Bartlomiej Mart, general manager at Ascott Rafal Olaya Riyadh tells Breaking Travel News how he has reshaped operations in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Breaking Travel News: What operational changes have you implemented at Ascott in order to continue operating through the pandemic?
Bartlomiej Mart: As part of the prestigious Ascott portfolio, we at Ascott Rafal Olaya Riyadh were part of the implementation of a quick, efficient, and effective counter strategy, giving us a head-start in the market.
From the very early stages, the security and safety of our guests and staff became our utmost priority.
International and local government health and hygiene protocols were implemented.
Simultaneously, the Ascott globally announced various initiatives including Ascott Cares, contactless check-in and check-out, digitalised services, along with lodging initiatives, including work-from-home spaces.
Ascott’s global team also effectively launched the Ascott Star Rewards App last year, the brand’s loyalty program, promoting safer and smarter ways for guests to book, redeem and stay connected with Ascott wherever they are.
From the property point of view, what was most commendable was the dedication and unity of my teams who significantly contributed to the overall success of the crisis management.
Today, I can proudly state that the proactive measures taken then, have laid robust foundations for our steady stability in the market through 2020, and is being carried forward in 2021 amid the underlying pending uncertainties.
BTN: What has been your approach to tackling the global travel restrictions, in particular the constantly shifting travel corridors?
BM: Global travel restrictions are beyond our control.
However, what we can control is the ‘immediate strategic response’ to these situations.
Our teams have been fully dedicated in ensuring to always stay up to date.
In the meanwhile, as a serviced residence even though almost 70 per cent of our guests’ demographic is the long stay base, we are now also focusing on domestic tourism.
Our ideal location in the heart of the capital of the Saudi Arabia, and a reputation for offering world-class hospitality, staycations worked fairly well for us.
Simultaneously, our strong sales teams were driven to reignite and build rapport with corporate accounts, developing attractive packages to boost the footfalls.
Being flexible, supportive, and empathetic with circumstances such as border closures and flight cancellations further helped to uplift the confidence of our guests.
BTN: Why is collaboration across the global travel industry essential to navigating the post-pandemic landscape?
BM: One of the most crucial learnings from the pandemic was the importance of team-effort.
I believe the silent collaboration within the industry is what will help all of us thrive through it.
We must become more alert, innovative, and strategic, because travel is inevitable, and so is the desire to explore opportunities.
One other important aspect that cannot be negated, is that the consumer drives business.
As hoteliers, we need to collectively understand customer behaviours and consumption patterns, which have been altered since the pandemic.
Tourism is not driven by one hotel brand or property alone; it is an accumulation of trust and confidence that is collectively built by the industry to reshape the travel sector in a safe and sustainable manner.
BTN: What trends in travel and tourism do you see emerging in the aftermath of the crisis?
BM: As part of the new normal, we have already witnessed the viral ‘work-from-home’ trend.
Part of this, was also the rise in demand for safe, comprehensive, and work savvy homes.
Ascott’s long-stay sustainable business model and the implementation of strategic innovations like our global digitalisation efforts offered guests the perfect space for work and home.
Our apartments feature separate living and dining areas with fully functional kitchenettes, while the property also offers recreational and business amenities for guests.
From a property viewpoint, we continue our efforts to train our staff to respond to crisis situations and adopt new ways to approach potential guests.
Currently, there are many opportunities to take advantage of, which makes it a very interesting and dynamic environment to be in.
Things are still evolving with the recent development of health passports in various countries as well as increasing local ‘staycation’ demand.
Service personalisation and flexible approach to cancellation policies also need attention.
BTN: Have you had any positive changes in your own outlook in reaction to the crisis?
BM: As part of a global brand, we are confident to adapt and cope even in the midst of a pandemic.
The Ascott Cares initiative allowed us to stay in check on our regulations, with a set of detailed guidelines and protocols for our staff, guests, and vendors.
Among other significant actions to mention, is also the fact that we were the first serviced residence in Riyadh to receive the accredited Bureau Veritas label.
This label is awarded to businesses who have implemented policies and procedures aligned with local regulatory requirements, good hygiene, health, and safety practices with support mitigation of the spread of SARS – CoC-2 (the cause of Covid-19).
Ascott Rafal Olaya Riyadh is considered Saudi Arabia’s Leading Serviced Apartments by voters at the World Travel Awards.
Find out more about the property on the official website.