WE’RE RECALLING WHAT WE DID in preparation for the lockdown. We call it the seven unusual steps because, for us, it’s not normal for a small business to take this route and try to predict the ravaging effects of such a disease and create solutions out of it. At least in our local context. This post is more for our purpose and nothing more. It is to prepare for the next ‘one’ in the hopes of helping other businesses learn from our experience. There’s a bonus tip that one should look out for in case you’re going to follow our ‘trail’. So without much further ado, the steps we took are:
- We listened to the news, studied the problem – Ever since the news broke out in Week 1 of January 2020 in the Philippines, we intently followed the progress of the virus’ spread: We followed what it is, how it’s spread, where is it now, how dangerous it is.
Called then NCoV-19 (Novel Coronavirus of 2019), China was grappling on how to contain the spread of the disease. It hasn’t acted decisively and for good reason: It doesn’t know what it is up against. So we followed the story and picked good websites, extracted helpful information that can help protect employees, then guests, then the business. During that time, the only clue much of the world knows was that it causes flu-like symptoms and it’s fatal if not treated fast.
- We took the pragmatic approach – We took into consideration realistic angles of how fast the virus spreads, how it is spread, and what initial actions to take to repel the effects towards guests, towards employees, and towards the business as a whole. This is different than just creating conjectures that may just create scenarios that place fear in us rather than preparing for practical action where minimal funds were set aside to start investing in protective masks, goggles, and alcohol to repulse the contagion. Timing is key and hedging ourselves for the worse is better than not preparing at all.
- We ‘Seized the day’ – After careful studying the news trickling in, how the disease is to spread, and how this will all play out, we know it will affect the hostel business either slowly or decisively. So while praying for the best to come, we also pushed further with plans as news spews with fear and confusion as it spirals almost out of control through social media and cable televisions. We started drawing up plans, created signs, oriented staff members, and even talked to guests on how they can protect themselves essentially shoring up to keep the hostel’s reputation even going unreservedly shunning guests from specific countries where the virus may have come from or have been. Checked-in guests have to be protected.
- We acted to protect guests – Guests’ confidence and security are paramount and there are two types of guests: local ones and foreigners. To both types, we have to prepare ‘exit strategies’ so each one can feel the hospitality and service we stand for. We readied vehicles to guarantee that guests are herded to the airports on the eve (and on the day) of the lockdown. We researched and readied information on how to help guests especially getting their embassy numbers and information where to drop off local guests in case public transportations are halted. The public fear is palpable and so filtering information is important so that important ones are handed and can be made useful for confused guests.
As soon as we have information, we give it to our guests, and guests are also assisted with flight, airport, and shuttle information and leave the hostel the moment is needed so foreign guests can continue with their journey home or to their next destination.
- Moved to protect hostel employees – Employees are as golden as the owners are in crisis moments like this. Your staff provide the extra hands, feet, and mind you need to execute plans you’ve drawn up. Every personnel was given daily briefings, re-orienting their approach to work, and understand the dangers of how this virus spreads. They were given pointers and tips before they engage guests to protect them from the ‘unseen enemy’ because every employee matters.
- Executed our plans – Plan execution is prime. No success is ever achieved when no action is taken. Our objective was to protect our guests and nothing at this point can go wrong. Signs are up, posted in strategic places, employees are oriented so they can become your enforcer of new health policies, current guests are briefed so they won’t feel much anxiety of the unknown, future guests were emailed about the cancellation and their refunds, protective gears were bought are ready and distributed to each staff, and spray bottles of disinfectant sprays are posted in every room and corner of the hostel that gives guests more protection from the virus. We made sure that all those who booked their stay in Crossroads Hostel Manila are protected first – business, comes second.
- We evaluated and adjusted our actions – More news about the virus came and went. We re-iterated our plans. Our coordination now includes the national tourism department and we evaluated our plans, compared it with mandated ones, and adjusted what we know to make sure it stays current. For example, we bought white vinegar and Pinesol thinking it can kill the virus but later on found out that Lysol sprays, alcohol, soaps, and bleaches are the only ones that can kill the virus. In the absence of Lysol and alcohol, we used dish-washing liquid and water as an alternative spray to protect ourselves from this airborne disease.
- BONUS! We got accredited. I didn’t know then but now I do. Accreditation is very important. We applied for the tourism board’s accreditation to give Crossroads Hostel a leg to stand on. While we get raving reviews year in and year out from guests, the accreditation given by the said government department proved positive in times like this. As soon as the government locked down the region, the tourism department provided us the ‘shield’ to keep our business open and accommodate workers from different places and backgrounds. This paved the way for us to get business right away from a Business Processing Outsource company just a kilometer from us.
The Tourism Department was commendable for being proactive that by the fourth day after the lockdown was announced by the national government, they already have orders to provide accommodation to front line staff and health workers. The hostel’s occupancy was reduced to 50%, however, this was corrected by our hostel and is now running at 2 persons (maximum) per room no matter how big space the room provided as long as the occupants are not of the same family.
We purchased foot bath for guests’ footwear so it can be disinfected, we bought UV lamps to decontaminate rooms, we bought more alcohol and disinfectants, we made more signboards for new guests to follow and we implemented updated protocols for all staff to follow.
So far, we’re doing good. With such policies, we were able to attract a local Business Processing Outsource (BPO) company to trust us with their skeletal workforce. Through that, we were able to practice and refine our processes and now we’re accepting new guests through our own advertising and promotions.
As the country improves its pandemic status to General Community Quarantine or GCQ since Monday, 1st of June, we’re excited for the new prospects of providing the very best of our programs giving guests safer, cleaner, and more secure budget accommodation here in this hostel.