently slated to end in conjunction with the reopening of the airport on April 14th.

What have been some of the challenges you are facing and how are you addressing them?
Given that hospitality and tourism account for approximately 85% of our GDP, our primary source of revenue has been stifled, and one of the greatest challenges we face now is retaining our staff.  Many of us are working from home and we are trying to keep our teams together as best as possible, but as the dynamic around the world changes so rapidly it's difficult to know how to plan for the future. We remain optimistic, and in the meantime, those who can continue to work on initiatives remotely are doing so with the full support of leadership.

We are also working in conjunction with other partners on the island to provide food and basic essentials to some of those staff with great needs. One such project is the “Staples Mission,” where we will provide care packages that would include 20 to 30 essential items that would help to at least keep food on the table. We're trying to be proactive with these initiatives, which can help with the most basic needs and hopefully provide a small level of comfort to those in greatest need.

Another challenge, which I also view as an opportunity, is that of “communication.” In the hospitality industry, we are surrounded by each other on a daily basis and it has been unique working in isolation. As a team we have utilized a number of different platforms to stay connected including Zoom, Google Meets and Instagram, and we are connecting with each other almost daily as we work together to formulate our strategies for reopening.


Do you anticipate a strong rebound?
While once considered a luxury, travel today is a way of life.  It is so valuable in uniting the world and connecting with yourself and your friends and family.  Of course, no one really knows the course of this crisis, but we feel that once we have a green light from the medical professionals and the government entities that it’s ok to travel again, that people will focus on easy-to-get-to destinations and opportunities to relax. The Caribbean would seem to be a very good choice and appealing as it is well-suited for all types of travelers and accessible from so many destinations.  We do anticipate a strong rebound, the question is how long this rebound might take.  Persons will undoubtedly be seeking peace of mind, and safety, and seamless opportunities to ease back into their normal recreational and cultural activities.

What is your strategy over the next few months?
For the immediate term, our first goal is to remain connected internally and externally. This includes communicating with our management teams, travel partners, stakeholders and guests.  We have utilized technology as a platform for some creative online sessions like cyber happy hours with travel partners, and a lot of personal care calls and outreach.  Our teams are busy working on short and medium-term plans which include staying healthy, staying together and remaining positive and optimistic. This will help keep us in a better place to react appropriately when the time is right. As a favored destination we will do our best to remain relevant and as a company, when we feel we can begin to establish some sense of rebound we will be ready to do what we do best, providing amazing and memorable experiences!

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Valentina De Santis, Owner & CEO of Grand Hotel Tremezzo,Lake Como, Italy

What is the status at your property?
The property is currently closed and has not yet re-opened for the 2020 season. The issued lockdown in the Lombardy region happened before our planned start of the season, which was supposed to be on March 13. At the moment we don’t know when we’ll be able to open, but the hotel is perfectly ready down to every last detail - we simply need to open our doors and fill it with fresh flowers and welcome our guests - the fresh flowers and guests are the only things missing. The team is waiting to be called to start and the hotel is ready to re-open as soon as we can.

What have been some of the challenges you are facing and how are you addressing them?
We are facing the same challenges as every other hotel right now, I think. We don’t have guests, we don’t have new requests - but the biggest challenge we are facing, that I think the industry and world is facing is the uncertainty. We are in the heart of the biggest crisis in the world and the biggest challenge is not knowing when this will pass. It makes it so we can’t have a proper plan as we don’t know how the world will be after this - I hope it will be a better world in some ways but of course there will be new rules and behaviors.

Do you anticipate a strong rebound?
Unfortunately, I don’t have the tools to anticipate what tomorrow will hold. I’ve studied and read many articles, expert studies and interviews but don’t have the power to see into the future. However, I believe in our industry, believe in travel and the immense joy that travel brings people. I think that travel is the most enriching and powerful activity that a person can do. The feelings, joy, experiences and memories that travel brings to people are so precious that I think it will be one of the primary needs once everything re-starts. I truly believe in a strong rebound - as soon as people have the chance to do it, travel will start again.

What is your strategy over the next few months?
We are not changing our approach or positioning, nor have we created a super-detailed strategy for the future as we don’t know what it holds for us. The strategy we are taking right now is to remain in close contact with our guests, our partners, and our agents. We are sharing the lives of our team on Instagram and eager to hear about the lives of our guests and partners. We are living in a very Italian way by putting the heart, relationships, feelings, and the connections as first priority. It isn’t a strategy, it’s really our way of life. We are ready to re-start, stronger than ever - we have more energy and passion than ever and ready to welcome the world into our hotel, to our lake, to our beautiful region, and to our beautiful country - to make our guests feel at home, loved and enriched.

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Arnaud Girodon, General Manager, The Datai Langkawi, Malaysia

What is the status of your hotel?
The Prime Minister of Malaysia announced the nationwide Movement Restriction Order from 18 March 2020 to 28 April 2020. Initiated to curb the spread of COVID-19, specific businesses, religious activities and all gatherings in the country have been suspended until further notice. In light of this new ruling, The Datai Langkawi is regretfully unable to honour nor accept any reservations until the 6 May, 2020 at least. As soon as the lockdown is lifted and the resort reopens its doors, we will have to first focus on the local market, as it is evident that the ban on international routes will remain for some time. Our strategy thereafter would be to focus on the international markets as their borders reopen, with potentially the closest countries like Singapore and Hong Kong, followed by the other countries as they relax their travel bans. Unfortunately, it does appear clear that this will take a while.

Are there any initiatives that you have put in place to engage with your guests and staff, while the hotel is either shutdown or on very low occupancy?
What is happening in the world today is unprecedented and a reminder from Mother Earth that there is no Planet B. Although the lockdown is very hard for everyone, it does give the world a very much needed rest and deserved healing.

At The Datai Langkawi, we have always placed an importance on nature and are blessed to be located in a 10-million-year-old rainforest with a beautiful bay - one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world according to National Geographic. Therefore, we have, are and will be working even harder to preserve this unique ecosystem and have created a unique programme called ‘The Datai Pledge’, which  is a partnership between The Datai Langkawi and various influential local conservation and sustainability-led Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) and social enterprises. Through such a programme, we hope to be a pioneer in this industry with initiatives to protect the earth, sea, forest as well as educate local children. We are therefore continuing (albeit on a minimal level) to take care of some of these initiatives on property as best as we can, specifically related to recycling, permaculture garden, beach cleanliness and other conservation initiatives.

Also, whilst we are all on lockdown we have observed that nature hasn’t stopped and is thriving more than ever! We are currently providing our guests a glimpse of how active the fauna and flora are at the resort through a series of short videos posted through our social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram) every week. This has garnered numerous great feedback responses from guests and partners alike worldwide.

We have 480 employees at The Datai Langkawi and since they are what makes our resort so unique and memorable, we are doing all we can to secure their jobs first and foremost. A few employees are still working at the resort to maintain it so that we will be ready to reopen as soon as we are allowed to. While we are not allowed to conduct trainings due to government restrictions, we do stay in touch with every one of them, including weekly videos from the management team to keep them updated on the situation as well as offer a morale boost.

What is the way forward?
It is very difficult to predict the future as it is completely dependent on the situation locally and worldwide. At first, as explained earlier, we will probably host more Malaysian guests, then hopefully Singapore and the countries where the pandemic is well under control and have lifted their travel bans. For the rest of the world however, it is really hard to say as it very much depends on how each of those countries gets ‘back to normal’ and specifically opens up for travel. We do hope however that some good international traffic will resume within the next eight to 10 months. Until then, like many businesses worldwide unfortunately, we have to streamline all expenses to the strict and bare minimum to most importantly ensure we maintain our very valuable employees.