What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19?
My biggest concern about COVID-19 is the fear of traveling. Unfortunately, it looks like it will take some time until travel will return to past levels. On the other hand, it is actually a good break for our planet. Too often, we have been taking advantage of the planet over the past 100 years. Maybe it’s nature calling us for attention.
Our business, much like everybody else, has been affected. We are at an advantage as over 50% of our guests are national (Mexican) and we are confident that the local business will return faster. The Mexican economy in general is at standstill right now. As of the 1st of June, Mexico is slowly re-opening with a full re-start forecasted on July 1st. July onwards will set the pace on future demands in hotels and other tourism activities.
“People are now looking for secluded places, with no or little crowds, nature or seafront, a strong focus on wellness and wellbeing, and we can offer all this in one place.”
While we were closed to guests, we took advantage of this time to do some needed maintenance work, which is normally impossible with guests at the resort. We took time to plan, train, and prepare our team and business in anticipation for our re-opening, which happened early June. We are also blessed to have wonderful owners who put first our team, before their business. Not one of our team members lost their job and hundreds of families were able to maintain their livelihoods.
When we reopened, it didn’t feel real. We are all wearing masks and other protective gear; I didn’t know what to expect from our guests, although we did rehearse our standards before opening. No one was used to this “new normal” yet, and it looked a little unusual. As it turned out, our guests were here to relax and enjoy themselves and did not care too much about wearing gloves or not.
We have not had any challenges in reopening so far. In fact, I think we over planned and everything is going well so far. What I do predict is the importance of observing our guests to try and anticipate their new expectations. We need to be very flexible and ready to cater to our guests needs as long as everyone is safe.
What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation?
Both our Yucatan and Maroma resorts have the great advantage of being set on large grounds, to have spaces set in open air (both jungle and beach), with low-density construction, and the ability of a guest occupancy between 80 to 140 guests. We have been promoting our resorts based on these unique selling points and we are well aware that people are now looking for secluded places, with no or little crowds, nature or seafront, a strong focus on wellness and wellbeing, and we can offer all this in one place.
We are continuously monitoring the situation at home and abroad. It looks as if we are coming into another peak in the next few months, we are confident in our rigorous health and safety procedures to avoid a spread of cases. In any case, here in Mexico, the months between May and September are supposedly the low season, so the expectations of new cases in general were low.
How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now?
I am positive and hoping that we will leave this pandemic behind us this time next year and that people will feel more comfortable to travel and gather in groups or meetings. The world economy will not recover immediately, and for this, we will need to wait a few years. The UHNWI however, are the guests that we are anticipating returning faster than most. That’s another point for us as this type of consumer is makes up our demographic and our resorts are geared for it.
What have you learned from other difficult times in the past?
Stay calm, remain focused, and most importantly, stay committed to maintain the promise of the company values. In particular, we must continue to look after the staff. Laying off or furloughing staff is not the only solution. Once the business returns, our goal is to get back those guests who are loyal and committed to the Chable’ brand. Simply relaying the reputation of the company is not a good long-term strategy. We need to be aggressive in our strategy to go after the business once the time is right. Once again, I am grateful that our company has maintained its word.
Safe–and entertained–at Home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime
I normally wake up very early (5am), start my day with some exercises, educate myself with news around the world (mainly hospitality news), have breakfast, and actually go to work. I did not work much from home as I did at the hotel, which although was not operational, was manned with security, maintenance, and gardening staff. I am of the opinion that now even more than ever, the staff need to see their leader alongside them.
I don’t think I have ever been on so many Zoom webinars than during this period. I don’t watch much TV. I like to catch up on new trends and now that wellness is at the forefront of consumer behaviors, I am learning as much as I possibly can on the sector.
I am an ambassador of the World Wellness Weekend taking place in September this year, so I am studying all matters related to nutrition, physical activity, spirituality and similar topics.
What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?
I walk daily with my wife to keep fit and chat about what matters most to us. I occasionally allow my teen kids to drive my car (with me accompanying them of course), and I am taking advantage of this time to actually speak with my kids and have meaningful conversations.
What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically?
Keeping fit with 45–60 minutes of high-power exercise or long walks. It helps to release stress and sleep peacefully. Also try yoga nidra. It’s another great way to do three things at the same time: meditate, practice yoga without moving, and have a cat nap.
Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?
I am looking forward to doing all of it, but swimming in the sea is first on my list.