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Wed 13 Jan 2010 04:00 AM

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Forewarned is forearmed

As we enter the year 2010, the phrase ‘forewarned is forearmed' could certainly be a useful concept for hoteliers to keep in mind.

As we enter the year 2010, the phrase ‘forewarned is forearmed' could certainly be a useful concept for hoteliers to keep in mind.

While many are reluctant to speculate too heavily on business prospects for 2010 and others have openly admitted that the unpredictability of the market makes it almost impossible to make any forecasts, hoteliers do have one valuable weapon up their sleeves.

This would be the knowledge and experienced garnered over the past 12 months, which have been the toughest the hotel industry in this region has had to face.

Think back to this time last year and the level of uncertainty - even fear - rippling through the industry. Many hotels were forced to make redundancies, freeze recruitment, postpone projects, drastically alter sales strategies and drop rates with barely any notice and no knowledge of when recovery would come.

Now, while the hospitality industry is still awaiting stabilisation before ultimate recovery begins - hopefully - in 2011/2012, its strategies for success in 2010 are long-term plans based on experience of operating a hotel in a downturn.

The economic crisis is not going anywhere fast and the realism with which hotels have accepted the situation is much more beneficial to business than the false optimism of a quick recovery that was being bandied around a year ago.

Hoteliers now know that rooms are harder to fill, staff counts are tighter and offering consumers value for money is absolutely crucial. And if they have played their cards right during 2009, they should have a decent base to build upon going into 2010.

This is where hotels have to use the experiences of the past year, however challenging or painful, to their advantage. As the spa managers taking part in the debate on pages 33 to 40 observe, they know what they are up against in 2010 so can plan appropriately.

They are aware, for example, that consumers are still using spas but that they have cut back on their pampering time and on buying products. So as a result, why not look at introducing express treatments and retailing more affordable product lines?

It's definitely not the case that hoteliers should take a ‘glass half empty' approach to the outlook for the industry - far from it.

Never more has the industry needed an injection of creativity, but at least this year, decisions and innovations can be made based on last year's performance. And for the bold among you, perhaps this is the year to capitalise on new opportunities after a cautious 2009. One can't help but be inspired by Wyndham Hotel Group's president and CEO Eric Danziger, who revels in the downturn as a chance to ensure his company stands out from the rest.

So, echoing the sentiments I have heard in the hotel industry over the past few weeks, here's to a better new year in 2010. At least we have some idea of what it will hold!

Louise Oakley is the editor Hotelier Middle East.

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