Nordic Hotel Forum is a modern four-star superior business and conference hotel in the very heart of Tallinn, at a prominent location on the edge of the picturesque Tallinn Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The hotel recently went through a major refurbishment and is re-opened its doors on 2nd of August.
During the renovation the hotel was completely renewed, an antivirus system was installed and the hotel deployed contactless solutions. Feliks Mägus, the General Manager of the hotel explains: “We forecasted that the leisure and family tourism will recover faster than the business travel and therefore we enlarged some of our guest rooms and adjusted them to suit the needs of families better. We believe that in general people will fly less frequently and stay in the destination longer- the business travel will be more and more connected with personal stays and therefore we have also prepared our rooms to accommodate longer stays.”
Feliks also confirms that the ventilation and other technical systems were completely rebuilt so the hotel would become compliant with the post-pandemic world. “Nordic Hotel Forum is the first hotel in Estonia, which has in-built anti-virus systems throughout the building.”
In order to prepare this blog article we asked Feliks a few questions and we are excited to share his answers with you:
- When the pandemic started, you acted very fast and closed the hotel for renovations. What led you to that decision?
When the pandemic and the crisis started, we had three options:
- Stop operating the hotel
- Try and survive the crisis by cutting the costs
- Close the hotel for a complete renovation, renew our technical systems and furnishings and bring the hotel to a better compliance with the new standards brought by the virus.
Together with the property owner and our partner, Kapitel AS, we mutually decided that the last option was the best for the long term goals.
2. What were the biggest lessons that you learnt through this crisis?
The crisis came very unexpectedly and it was worldwide. No one was ready for that. Shrinking the business according to the catastrophically reduced demand has been extremely difficult. Two important lessons:
- Be honest towards your team, then they will support you through the difficult times.
- Keep your business as liquid as possible, you do not have to invest every cent you have earned, not to mention spending it.
3. Why did you choose to deploy Hotelbuddy contactless solutions in your hotel?
The deployment of new technologies in the hotels started before the crisis. However during and after the crisis the demand for new and contactless technologies has increased further and people are expecting to use these solutions, regardless of their age. Hotelbuddy was one of the possibilities for us, however we chose you as we are long term partners with IT company PRO IT* and we believe that the Hotelbuddy solution was the best amongst the other ones on the market.
*Hannes Mulla, the founder of Hotelbuddy, is also the founder and CEO of an IT company PRO IT, that offers IT solutions and support for hotels in Estonia and Latvia for over 15 years.
4. When will tourism recover to the pre-COVID levels?
Last year we were hoping that tourism would start to recover during the summer and the second half of 2021. Unfortunately that has not been the case. We hope that we will start seeing recovery from next spring. Perhaps we will be back on 2019 levels around 2025, but there is also a chance it will take longer or that the tourism will never reach the same levels as peoples and businesses travel habits have changed.
5. What are the biggest changes in hotels that the pandemic brought? (Now and also in the future).
The hotels will need to adapt with a completely new set of rules and regulations set by the governments, which determine the hotel operations and customer interaction.
The profitability of the hotels has significantly decreased and finding the financial means for investments and running capital has become much more difficult. That might also result in a drop of quality and change of the players in the market.
The new situation is forcing the hotels to deploy new technologies in order to offer their guests a more safe environment. There is also a change in the customer segments, as international travel has significantly reduced (and will remain so for some time), and also the travel habits of individuals and businesses have changed.
There is also an important change regarding the employees. Because of the shaky situation and unsure perspectives in the hospitality industry, the popularity has decreased and a lot of people have left the sector. It will take a lot of effort bringing them back.
6. What are your recommendations to other hoteliers?
My main recommendation (or wish) is to hold on and not lose your hope that the new normality will help us to do what we love the most- serve our guests.