The Hospitality Industry needs to get back to work
but how? And when?
March 30, 2020…The hospitality industry needs to get back to work quickly, but how can that happen safely? When will the process start? What will our industry look like when the world finally gets back to work? How can we prepare for the gradual back to work process?
Clearly, we are navigating through the most disruptive time in our lives, without a compass and without direction; it feels terrible and it is scary. Not only have our respective businesses experienced an epic decline in value and earnings, but this situation is piled on an already competitive industry where we were all experiencing our daunting challenges.
There is good news. We’re not alone and we will get through it together – Our $20+ trillion American economy and its 350 million people are all focused on combating the virus and rebuilding our economy. As for our currently suffering hospitality industry, not only are we individually fighting through this, but our industry of $650 billion and the 7 million associated employees are fighting with us. All these warriors are standing up against the common invisible enemy and creating solutions against the COVID-19 virus. We will prevail.
The question is, when will this pandemic effect be on a trajectory to end? Most likely, the country will have to start up in a graduated manner. Without a doubt, we need medical solutions quickly, but as we’ve heard some say, “sometimes the cure is worse than the disease.” It becomes a balancing act, determining the best ways to protect our physical health and our economic health.
The reality is, we can continually try to mitigate dangers in our everyday lives, but we will never eliminate them. Life has always had its risks. As we saw after 9/11, we will see tremendous changes going forward. Our hope is to focus on a couple of critical inflection points that will hopefully signal the reduction of this crisis.
Obstacles: The same way we mitigate life’s everyday risks: traffic accidents, cold, influenza, terrorism, and other physical injury; we need to find a way to mitigate the risk of transmitting COVID-19 while conducting business. So, let’s look at the obstacles we must consider:
- Fast and extremely contagious transmission
- Novelty of the virus, thus the very limited information available
- The age and possibly gender focused lethality
- The fear or sense of insecurity and danger
- Potential legal implications. (Organizers want to be protected)
- Getting started after a shutdown (Working Capital / Priming the pump)
- Reestablishing relationships that may have diminished during the shutdown
- Finding availability, in a compressed world, for postponed and rescheduled meetings
- Establishing new food service guidelines, particularly for buffets and food stations
Medical progress: As soon as there is an effective anti-viral medication and/or substantial progress on a vaccine, there will be renewed optimism. We know that a flattening of the case expansion will also be important, but effective treatment might be achieved sooner than stopping or limiting the spread.
We have heard about hydroxychloroquine with antibiotics and now blood transfusions of antibody-rich plasma from recovered patients. We’re sure there will be more. Furthermore, when they can scan massive numbers of travelers, etc. with temperature devices or other indicators, demonstrate that an environment is sterile, or administer quick tests easily and efficiently, we will see enormous optimism. We believe we are getting close.
Increasing meeting safety: Future travel and group meetings are going to be concentrated on one primary element, safety and perceived safety. In as much as MGM had to settle nerves after the mass shooting at Mandalay Bay, or the airlines had to calm nerves and deliver safe travel with TSA scanning, cockpit doors and air marshals after 9/11, we will need to demonstrate safe meetings. Following each of these and other tragedies, we instituted precautions that delivered a safer environment.
We think that travel, lodging and meetings will begin to recover when airports can provide evidence of a traveler’s health through temperature and/or microbe scanning, or can provide environmental sterilization through UV lights, fogging, or other measures. The same assurances/procedures apply to hotels and resorts that will have to demonstrate guest safety against this wicked virus and other afflictions.
These organizations will also need to have plans to isolate and treat compromised guests to protect others. We believe we are going to see the equivalent of the air marshals on site to protect travelers. There might be safety monitors or even mini clinics on site, at least in the short term. Clearly there will be a feasibility element, but all protective plans are better than staying shut down long term.
We will also see tremendous innovations in safe food service. Buffets, for example, will need sanitized ways to distribute food. Perhaps glove stations will be available at each food station or servers will plate the meal as attendees make selections. These procedures would be in addition to safety glass and clean new plates with each visit to the buffet.
Accelerating travel and group meetings: Finally, to accelerate this process and help the industry’s recovery, we believe we will need to post evidence of success, frequently. If the first safe group meeting is held and broadcast, along with the effective protective measures, there will be an amazing frenzy of increased meeting activity. These types of successful experiences will move through industry channels quickly.
All of us humans are highly social beings and naturally seek the companionship of others as part of our wellbeing. The re-establishment of meetings is a critical element of our economy and society. Meetings are critical for education, for other types of information sharing, for distribution and demonstration, and for entertainment and incentives. We need to be creative now as we nurture our relationships via social media, personal phone calls, online face-to-face, etc. At the same time, we need to be forward thinking and plan for our new working environment after Covid-19, per some suggestions mentioned here and ideas to be determined in the future. As meeting professionals, let’s look forward to sharing our successes and to a mutually beneficial and successful hospitality industry future. If you would like to share your success stories or additional ideas, we would be glad to accumulate them and post on our website. Simply submit your comments below.
Darrell Tamosuinas, CEO