The hospitality industry has taken an enormous hit during the coronavirus pandemic, and a software company in Franklin hopes to provide tools to help them operate in a future where guests are wary of the virus.
The Franklin-based company Quore, normally provides hotel management companies with software to keep track of the enormous number of tasks that need to be completed to run a hotel.
“As a guest when you call down and want some towels, rather than writing it on a post it note or picking up a radio and calling to a housekeeper … they would just enter that request into Quore,” Chief Operating Officer David Fox explained.
Over the last few months, far fewer guests have been calling the front desk asking for towels, and some Quore customers have suspended their service. Quore cut its fees in half to retain customers, a move that Fox says built good will. He’s hoping it will pay dividends later.
“From a hospitality perspective, we knew that number one, our customers were hurting during these times because occupancy was dropping,” Fox said.
Hotel occupancy in the U.S. stayed well below 30% through April, according to the data analytics firm STR.However, those numbers are starting creep back up, from a low of about 21% last month.
As those hotels fill with guests once again, they are creating new cleaning protocols and policies to make sure customers and staff are protected from the coronavirus.
Hilton worked with consultants from Mayo Clinic and Lysol to design a completely new cleaning program, which it plans to roll out next month. The changes include contactless check-in, extra disinfection and sealing off rooms to prevent unnecessary access after cleaning.
Other hotel chains are taking similar steps. Marriott created a “Global Cleanliness Council” investigate ways to combat the virus. Hyatt plans to have the cleanliness of its hotels accredited by an independent group called the Global Biorisk Advisory Council.
Fox is hoping that Quore is well positioned to help hotels as they rollout these protocols at lightning speed. He wants the company to be part of the effort to rebuild consumer confidence.
“When you walk into a ... property and they're doing their new cleaning program, you know that we're behind the scenes helping make sure that they're sticking to it," he said. “Everybody's got their own (cleaning system). We're going to be able to help our customers implement it, so the traveling public will be comfortable staying in their hotels.”
Even with those new cleaning protocols, the future looks bleak for the hotel industry. A forecast from STR and the travel research firm Tourism Economics expects occupancy to drop more than 45% for 2020. The report predicts that revenue per available room could fall drastically as well.
Fox, hopes the segment of the industry that Quore focuses on — he described the typical customer as the type of hotel where you stay when the company is paying — will rebound quickly.
“We're already seeing that in terms of people are willing to get in their cars and drive places, whether it's the Smoky Mountains or the beach," he said. "Our customers are coming back online probably a lot faster than a lot of others in the market.”
Quore is expecting most of its customers to come back because they will need the software to implement new cleaning systems, but Fox admitted it’s possible that some customers may simply go out of business because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Still, the situation could have been worse. At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, Quore developed a free product that would allow hotels to transform their buildings into isolation wards or temporary medical facilities for COVID-19 patients. The company planned to use its existing technology to help hotels follow through on all of the necessary procedures to operate that kind of facility.
"Thankfully, we didn't have anybody take us up on the offer," Fox said.
Instead, he said the company is focused on the next challenge: preparing hotels to host guests while the coronavirus outbreak lingers.
“I'm hoping our version of the (isolation ward conversion) product can just fade away,” he said. "Ultimately what we can do is support our customers in their new ways of working at a hotel, because clearly all of those rules are changing.”