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Published on Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Insider View: Sally Beck of London's Royal Lancaster

Sally Beck, General Manager at Royal Lancaster hotel in London since 2012 and one of the most respected GMs in the capital, gives an insight into the impact of the pandemic on hoteliers - and the ingenious ways they've adapted.


The impact of Tier 4 and then Lockdown 3.0 has been crippling on hospitality businesses. This time last year we were operating at 70% occupancy and now we are only at 5%, with our guests consisting of business and medical travel only.

It was sad not to have the usual buzz of full restaurants and bars over the festive period, we had hoped to achieve an occupancy of around 40% if London had been in a lower tier, but unfortunately this was not possible.

Since the emergence of the Covid pandemic, hospitality has been greatly penalised by unfair rules, without any evidence that the industry contributes to the spread of the virus, and despite a lot of hard work to adapt to and follow government guidelines rigorously.

The lack of time for planning and support from the government, with constant changes and flip flopping has not enabled us to plan effectively at all.

We have to have constant vigilance on government guidelines in order to be able to adapt to any changes immediately. By now we are used to reacting very swiftly to closing our restaurants and bars and adapting room service menus and mini bar offerings to enable our guests to still have sufficient refreshments delivered to them. We've made our rooms available for day hire as well as overnight and weekly stays, to be used as temporary private offices for business travellers.

Our team are now extremely competent in all of the new ways to have contactless service - cashless, contactless check-ins, use of QR codes, using ozone machines and fogging machines for room cleaning - in order to give our guest the maximum confidence that they are safe with us at Royal Lancaster London.

Additionally, we now have zero cancellation charges for overnight stays, and liberally upgrade the guests we have and try to spoil them every day to show how happy we are that they are travelling and have chosen to stay with us.

Sudden government U-turns have played havoc with maintaining stock, but we have adapted to this and worked out ways with our supply chain partners to help us move unused stock and therefore minimise losses when announcements of new regulations happen just after we've placed or received orders.

For our events clients, we now continually work on a moving feast for our clients to enable them to shift dates due to Covid restrictions, keeping the hope that they can come to us and their event can happen eventually!

We also set up the unique XR SmartStudio in our Westbourne event suite, in partnership with Smart AV, allowing businesses to host virtual or hybrid events whilst large gatherings and conferences are not possible. The Extended Reality stage with LED backdrop and floor, audio, broadcast cameras and TV-ready lighting allow clients to have both a live audience and virtual attendees. We've hosted conferences for blue chip firms with 14,000 virtual attendees around the world.

In 2021, I am launching the Hoteliers' Charter, which will champion like-minded hoteliers in the development and well-being of their teams, with a view to further the reputation of the hotel industry as 'best in class' employers.

After a very difficult year for all in the hospitality industry, this is something positive and progressive to work towards. We are currently focusing on Easter reopening packages for when this is hopefully all over and leisure travel can resume.

Finally, we have kept true to our values that we always care and we always will do - this is a marathon, not a sprint - and in hotels and hospitality we are resilient and creative and just waiting for the day when we can return to giving happiness again once more to our guests.


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