With five properties across Australasia, Swiss-Belhotel International has felt the devastating effects of border closures and staff shortages firsthand. But considered tactics have helped the business come out the other side stronger. 

Swiss-Belhotel International’s Vice President – Operations and Development, Australia and New Zealand, Patrick Laybutt, shares how a change of strategy paved the way for the company’s five hotels in Australasia to triumph under turbulent circumstances.

There is no denying that the pandemic has had a long-lasting impact on the hotel industry. To date, each of our Australasian hotels still face challenges related to staffing as a result of the crisis.

Swiss-Belsuites Victoria Park, Auckland

But under these challenging circumstances, we discovered the key performers in our teams; the ones that remained passionate and professional while under tremendous pressure to make the properties an absolute success in 2022.

The pandemic also highlighted the importance of strong revenue and technological systems that played a significant role in revising strategies and implementing them.

An example is The York by Swiss-Belhotel in Sydney. Up until May, the hotel was struggling to achieve its footing in the competitive set. We revisited the strategy and decided to focus on rates even if we had to compromise on occupancy. The results were just amazing. From July all the way through to December 2022, the hotel saw an increase of up to 60.3% in RevPAR against its competitors compared to the same period in 2019. The tremendous performance in the second half resulted in an overall yearly growth of 2.3% in RevPAR, while competitors showed a decline. A change in strategy coupled with a positive shift in staff mindset can go a long way.

The York by Swiss-Belhotel, Sydney

The properties in New Zealand have excelled from the time borders reopened to international markets. By continuing to focus our strategy on exposure and improving our reach into the international market as border restrictions were lifted, Swiss-Belsuites Victoria Park, Auckland continued to see a positive trend, however not quite reaching 2019 with a 9.3% decline in RevPAR against the competitive set which saw a decline of 26.8%.

The most astonishing performance was seen at Swiss-Belboutique Napier which opened in the midst of the pandemic. The positioning of a 5-star hotel was perfectly crafted and a long-term strategy was implemented and monitored for the full period of inventory distribution to ensure that forward planning was monitored and yield opportunities were identified early. This was possible through the technology and distribution systems of Swiss-Belhotel International.

The York by Swiss-Belhotel, Sydney

Overall, the sales and revenue teams at the regional offices of the company in Australasia had a very pro-active approach, supported by the Group offices of Swiss-Belhotel International. Re-evaluating strategies, analysing current plans and adjusting them where needed, coupled with strong digital marketing efforts led the region to a stellar performance throughout the year, ending 2022 with the highest-ever revenues in the week of Christmas and New Year. The revenues skyrocketed and the costs were well controlled, leading to a very high GOP, making our owners and investors extremely happy.

I am glad that I was able to give back to investors and owners to help recoup the losses during a difficult two years. Our success in ANZ makes me very confident about the future with the opening of Swiss-Belhotel Brisbane very soon and the addition of even more properties to the Australasia portfolio.

*Numbers and figures courtesy of STR

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