COVID-19 presented one of the most challenging times for the hospitality industry in recent history. This caused paralysis of global economies with travel and tourism being the hardest hit.
Hospitality experts and managers in the Sultanate who spoke to the Observer shared their views of how they are working to overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic and are looking forward with optimism in the New Year.
David Faull, General Manager, Novotel Muscat Airport, sees the new year as being a slow road to recovery in Oman.
“The Supreme Committee’s decision about encouraging relaxation measures for 103 countries will hopefully see the economy recover with the influx of business and leisure travellers alike. The coronavirus caused us all to think and react differently and the management has hit the reset button to minimise costs and maximise opportunity’’, he says.
“In 2021 Novotel will still be ensuring the organisation is sized accordingly and scaled up appropriately to make sure they return to profitability. We envisage that this will continue to be the new norm for the coming years into 2023’’, he forewarns.
“Throughout 2020, Hilton found innovative and meaningful ways to adapt to the changing needs of its guests, team members and communities’’, says Chris Nassetta, President & CEO, Hilton.
“Even in the face of incredible challenges, the team members and owners have proven that travel is an unstoppable force for good. Hilton has made a difference in the lives of so many and positively impacted communities at a time when hospitality is needed more than ever’’, he explains.
Manuel Levonian, General Manager, Crowne Plaza Resort Salalah, is optimistic the hospitality sector will grow steadily with confidence now that vaccines are already been rolled out. He is positive that the industry will rebound in 2021.
The chain of events, he says, has not dampened their valued guests who love travel and are glad to have come up with attractive staycation packages to help jumpstart the industry with a positive outlook and push domestic tourism.
Antoun Kobercy, Acting General Manager at Royal Tulip Muscat, says the Sultanate will recover from the present crisis by adopting and planning durable and effective tools for developing a new tourism scenario.
“The reestablishment of trade fairs and conferences will be one of the driving forces behind the recovery of the urban sector. The targeted communication, up-to-date information provision and effective interaction with potential customers will help build a relationship and drive positive word-of-mouth referrals’’, he adds.
“Businesses need to focus on driving footfall in the first instance and build back consumer confidence. Flexible cancellation policies are a must and could help manage expectations and help consumers adjust to the ‘new normal’’’, he reasons.
Gerald Chevasson, General Manager, W Muscat, admits that 2020 certainly held challenges of an unprecedented level for the industry but overall, they faced the situation with positivity and consideration. The newly opened star hotel is more than ready for 2021 and will continue to champion their passion points namely design, music, fashion and fuel.
“Our Whatever/Whenever philosophy offers customised and out-of-the-ordinary experiences for guests and an escape from daily life. We are as positive as ever and will never give-up on fulfilling our lust for life’’, he adds.
2020 certainly tested their strength but it did not hinder their vision, explains Samer Gerges, Director of Sales and Marketing, JW Marriott Muscat, as they continued to create truly memorable moments, while implementing new measures and practices to ensure that they maintained the safest environment possible for associates and guests.
As they complete first anniversary they look forward to the year with a host of new launches like modern poolside restaurant and lounge, and specialty coffee shop.
Praveen George, General Manager, Al Falaj Hotel Muscat, says they will look to sustain and improve business through various promotions and marketing in 2021.
“It is very important to make your presence felt in the market in the midst of any crisis. We are confident that this phase will end soon and the tourism industry will be at its best in the coming years.”
“Although they had to make some tough decisions to reduce expenditure, they managed to withstand difficult times and keep themselves afloat. Now that the international travel restrictions are being eased out the opportunities for business will definitely grow’’, he adds.