Robyn Pratt, General Manager at The Phoenicia Malta, describes her experience of dealing with COVID-19 as “a roller-coaster ride”. From the outset, management was focused on taking care of the hotel’s employees, and, she proudly notes, the result is that they did not lay off any employees.
She was commenting as part of a wider feature in the December edition of Business Now magazine shining a spotlight on the hospitality industry, which is re-experiencing levels of uncertainty not last seen since last winter.
“During the months when there were no guests, our team members were put in task forces and worked on various maintenance, painting, and gardening activities in order to keep everyone busy,” she reveals.
Bringing this experience to bear on the present, Ms Pratt maintains that, “as a general practice, I believe we have all become more flexible and aware of other departments, as this new mindset is very much needed now by hospitality team members – we can no longer think ‘that is not my department, so not my job’ – we need to think as a team and I believe this is something that the team here have really taken up.”
One of the big positives for the hotel and many others like it, the General Manager notes, is that it pushed the team to think differently about the business on their doorstep, and for Phoenicia Malta, this led the hotel to open its gates to the Bastion Pool for the first time to non-residents. “This was very successful and something we have continued, however, in 2021 when we have had high occupancies, we have created a balance to ensure our residents have space by the pool,” she explains.
Local accommodation packages have also been much more successful, Ms Pratt continues, adding that this is something that the team plans to continue, crediting the pandemic with bringing about “a lot of learnings and understanding that a new mindset is required with this new post-COVID normal.”
Looking at the way things stand now, the General Manager reveals that thankfully, reservations have definitely picked up, particularly from the UK market. “The issue for us is the critical lack of human resource assets – this is a difficult time for this industry, and we need to do whatever we can to inspire people to come back,” she posits, revealing that, as far as business goes, “we are optimistic for 2022 and are focused on continuing to improve our guest experience and engage with our team in order to provide the best possible experience, both internal and external.”
As for the future, Ms Pratt continues to consider the lack of human resources as the most critical issue facing the industry, and admits, “I do not think things will ever get back to what they were – we need to think very differently as an industry going forward about how we engage with our very important internal assets.”
As for business, despite a “softer” first quarter, she expects summer 2022 to be strong, based on the hotel’s experience of late summer and autumn.
“If everything continues to go the way it has, by 2023 we hope that events and meetings will be coming back, as that is a critical piece of the puzzle, and I know that it is difficult with social distancing and other measures. Overall, we are optimistic about the future.”
These comments were featured as part of an in-depth story on the future of hospitality in Malta as it emerges from the challenges brought on by the pandemic. The full-length feature can be viewed on the December edition of Business Now magazine, the sister brand to BusinessNow.mt, produced by Content House Group
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