The Hospitality Sector Can Overcome This Crisis
Dissatisfaction can be heard from people in the hospitality sector around the world, and they're asking governments for one thing: to let them work
Gert owns a holiday apartment complex in northwest Germany, and he’s quite frustrated these days. Since the ministers in Berlin imposed a lockdown until mid-April, basically shutting down the whole hospitality sector, he says that he simply can’t make ends meet anymore. Airports, though, have remained open and accessible to people who test negative for COVID-19, so tourists are taking their business to places where hotels and resorts are still operating.
“I can guarantee a safe and healthy stay right here for local tourists, but I still need to watch them fly off to the islands of Spain and spend their money there. If it weren’t for all these ridiculous government interventions, I believe I could have made a living even during these times. Instead of trying to fight the disease with all of these ineffective restrictions, why doesn’t the government just set clear health precautions, and let us worry about meeting them?” he asks while staring at his empty journal.
An industry at crossroads
And Gert is not alone. This dissatisfaction can be heard from people in the hospitality sector around the world, and they’re asking governments for one thing: to let them work. As a matter of fact, experts agree that hotels, resorts and lodges are not places with high COVID-19 infection risk, as long as proper health measures are being taken.
“Numbers show that guests have faith in the fact that hotels these days make no concessions when it comes to their safety,” said Alex Shnaider, a prominent investor in the Canadian and US hospitality industry, with past and current investments in a number of Canadian-based hotel groups, including Holloway Lodging, Pomeroy Lodging and Skyline Investments. “There is a way to keep this industry alive without risking guests and employees. Besides, hotels aren’t only for vacations; people travelling or doing business need this service as well.”
With over a decade of successful investment records in this sector around the world, including the well-known King Edward Hotel in Toronto, Shnaider knows what he’s talking about, and he seems very concerned about the current situation. “This industry has persevered through many national and international crises: wars, natural disasters, even economic downfalls, you name it, it’s been through them all. Never has it been forced to close its doors for so long. The hundreds of thousands employed in the hospitality sector are literally at a critical moment here. There is a way out of this mess. If regulations were set in place, instead of restrictions, the industry could find a way to make it work without compromising on health standards.”
Going the extra mile
At the end of the day, the hospitality industry’s survival depends on national policies. Skyline Investments, for example, is controlled by Mishorim Group, a real estate investment company which also owns indoor and outdoor malls in the US. “When the government let us open our hotels and shopping centers in the States, it was our interest to keep safety and hygiene a top priority,” explained Shnaider, controlling shareholder of Mishorim, “not because of fines and punishments, but because that’s what made our clients trust us and choose to do business with us,” he added.
Hotel owners and operators are willing to go far in order to meet any standard set by authorities, with some of them requiring guests to undergo mandatory rapid COVID-19 tests upon arrival, and even offering them for free. “We are in different times, so reality is different,” explained Simon Sopresi, Miami-area vice president of the SBE hotel management company, which owns and operates hotels and restaurants around the globe. “We now have a rapid test within 15 minutes. We’ll also be requesting our staff get tested on a regular basis as well,” he promised.
Meanwhile, on another planet
On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Spain has enabled a few of its island regions to reopen to tourism, despite another wave of the pandemic in Europe and under strict regulations. All guests must be vaccinated or present a negative COVID-19 test prior to arrival. Meals are provided on a schedule, timed so restaurants can ensure social distancing and prevent gatherings. Pools are prohibited from operating. And the numbers show that this policy is working, with the positive test rate staying at around 2 per cent throughout the previous week. The amount of new cases per day has risen slightly, but not to a dimension which justifies shutting down these islands, whose economy relies heavily on tourism.
“It is really not that hard to enjoy your vacation while abiding by the safety measures,” said Mithakis, a tourist from Cyprus visiting the island of Mallorca. “I’m here with my family and sure, we would have loved to go to the pool or eat at a big buffet. But this beats cancelling the vacation and staying at home, that’s for sure.”
“We’re doing everything we can to keep this hotel clean,” explained Mateos, a shift manager at a resort on the island. “We’ve spread hand sanitizers all around the premises, our cleaning crews visit each room twice a day, and we have supervisors making sure there is always a distance of at least 2 meters (approximately 6 feet) between families in the lobby and restaurant. It is absolutely safe here, we invite everyone to come and have a fun and safe vacation in Mallorca.”
Be a part of the solution, not the problem
Having said all of that, health officials still fear that hotel owners might be tempted to ignore the set standards and overlook matters like distancing, just to make a few extra dollars. However, this issue can be resolved with clear guidelines and with enforcement. Anyone who is caught breaking the rules should be fined heavily.Trust has to be a key concept here, for everything to work. Only when people trust a hotel is safe, will they agree to stay in it. But this trust also must be earned by policy makers, from the hospitality industry’s side. “We feel like they don’t really have our interests at heart, and that they only care about putting some sort of band aid on this pandemic,” Gert summed up sadly.