Back in 1992, a new phrase entered the common vernacular when Queen Elizabeth II described the year as an annus horribilis, saying “[It] is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure”. Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the global hotel community is likely to regard 2020 in similar terms.
Twenty-eight years on, however, the Queen is now the longest-reigning monarch in UK history, she enjoys high levels of public popularity and is seen as ‘resilience personified’ – living proof that things can and do get better, and a symbol of reassurance for us in these challenging times.
Resilience helps continued performance
Here in Europe, we’re incredibly proud of how our hotel partners have ridden the so-called Coronacoaster – adapting to new ways of working, implementing new operating procedures to keep guests and staff safe and being open to new sources of demand. And while the climate is undoubtedly tough for everyone, we’re also proud to say that OYO’s hotels have consistently delivered occupancy and RevPar levels above the national average. More importantly, we remain on track to deliver our goals set earlier this year – namely to improve consumer and partner experience.
2020 – a year of transformation
At the start of 2020, we announced that we would focus on reflecting and reviewing the areas of support that matter most to our partners within Europe. As a team, we have completed over 10,000 phone and video calls and in-person meetings with our existing partners. Responding both to the current pandemic and to the valuable feedback we’ve invited from hotel partners, we modified our value proposition to offer what we feel is a far more effective and attractive partnership for independent hotel owners in this region.
Firstly, we removed all complexities in our engagement model and made the fees far more attractive – making the partnership a very easy choice for partners. Secondly, we introduced new technology features that allowed our partners to take more control, to optimise their performance, to capture increased levels of business for their hotels and to access round-the-clock support. Thirdly, we saw the need to improve transparency and clarity around payments, so we overhauled our reconciliation statements of their monthly earnings.
Technology and innovation now core to our value proposition
This year, we released a number of new features within our technology suite. We listened when hotel owners told us they wanted more control on their pricing, so amongst several new revenue tools, we introduced a Smart Pricing Manager which gives hoteliers the power to adjust room prices instantly upwards or downwards.
Owners now have instant access to an automated financial reporting tool, whilst customers can resolve queries quickly and efficiently through an improved online customer service chat, Yo! Help. We have expanded distribution channels through a global partnership with Sabre Corporation, making many of our UK hotels available on a GDS for the first time; and this autumn, we are also introducing a contactless check-in feature on the OYO app, which reduces interaction times between customers and staff at hotel receptions – a valuable innovation in light of the current pandemic.
Moving forward, the product charter remains strong and we will continue to launch new features on our hotel management system, OYO OS, to simplify processes for our partners. Technology features currently under development include the means for owners or property managers to consolidate, sort and filter guest reviews from various sources on one platform; the ability to view reconciliation statements and financial information on a daily basis rather than just at the end of the month; and nudges on pending tasks for the day ahead, including a timer function for items with set deadlines.
We have continued to onboard new hotel partners within Europe, even during lockdown periods. Right now, a lot of independent owners are seeking new means of support that will enable them to deliver consistent levels of customer experience whilst operating on limited resources – and OYO is helping to ease their pressure in a number of areas. In spite of the pandemic, OYO has added more than 1,200 rooms to its UK portfolio alone since April 2020.
Of course, we don’t expect you to just take our word for it. In our ongoing efforts to engage with partners and understand how we can best serve them, we’ve interviewed a number of our hotel owners to get their feedback. We invite you to see what they have to say about us:
There’s no doubt that Coronavirus is the biggest disruption most of us have experienced in our lifetimes. But we know that whether it’s through the roll-out of a vaccine, through significant social change or by other means, with a strong dose of Queen-like resilience, we will see it pass.
On the other hand, we are greatly encouraged by the response of both new and existing partners that our reimagined approach within Europe offers the right support in the areas that they need. And so it is the proposition we’ll continue with as we back small and mid-sized hotels in their business recovery over the coming months and years. In unity with the independent hotelier community, OYO is well-positioned to build a key challenger hospitality brand in the European markets.
As a young company, we know that we must never stop learning, listening or striving for improvement to deliver the best partnership possible for independent hotel owners. We have acted on that this year and it is our pledge to continue in that same manner.