Optimistic strategy to deal with COVID-19
“Covid-19 is only an advanced low-season.” Because this optimistic thinking allows us to survive and exceed any limitation and be able to create opportunities beyond this crisis. Let’s hear the positive strategy from the next-generation hotel management, K.Pichaya Pongcheep, the CEO of Koh Kood Paradise Beach, who can win this Covid-19 pandemic by change the way of thinking and also the management team. You will see that just changing your thinking way could introduce new possibilities.
From the abroad student to the Exotic island management
The beginning of the family is agricultural, springer manufacturer, and water pipe selling a business, but they think about the future and expand the risk in doing other business. This is why the K.Pichaya family started doing a small hotel business at Koh Chang. There was a shared bathroom and some area for camping then they expanded the business from 19 to 54 bungalows with more area and finally it has become a pool villa. At that time, K.Pichaya was still studying. After she graduated from England, her mother asked her what business she wanted to do between pipe selling or hotel business. She decided to work with the hotel because she graduated from this field. Also, she could see the future of business that if it has a proper system, the hotel could continue on its own without her being there. Also, she can travel while working which is to travel and search for new tourism trends for her hotel development. In contrast to that pipe selling business, she has to be at the store all the time because customers demand answers and need to discuss with the owner.
The decision was made, her mother suggested she go to Koh Kood where it was full of non-convenient items at that time. Self-made electricity, wooden shuttle boats, and also a non-popular island. Most tourists are western foreigners, especially Scandinavians. Moreover, it is super hard to get to the island as the monsoon is coming. However, once she stepped foot in, she knew what paradise means. The water is clear as same as in the southern part of Thailand. Also, the weather is good and remains their natural way. This is the starting point of Koh Kood Paradise Beach.
Life changed as starting the hotel on the new island is not that easy
K.Pichaya told us that Koh Kood was totally different because there are less convenient items. There was a wooden boat and self-made electricity at the beginning of the hotel building. At that time, we needed to hire a barge boat to transfer the construction materials and it could not park at the construction spot. They needed to park at the boat parking point which increased the truck costs. Moreover, hiring employees is challenging because nobody knows Koh Kood. So, she had to work with her brother, and it was really exhausting and made her cry. However, her mother said that “How many hands and legs do you have? You have the same number as the others. If they can do it, why don’t you? You have studied harder than the others, seen a lot more, so you must be able to do something more”. This made her try harder and be able to expand from 29 rooms to 70 rooms. Unfortunately, in the low season period or the monsoon season, only 5 rooms are booked from 70 rooms. Some hotels on Koh Kood need to shut down in the period because it is not worth producing the electricity. Moreover, some hotels did not have 24-hour electricity and water provided, nevertheless, Koh Kood Paradise still opens. She tried calling other hotels and found that some of them had no customers at all which made her feel better.
Fighting against Covid-19 with positive thinking
Trat was shut down when Covid-19 was starting. No in-and-out. This was the first time that K.Pichaya had to stay on Koh Kood for a month. For a month she had to think about how to get more income. She started online selling mangosteens from her park. Also saving is important. Any unnecessary expenses were cut off. Unused refrigerators were unplugged. Start selling vouchers to get more cash because cash flow is very important. She used to ask her employees that if we cannot sell vouchers, how long will the hotel last and how long can she take care of all employees? Due to the government's order to shut down the province but not the hotel, so employees could not receive the compensated money from social security.
Then the optimistic day came, that moment when K.Pichaya read a book nearby the sea and thought that Covid-19 was only an advance low-season. Covid-19 was a holiday. Thinking positive, many ideas popped. She called everyone to help renovate the hotel. As it is something that needed to be done but it was just a bit sooner. She asked her staff to help and do everything as a multitask. All renovations were done by all employees and no outsiders. Everyone was good at it. This was also a benefit because it is easier to renovate in summer than in the low season which is the rainy season. She also needed to reduce the salary of staff, but it is okay if anyone would like to find additional jobs. There was a lot of open communication between her and the staff to find the best matching solution for each other. K.Pichaya told her staff that “I am sorry that I could not make everyone smile.” However, in every crisis lies an opportunity, she found that there is no need to hire much staff because only inspiration can let them do a variety of work.
How to handle lockdown easing
At first, K.Pichaya hesitated on what she should do but there was much support from customers via Facebook page. Updates and communication on social media together with chat groups with staff happened along the way. In case the hotel is reopened, all staff must be prepared. Moreover, government advice is needed for Covid-19 handling procedures for both customers and staff. It is a balance of hospitality and safety. Also, the strategy has to change to be more emphasis on Thai tourists because the foreigners could not travel. Other hotels reopened on 1 July 2020 but K.Pichaya chose 26 July 2020. She thought that this would be the pre-opening for preparation, but it turned out to be fully booked and this was a good decision. The sooner the hotel opens, the more customers come. Addition of marketing promotion such as buy one gets one free which result in good feedback and fully booked with high demand.
The change of customer after Covid-19
K.Pichaya told us that previously most bookings were made via OTA or booking via Agoda and Booking but it is changed after Covid-19 that direct booking has increased because customers want to make sure that the hotel is surely open. They need answers then they ask a lot of questions. The staff could not answer all inquiries, so we need to state the Q&A for general questions. Furthermore, family travelers have increased to be 60% of overall customers. Also traveling as a friend group has risen while a couple of ratios is in a downturn. As customer behavior changes, we have to adapt.
Support all entrepreneurs
K.Pichaya said that optimism is a must. Find opportunities or ways to move on. It is like a present for life, also cash flow management is needed to stay longer. Also looking for low-interest rate money opportunities such as a soft loan from the government which help SME. In case cash flow is not enough and you are not eligible for a soft loan then the financial institutes may be another option.
Just change the way of thinking, life changes. Talking to K.Pichaya let us know that changing mindset, and be more positive, Covid-19 is only a vacation or an advance low season in order to improve and develop something new to deliver happiness to customers when the time comes. The traveling season will certainly be back. If we cannot change big things, a small change as our attitude also helps bring new ideas to fight and solve problems.
Reference: SCBTV The Next Destination: Surfing the TIDES of Change via Facebook SCB Thailand on 30 June 2020