When Tamara Strauss joined Premier Inn as global brand marketing director at the start of 2020, the business warned of a tough year ahead amid Brexit worries. It certainly has been a tough year for the hotel sector, but not in the way Premier Inn imagined.
The March lockdown in the UK forced the brand to shut all of its more than 800 hotels. Many remained shut for weeks, although some were used to accommodate key workers. Reopening them was a huge job that involved, as Strauss puts it, “ripping up the rulebook” and rethinking everything from rates to customer experience.
It also had a huge impact on the business. Like-for-like sales fell by 77.6% in the first half of the year and were still down by 38.5% in August, despite most of Premier Inn’s hotels being open and the positive impact of the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme.
The company made extensive use of the furlough scheme. But with a prediction that demand would remain subdued at least in the short- to medium-term, it warned of up to 6,000 redundancies.
Yet Strauss is insistent that the business’ strategy remains the same as pre-Covid. That means a focus on consistency – offering a good night’s sleep, easy check-in and check-out – while improving consideration.
“It hasn’t changed our perspective, we just have to think differently about the implementation,” she exclusively tells Marketing Week. “We are having to work with uncertainty looking forward, which means we have to take a few gambles along the way, but they are calculated gambles.”