A “Sunny” outlook

If you’re familiar with my column, you know I like to write and always have a lot to say. But you also know that, on occasion, if I receive a letter from one of our Hotel Business readers that I want to share with all of our readers, I’ll take the opportunity—and the space on this page—to do just that. And, it’s one of those times.

Our loyal audience is not shy about communicating with me—and the entire HB team—whether to share news, pitch an idea, offer a suggestion, some kind words or even gentle advice. And we love hearing from you.

One of our industry friends, a hotel owner, will, from time to time, reach out with something else: words of encouragement. Not just for me, or for our staff, but for the entire hotel industry, or as he so clearly underscores, the hospitality community. Check out his letter in our Inbox; it’s a “sunny” outlook that is sure to make you smile.

To the Editor:

2022 calls for a new focus on community. My hope is that everyone’s upcoming winter break will be relaxing and restful—and I wish Hotel Business and our extended hospitality family a Happy New Year, which is right around the corner. Hotel Business has an impact that is enormous in scale, but perhaps the biggest impact it has is on one person, one family, which has been changed forever by your incredible force for positive change.

As I write to you, such sentiments seemed forced at best—and even a bit disingenuous at worst. Indeed, it is difficult to infuse passion into the phrase “welcome”—something we say to all of our guests—knowing that this year has not been easy. It is harder still to suggest any hope that the holiday break will be “relaxing” or “restful,” as a global pandemic continues to spread and expand with variants. Unfortunately, the virus put a screeching halt to so many things and our industry.

Hoteliers were already being clobbered by OTAs, destruction of rates, PIPs, labor shortage, wage increases, franchise invoices, line-item increases, increased insurance premiums with higher deductibles, higher property tax assessments, China tariffs and all we were dealing with in 2019. Then came COVID-19. Nobody budgeted for 25-50% more off revenues compared to 2019 nor a huge rate-reduction scenario. Add to it, the highest inflation in 31 years, highest gas prices in seven years and shortages of all kinds unimaginable.

But, there are good signs that our guests are traveling and staying at hotels again. Our guests feel as if they’ve had almost two years of life taken away from them and they are reclaiming it. The frantic panic and sudden and indefinite closure of countless hotels was a blow to hospitality, bracing for a hellish future that was inevitable. Every hotelier was and is in the “triage stage with shock,” asking what relief we can get and from where. Indeed, SBA has been a great help. Hotels are an essential business, and most of them have been open during this pandemic.

At our hotels, women are a majority of the overall workforce and, like doctors, nurses, firefighters and policemen, are on the frontlines to help and offer comfort, solace and shelter at the hotels doing crucial work. They say “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Never has this been more true. We may cycle down for a few years, but we will cycle back up in few years; we’re not going anywhere but up after hitting rock bottom.

And we must not let negativity and depression go to our heads.

I am humbled and honored to wish you Happy New Year. Let’s do our part and share our blessings to help overcome poverty and the trauma of disunity through education and opportunity, embracing diversity and building community all while providing acts of kindness, emphasizing charity amid the pandemic.

Our lives in the hotel industry are built on working hard with kindness, compassion, generosity and an undying commitment to public service. What I believe may be needed most right now is peace. Peace of societal friendship, living together harmoniously for a common purpose. Let us start in our hospitality community with humanistic morality reaching out to all human beings promoting and leading with undying faith and optimism.

We are committed to build on our long-standing work on racial equality and economic opportunities to make an impact in the communities we serve. We also reach out to HBCUs in support of teaching skills and creating jobs at our hotels. These are some examples of what we can do: Create success stories defined by providing education and skills and by being selfless to others. True success is defined by what you give rather than what you get.

May your heart be full of love, joy and endless hope. My wish for 2022 is that it brings everyone renewed hope, new friendships and new perspectives.

— Sunny Tolani
CEO, Prince Organization