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Today, 20 October 2020, ESE Florence had the pleasure to host one of the most influential figures in the hospitality sector in Italy and abroad, Giancarlo Carniani. As General Manager of the TO FLORENCE HOTELS group including the Plaza Hotel Lucchesi, Villa Olmi and Mulino di Firenze in Florence, he focused in his lecture on how his group managed to restart right after the lockdown, and how the hospitality business in general could continue to operate during the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
Professor Woollard introducing today’s guest lecturer Carniani: “Nowadays when we speak about business we refer to BC – before corona and AC – after corona.
For the hospitality sector this is particular relevant, as nothing seems to be as it was before the coronavirus spread around the world.”
Referring to previous, well-known hotel business trends, he stated that normally in this period of the year the hotels used to be booked for around 70%, while today the range is at 16%. Moreover, there are thousands of jobs at stake (around 30-35% of loss). The situation has worsened after America invited its compatriots to not travel towards Italy.
Yet the indisputable difficulties caused by the corona virus could lead to revolutionary opportunities, changing the balance of power related to the online distribution: “We hoteliers”, Carniani said, “were used to meeting the guests once they arrived at the hotel, without knowing anything about them: now it seems that we are back in the past, because people prefer to talk to us before their booking and arrival. There is a need for greater human contact.”
Carniani continued about this “new” old strategy by saying that, apart from using Booking.com and the contact requests via other platforms, websites and travel agents, the secret nowadays is simply to answer when the phone rings, to really listen to your customers and to adapt to their needs and requests: “Not only the client base itself, but also consumer behaviour has changed considerably. The only way to survive, is to adjust to this new reality.”
Another key element in his opinion is to build a strong team of employees and really involve every single one of them in forming a new company strategy. “They could tell you what to do and not the contrary. As Steve jobs said, it doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do. It is vital for our business that we behave as a start-up: everything must be reconsidered, done from the beginning, with new clients, a new type of business with constant, daily challenges.”
Everything has changed and is going to change in the hospitality and tourism sector, and nobody knows what it will look like exactly in the short or longer term yet. Carniani: “When you reach the ground, you have nothing to lose. Instead, you could really change the way you are used to doing business. You have to imagine a new way.”
Giancarlo Carniano became reception manager and then deputy director of the Hotel Brunelleschi in the early ’90s. He was entrusted with the first direction of the Hotel Demidoff in 1997. In the following years he worked with the prestigious American chain Sonesta Hotels & Resorts, and from 2003 to 2010 he managed his own 3-star hotel in Florence. In 2008 he founded BTO (Buy Tourism Online) a prestigious conference on technology and tourism of which he was scientific director for ten consecutive editions. Since 2012 he has been an Italian collaborator and analyst at the American Research Institute PhoCusWright Inc. He has been collaborating with the organisation of Hicon, an event that deals with future technologies applied to tourism, since 2018.
Professor Woollard (left) with Giancarlo Carniani (middle) and Elisabetta Corsico, ESE Florence Internship Coordinator.