Parkhotel Pyrmont repositions through COVID for every guest
—– Reaching new audiences and preparing for those ‘back soon’
In norwest Germany lies Bad Pyrmont, a small, picturesque spa village with a population of just 20,000 residents, and an economy that relies heavily on tourists coming to the town for its renowned mineral springs, music events and striking mountain bike trails. So, when COVID-19 hit Germany in mid-March, the team at Parkhotel Pyrmont, a well established hotel in the area, knew that it may be some time before they would see their core customer groups again.
For Michael Höfer, the general manager at Parkhotel, the past months have largely been characterised by reflection. The property stayed open during the lockdown to host a small team of frontline workers, despite at times being at just five percent of their usual numbers. By making timely improvements, however, Michael has been able to reposition the hotel to ensure that it will reach a new demographic of guests, in time.
Months on, he continues to speak regularly with the other hoteliers in the close-knit town, as they reflect on the realities of working within the hotel industry at a time unprecedented.
Using the downtime to make upgrades, both physical and technical
Frustratingly for Michael and his team, the pre-bookings for this year’s summer period were the best that they had ever been. When the cancellations came in, and the regular guests offered their heartfelt commiserations—promising to be back soon—he turned his attention to making some key changes to his 100-plus-year-old building, and chose to update his website and hotel technology also.
As part of a larger effort to capitalise on the growing trend of cycling tourism in the region, Michael decided to renovate the building’s garage area to ensure that it was suitable to house a large number of bikes in a safe and efficient way.
“Some of these bikes are expensive,” Michael laughs. “I couldn’t quite believe it, but what we’ve done is spend a lot of time crafting a space that is ideal for our guests to ride into and feel confident to store their bikes in, after they’ve completed a ride in the area. In that way we can become known within this group.”
On the technical side, Michael and his team knew that the next twelve months would be critical, and needed their systems to be working for them at full capacity.
“We changed our PMS, something that we have been putting off for a very long time now, and completely revamped our website, a process that we believe will allow us to secure more bookings directly,” Michael says.
Making time to understand the headspace of staff in a seasonal workplace
Like so many hotels around the world, Parkhotel Pyrmont operates in a high and low season, so when the team had mentally prepared and budgeted for their biggest year on record, the news of necessary cancellations took a huge emotional toll.
“I had never seen such a motivated group as I did for this year,” says Michael. “When the crisis hit at the very beginning of the season, many of us found it to be quite a mentally challenging time. I took time to process the news, and what then became key was creating an open and ongoing dialogue with each of our team members, to regularly ensure that everyone was doing okay. And, we’ve kept strong together, which is a credit to the amazing team that I’m lucky enough to work alongside.”
A proud boss, Michael is sure that this time will make his team stronger as the uptick in bookings begins.
Repositioning to reach new guest personas
Historically, Bad Pyrmont as a region is known to cater for an older demographic of guests, with spas used for rehabilitation and recovery for many.
However, in light of COVID-19 exposing the vulnerabilities of relying heavily on one particular guest persona, and with new government investment ensuring that the area is increasingly on the radar of a growing range of people, Michael wants to make sure that he is now targeting the full spectrum of potential guests.
“With cycling tourism in the region only set to become bigger in the future, we want to be reaching new, younger customers, as well as maintaining our valued and loyal regular guests. However, one thing should be made clear, Bad Pyrmont and our Parkhotel are not just old school!”
To reach more younger guests, Michael won’t be altering his prices, but rather will be ensuring that his customer-facing technology is flawless. He will also be improving the experience for his younger customers when they are at the hotel, collaborating more within the local community and continuing to build on the hotel’s social media presence.
We wish Michael and the team at Parkhotel Pyrmont all the best for the months ahead, and thank him for checking in with #HomeForHotels.
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