Expert Opinions Insights on the recovery of the hospitality industry By Industry Expert / Posted on 23 July, 2020 12:27 Tim Hentschel, CEO and co-founder of HotelPlanner, explains why the hospitality industry's recovery from Covid-19 will come in unpredictable waves, and how companies can leverage online touchpoints to keep their brand top of mind With the recent news of countries opening up after extended lockdowns worldwide, travellers are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and are looking on releasing their pent-up travel desires. Simplified as the phenomenon of “revenge travel”, places like China, the US and others saw a surge in travel the moment their lockdowns lifted. While this might seem to indicate a positive recovery for the hospitality industry, there is more than meets the eye. Hotelplanner has been in the group travel industry for over 20 years, and has seen many such trends following the SARS pandemic and other crises like the 9/11 tragedy. While brands should naturally rejoice at the thought of travel bouncing back, it is something that calls for a well-thought-out strategy, and an accurate assessment of what recovery means. Here are some insights that provide a clearer picture of the industry’s recovery post-Covid-19. Recovery is uneven, unpredictable, and unequal Inevitably, people emerging from lockdowns indicate an increase in travel demand. This in itself is undeniable. However, it is crucial to recognise a few things about recovery. First, recovery will be uneven; it will come in waves while the pandemic comes under control. Second, it is unpredictable – media sensationalism and promotion of Covid-19 hysteria will hinder the recovery, and at times, stop it in its tracks. And finally, it is unequal. If any, recovery will be most significant in places like South-east Asia, over Northern Asia. Recovery should not be expected to be consistent worldwide. For instance, in the US, revenge travel has come and gone – with a relatively short lifespan towards the end of June. Reason being, states have begun to retreat back into lockdown measures due to the increase in Covid-19 infections. Whereas, in South-east Asia, people will be inclined to choose their travel destinations for its low-cost, large natural beaches for social distancing, and track record in containing the virus. That said, South-east Asia’s recovery will also be dependent on the health of the airline industry. Several airlines like AirAsia and Hong Kong Air are on the brink of bankruptcy; if there is less competition among low-cost carriers, prices for air travel will rise, and higher prices will hurt the recovery. Government bodies have a part to play To revive world economies, governments around the world need to do more to add stimulus to the hospitality industry. Recovery is definite, but it has been slow. This slow growth makes it difficult for hospitality companies to deliver quality products and services – all due to low staffing levels. The industry should try to keep high staffing levels to provide quality even at low occupancies. Hopefully, we can see the government help these companies with a payroll stimulus plan. On top of that, they need to protect the people so they feel confident to travel. Seeing the effort put in to enforce prolonged lockdowns, it is the hope that authorities put in an equal amount of effort in creating a stable society for economic recovery. Adapt, invent, and innovate: Get used to a new normal As death rates begin to decline, it signals the end of the pandemic is near. Brands should recognise that while this indicates the end of the crises, it does not mean that a V-shaped recovery is guaranteed. Things will not return to normalcy, and this is a time for them to adapt, invent, and innovate. Take this opportunity to capitalise on the travel surge. Seize opportunities to make yourself visible online. Travellers that embark on revenge travel are generally social media junkies that consume content from specific channels. With the increased technology literacy that has come with Covid-19 and work-from-home measures, it can also be helpful in aiding companies to overcome limited capacity measures. One way this can be done is through keeping staffing levels efficient to deliver the best product in line with pandemic protection measures. For example, virtual meetings at hotels will be the solution to having a 200-person meeting, allowing hotels and venues to socially distance and keep capacity low. Venues can choose to have temporary walls installed in convention halls and split up rooms of a low number of people each, and tie these rooms together through virtual conference technology with cutting-edge AV systems. Keep your brand in front of your customer, constantly grow, improve and innovate, and you will be able to capture the business you need.