I remember like it was yesterday, the very successful business year of 2019 was slowly coming to an end, which means that it is time to finalize and prepare for the following business year of 2020.
As the year 2020 was slowly starting to begin, the numbers for January & February, just like every previous year were not that impressive, but it’s something you expect at the start of every year. Travelers just don’t find the first 2 months of every year to book a hotel in Zagreb for a nice vacation.
As a marketer, one of my main goals is to prove that the first two months of every year (January & February) can be much better with a more advanced marketing plan, but that is a story I will tell in another blog about Zagreb hotels and the strategies we use and plan on using.
A couple of weeks before the month of March was supposed to begin, we were already able to see that 2020 could be a record year. Well, not like 2018 (that was an amazing year for hotels in Zagreb and Croatia in general).
The closer we were getting to March, the more we were getting excited based on the forecast for our business year, but then again, at the same time, there was something else creeping behind all of the backs the whole time.
This was a sound that was made fun of and was not been taken seriously at all, but why should it have? It was a virus that was happening thousands and thousands of miles away from Croatia, and away from Europe (Russia doesn’t count in this example because it’s too big).
Once again, as March was getting closer, the Covid-19 virus was getting closer to Europe and Croatia as well.
• “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
• “It’s going to slow down.”
• “It’s just like the common flue, let’s not get carried away with this”
These were the many comments that were thrown around everywhere outside of Asia, in the beginning at least, while we're all ignorant and ignoring the issue.
Now, it is the beginning of March, our weekly meeting is about to start and you can tell right away that the atmosphere has drastically changed. Our smiles were slowly transforming into grins and our optimism was evolving into pessimism.
This was no joke – March was supposed to be that good that it didn’t matter how bad January and February were – The main square and the streets of Zagreb were supposed to be flooded with tourists, again, enjoying the hotel with the best location in Zagreb, Hotel Dubrovnik.
After that, every meeting was based on how many people were canceling their reservations at hotel Dubrovnik and which countries were closing their borders. These were very challenging times and Covid-19 was the main topic among people around, on the TV, on radios, and in our own minds.
Due to the whole situation, we were forced to close the hotel on March 21st, 2020 because of the global lockdown to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread among the employees & guests. It was unclear when we were going to open the doors again, but that did happen on June 1st, 2020, after almost two and a half months.
At the time, there were other hotels in Zagreb that were already opened, and there were other hotels that opened in mid-June.
June is usually a pretty good month in the context of the number of rooms occupied per night, but this year was a different ball game. The average room number per night in June was around 13 to 15 rooms per night. It is what it is, we were all aware of why the numbers are like this.
Then came July and August. The number of occupied rooms were slightly growing, but that still wasn’t the level that we were used to. During the summer period, the vast majority of tourists that came to Croatia were mostly going to Istria and the Dalmatian coast – Zagreb was nowhere to be found in their plans.
We had plenty of meetings trying to figure out what business modifications are possible in order to make something out of the global pandemic. We’re in a situation that hasn’t been present in the longest time and we can’t rely on tourists at the moment, and yes, that does sound crazy to say for a hotel. It’s time to try and be creative, talk to people, and hope to find a business opportunity in these crazy times.
In early September, while I was sitting in my office, I got a phone call from one of my networking partners. It was good to see that call, but it was better when I found out the reason for that call.
“There is a Swedish company that needs to film a commercial for their company. We are looking for a hotel in Zagreb that is able to accept them, can you do it?”.
I thought about it for about 2 seconds and gave them a big “Yes!”. This is an opportunity that you’re not going to miss out on, this might be an opportunity to show ourselves that it is time, or at least temporarily, to change the niche of our business model.
No tourists? No problem. From now on we will be a Movie Hotel in Zagreb, a hotel that will be used to film commercials, shows, movies, you name it.
The idea was presented to the hotel management, they loved it and gave us the green light.
The main idea for the commercial was to make a replica of the intro scene from the famous James Bond movie – The world is not enough. Just because it was a replica of the movie, it is nice to think about the fact that James Bond was staying in a very nice hotel in Zagreb.
The brains behind the whole organization were the up and coming Slovenian producer Danijel Utješanović who was able to finish the filming in one day. It was a great experience for Hotel Dubrovnik because projects like these make you leave your comfort zone and it expands your horizons.
When the project was done, it is very important to state that everybody was very satisfied with everything that was done for them, the service, the food, the comfort, everything was at a high level.
Just when you think it couldn’t get better than that, we were offered to be the main headquarter for a movie that is supposed to be filmed at the beginning of 2021 by the same organizers behind the James Bond commercial project.
The moral and the point of this story (or blog post) is that even though times might be tough, you always have to proactive and constantly work on yourself, invest in yourself and try to make things happen. Opportunities are always around us; we just have to be brave enough to look for them.
Did this project save the financial year? That obvious answer is no.
Does this story have a deeper meaning? The answer is yes because the moral of the story is that, no matter how good things seem to be, you should never stop working on adjustments and following trends because if you stop investing in yourself and a new situation like COVID-19 happens, then you will not be able to find solutions to save or help your business.
We’ll keep you posted on future events, but in the meantime, stay safe!