How Commonwealth Hotels Developed A Culture of Agility to Navigate Recovery

Commonwealth President Brian Fry

As the hospitality industry wraps up another year where our hotels, employees, and guests are affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – hoteliers are left wondering how to adapt. Hotels are expected to do more with less and guest expectations are at an all time high, despite the staffing and labor shortages that are plaguing our industry. 

Heading into 2022, hoteliers are reevaluating their tech stack to ensure they are poised to provide guests with the best possible experience, by freeing up time for their team members to focus on what is most important: the guest. 

Commonwealth Hotels, based in the Greater Cincinnati, Ohio, region is doing just that. Commonwealth’s team uses various technologies to have quick access to their most important data and KPIs. By doing this, they are moving forward with a new sense of hope for the future.

The challenges

To say that hoteliers have been challenged during the pandemic is an understatement. “The adversity that people have faced on a daily basis, the uncertainty, the elevated expectations, has been incredible,” said Commonwealth President Brian Fry. 

Coming out of the pandemic, hoteliers had to manage a very strong wave of pent-up demand. The hardest part of this resurgence was many guests had the same expectations they had in 2019 and 2018 and didn’t realize that the world had changed – and what hoteliers could do had changed as well. Hotel operators needed to address guests’ expectations in a different way than they had in the past. “There was a great deal of heightened analysis going on in real-time and the data was more important and critical than any other time in my career,” Fry told us. 

Fry and his team saw what they call “the age of the hybrid guest” emerge. “Guests are coming on a little bit of business and a little bit of leisure, and we saw our peak nights shift and other real changes in the way our industry collectively behaves.” 

If the Commonwealth team was still operating as they had in 2019, they would have been less efficient, given how much the world has changed as a result of the pandemic. Instead, the newfound need to adjust business plans and models to these new customers left hoteliers like those at Commonwealth asking themselves questions such as “Who is our customer? What do they want? How do we serve them better? How do we control those costs while we do it right?”

“We’re in a very interesting moment where we’re all going to have to change because if we’re not constantly evolving, we’re losing ground in this industry. And I think that a huge event like the pandemic has made that clear to everyone. Everyone has to rethink the way that we interact with our guests and our associates,” Fry said.

The need to change

The way the Commonwealth team interacted with data needed to evolve to keep up with a quickly changing environment.

Fry knew technology was the key, and that they needed more expertise than they could hire in-house. They needed a best-in-class trusted partner who would be always innovating, progressing, and pushing the limits of what is possible. Curiosity about the challenges they faced and the ability to co-create solutions was also key because they wanted to build something new. 

“I don’t think anyone had achieved the level of data analysis we were looking for,” Fry shared. “I wanted a crystal ball. I wanted to be able to predict the future and apply artificial intelligence to the questions that would elevate our business.” 

The solution

After evaluating partners to help them achieve Commonwealth’s technology goals, they decided to work with myDigitalOffice

“With myDigitalOffice, our data is active and fluid and can be manipulated,” said Fry. His team went from reading a static report to now being able to ask questions of the data and being able to engage with it in a different way. “That’s not in everybody’s comfort zone just yet, but we are developing a culture of more entrepreneurial general managers to succeed in this environment.”

“The myDigitalOffice technology is powerful because it allows us to see booking activity in real-time not just at our properties but throughout the whole market,” Fry shared. “We had an established occupancy and it seemed like we couldn’t budge off of that occupancy across the whole portfolio. Seeing that demand in real-time was incredibly encouraging and powerful, and we mobilized the whole team around watching that data and activating around it.”

Implementing myDigitalOffice also provided the Commonwealth team with other types of data analysis they needed to understand new guest preferences and the quickly changing market. They could answer questions like why people were traveling and what needs they had. It gave them a way to anticipate these needs and provide solutions while tracking costs in real time. 

Data helped the Commonwealth team do more with less, especially on the support level. “It allows our managers and our teams to focus on the guests because I think that’s where our industry often gets lost. Every team that I’ve ever spoken to believes they have too much reporting and too many phone calls, too many meetings, and not enough time with the guests.”

By adopting this new way of operating, the future looks promising to Fry and the Commonwealth team. “The things that we went through during the pandemic and that we’re still going through are going to make the greatest generation of hoteliers our industry has ever seen.”

We agree – the changes and adaptations that came out of the pandemic will instill a new sense of innovation and collaboration in our industry and continue to drive us forward.

About myDigitalOffice

myDigitalOffice (MDO) is the world’s fastest growing hotel data platform, providing customers with centralized, digital access to all of their hotels’ most critical documents and cross-functional performance metrics.

About Commonwealth Hotels

Commonwealth Hotels is a hotel management firm based in Greater Cincinnati. Since their inception, they’ve earned a reputation as a proven partner in providing hotel management services with superior financial results across premium-branded, full-service and select-service hotels. The company currently manages 47 properties, with 5,700 rooms across 14 states.

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