February/March 2021

Hospitality during lockdown

It’s been no big surprise that our friends in the hospitality sector have been severely impacted over the last year due to Covid-19. GM Business Connect caught up with Paul Walsh, General Manager of Manchester Marriott Victoria & Albert Hotel to find out how they are coping through the current crisis.

Paul – you have worked in hospitality for 21 years, working for brands like City Inn, Doubletree by Hilton, Hotel Football and now the Marriott. Please tell us what your role is in one of Manchester’s finest hotels…
“As General Manager, my work involves leading and developing my team to exceed expectations from our guests, owners and the Marriott Brand. I touch each area of the business over the course of a normal week, Finance, Revenue, HR, Operations and Sales. Continual development of our operation is essential so that I can put plans
into place to make things better every day.”

Manchester Marriott V&A
Paul Walsh, General Manager, Manchester Marriott V&A

How have you had to adapt to the pandemic, and what advice can you give to other hoteliers at this time?
“2020 was a very challenging year, we had to close the hotel for 3 months and have had to adapt every day since March. Both myself and my team have had to develop new skills, work in areas outside of our comfort zone and amend our procedures to meet official guidelines and keep everyone safe. My advice would be that communication is key, ensure that your team are aware of what is happening as changes are made, often on a daily basis. Keep close to your team, ensure that they know how important they are and be honest with them. There is no point spending time reflecting on what has happened and how your business has been affected – use your energy to look to the future.”

You have 150 rooms – how many can you now offer guests during the lockdown?
“We are open for essential travel only at the moment and will react to any restriction changes over the coming months. Guests are staying but they are on government and other essential business.”

What has been the biggest impact to the hotel and conference rooms?
“Our business has been dramatically affected since February, we have amended our conference capacities by over 50% to allow for social distancing. Our Bar and Restaurant has not been open since March 2020.”

How have you managed to reassure your staffs’ safety at the present time, and how difficult has it been to motivate them?
“We have added lots of controls within the hotel to ensure that our team feel safe. We completed training with every member of the team before we re-opened in July, highlighting the importance of hand washing, social distancing, enhanced cleaning and sanitisation, changes to the way we work, the way we clean, the way we serve, the way we communicate and the importance of wearing masks. We have added protection screens at reception, put in an electromagnetic spraying/disinfectant programme and added hand sanitiser stations in all areas. I think if you have the right people in the right place with the right information and attitude, remain positive and lead by example then your team will remain motivated.”

You mention leading by example? Can you go into details?
“Probably the biggest example of the last 12 months is the need to be operational. Due to limited staff at times we have all had to club together to achieve what we need to. Everyone has had to work in different areas, I have cleaned bedrooms, cooked and served breakfast, worked on reception, maintenance, if something needs doing, just do it.”

Manchester Marriott V&AHave you had to furlough staff and are they still on furlough?
“Yes, we have had to use the furlough scheme and many of our team are still working part time.”

You are part of a huge organisation – what support was given to the hotel by the group?
“Our owners and Marriott have been a huge support over the last 12 months, keeping in contact on a weekly basis to ensure that we are ok and know what is expected of us during each change to our business. Marriott implemented ‘Commitment to Clean’ which has been a huge support in training my team.”

What do you hope to achieve once lockdown is over both with yourself and the hotel?
“We have been very busy refreshing our product over the last 12 months. We have refurbished our bedrooms, bathrooms, public areas and Restaurant and Bar. We are currently planning a rebrand of our Food & Beverage area with a very exiting concept which I am looking forward to seeing executed.”

When do you see the new normal coming into fruition?
“It is hard to say, however I can see some light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine being rolled out and hope that we can slowly start getting back to normality in the second half of 2021.”

Find out more – 0161 832 1188 or visit:  marriott.co.uk/hotels/travel/manva-manchester-marriott-victoria-and-albert-hotel/