Hotel group Classic Norway Hotels was like all other hotels badly hit by the corona virus and wanted to capture the interest of domestic tourists this summer when the pandemic hopefully will rebound. So, they developed a campaign strategy “A Summer Promise”. We liked the campaign so much that we interviewed the CEO to find out more about the summer promise from the Norwegian hotel group.
Hotel group Classic Norway Hotels consists of 18 environmentally certified hotels spread all over Norway from Fevik in the south to Lofoten in northern Norway. In addition, a fisherman’s cabin (“rorbu”) and a lighthouse facility are parts of its offerings.
Classic Norway Hotels is one of Norway’s leading hospitality groups. “We have achieved our position through effective teamwork, expertise and a passion for our craft. It has defined our growth for more than 15 years,” says CEO Stephen Meinich-Bache. “Our current footprint of selected hotels and resorts are operating in the finest locations in Norway,” he adds.
The corona virus had reached Norway
After barely five weeks as CEO at the Molde headquarters, given very little time to visit a few of the group’s facilities and employees, his tasks were turned upside down. Plans had to be set aside and new solutions to unknown problems had to be put on the table overnight. The corona virus had reached Norway.
Meinich-Bache explains to us that the group constantly strives to provide the informal and very special environment while at the same time caring for each guest. “We do this by constantly hand-picking employees to show the guest a genuine attention and care that comes from the heart. We think this is much more important than having pretentious hotels and lavish luxury, because we are committed to offering hotel experiences rather than hotel nights. When we create magical moments for each guest, we feel the same joy as the guest,” explains Meinich-Bache.
But suddenly, the corona pandemic hit the country in full force and almost all travel industry in Norway had to be shut down within a few hours.
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“For many years I have dealt with hotels, tourism development and experiences. It’s always about meeting people and the special feeling of working with hotels. In fact, it was on a trip in Norway as a little boy a particular experience created my professional interest in hotels. I was allowed to join my history-interested mother on a journey with the local history team from our hometown of Stavanger to the beautiful Farsund Fjord hotel. Expectations and excitement of getting into the reception, meeting staff in uniform, eating shrimp cocktail, pepper steak and banana split did something to a little boy. And I’ve never forgotten it,” says Meinich-Bache.
Navigating in unknown waters
“My dream is that as many people as possible can experience such moments. It has very much shaped my career choice,” he continues, reflecting on the almost unreal days in mid-March which completely changed Norwegian travel industry.
“We had guests from virtually all corners of the world at our hotels at this time. We had to quickly navigate in unknown waters and get an overview of the situation. For both us at the head office, and for our hosts at the hotels, guests’ needs and wishes as well as security issues were suddenly becoming urgent priority.
Some guests wanted to stay in the hotels and to complete their Norwegian holiday during the booked period. For these, we had to put the conditions in line with the government’s guidelines as well as in understanding with the guests. Others wanted to go home earlier than planned. For them it was important to be assisted with re-booking, choosing a safe and secure way to go home and knowing that we were available with the help they needed all the time.
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A hectic new season
We immediately understood that we had to decrease in staff at our various hotels and resorts, so it was important for us to implement layoffs in the best way possible in this difficult situation. Many of our good employees experienced these days as very tough, and worked almost 24/7 to provide good information and help during this hectic period. I am very proud of how our staff handled the guests when they knew they were soon going out in layoffs and uncertainty. I realized what a wonderful organization I had accepted to lead. These are values that have been created throughout our association over a long period of time which we also carry with us as we enter a hectic new season,” continues Stephen Meinich-Bache.
Many Norwegians and their families had their lives turned upside down after the corona pandemic broke out and the authorities had to take major and comprehensive measures. This led, among other things, to a changed financial situation for many people. “At the same time, we know how important it is to have something to look forward to, something to dream about,” says Meinich-Backe.
A summer promise from a Norwegian hotel group
“Our main task at Classic Norway Hotels is to fulfill these dreams for our guests at all times. Our mission has been accomplished before the corona era and so it will be afterwards. Therefore, we wanted to reach out to as many people as possible who were severely affected by layoffs and dismissals. So, we established the “Summer Promise” campaign. We invited those who realized that their summer holiday plans were ruined to visit our hotels this summer at an extraordinarily low promotional price. We made 4-5 rooms in each hotel each day in July available and offered these rooms at Summer Promise prices, including a 3 course dinner. We are not at all keen to dump prices, but we’re in a situation where we wanted to open our doors specifically for those who are affected by the difficult times.
Meinich-Backe says the response has been formidable and now all the Summer Promise rooms have been booked. “We are very much looking forward to welcoming these guests and we also welcome all other Norwegians who choose to vacation in Norway this summer. Hotel managers in our group now report on busy booking days, and we promise to give all our guests magical experiences at unique hotels, whether they visit us in the north, west, south or east,” he adds.
“We at Classic Norway Hotels make a living from creating good experiences and lasting good memories. We are pleased to continue with this in hopefully brighter times ahead – in a double sense,” he explains.
About Stephen Meinich-Bache
Stephen Meinich-Bache’s career started as an officer in the navy before he eventually started in what he always had experienced as a very exciting industry, the hotel business; from Lillehammer through Stavanger and to Copenhagen where he was responsible for the re-branding of Nordic Choice hotels to First Hotels. He was then appointed CEO at Tribe Hotels. In February 2020, the journey continued to the CEO job at Classic Norway Hotels.
“I have a strong commercial focus in everything I do, but at the same time, I am passionate about having an inclusive style and I have great faith in involvement,” he says and continues, “I have an operational leadership style and like to talk to the employees in the organization. It is important that we all go in the same direction, and honesty in all aspects is highly valued,” he adds.
Four key words
“Now, we will continue to work on the good things in the periods ahead of us together.
We have spent the most demanding weeks in our history to refurbish a number of our sites. Now, they appear as better than ever, and we are convinced that we’re able to take good care of both guests and staff.
The four key words for us are “history”, “nature”, “culture” and “experience” which are consistent with our product promise,” concludes CEO of Classic Norway Hotels Stephen Meinich-Bache.
A Summer Promise From A Norwegian Hotel Group, Stephen Meinich-Bache was interviewed by Tor Kjolberg.
All images: Private and copyright Norway Classic Hotels
Feature image (on top): Refsnes gods (estate) outside Moss