No one must forget the most important aspect of the coronavirus saga is people’s health, but this insidious threat is already taking a huge toll on hotels, events and transportation—that is, the entire travel industry.
The hotel industry year here in Europe is arranged largely around the International Hotel Investment Conference in Berlin, held every March.
Walking along the Budapest Strasse towards host hotel InterContinental Hotel Berlin, you can experience a Who’s Who of the industry.
The decision by organizer Questex and its partner health and government authorities to postpone the 2020 conference until May has to be the correct one, largely as I and few other people know the specific extent of the coronavirus threat, and health must come first.
The most pertinent advice stemming from all of this is—apart from washing your hands for as long as it takes you to hum “Happy birthday to you” twice—is that this virus has to be seen not from a personal viewpoint but from the viewpoint of anyone you will come in contact with, especially the elderly, who are more at risk due to weakened immune systems.
Elbow protectors for suits will sell out as we all learn to “shake hands” with our funny bones.
I am disappointed the conference was postponed—we had to wipe two dozen scheduled articles from the editorial tracker for Hotel News Now—but I’m quite excited to go in May.
Questex Managing Director Alexi Khajavi and CEO Paul Miller can begin the delayed conference with a demonstration of the new elbow-bump technique.
For a while, such cordiality might be the necessary thing.
One bonus is that May is a warm month—hopefully. I have never been to Berlin when it is warm, having either visited for IHIF or a tour of Christmas markets.
Also, a huge thanks to Accor for automatically rolling my booked March stays at two of its Mercure properties to the new dates in May, with no cost to me. EasyJet, who I was flying with, also made rebooking easy, even though there was another £80 ($104) to pay, but then again I did all the necessary administration about two hours before I was due to leave for the airport.
The financial hit for hotels cannot be underestimated, but the potential public-relations storms from not doing the right or equitable thing cannot be ignored.
My sense from watching hotel executives speak or reading their commentary is that they are doing the right thing, and they should be remembered for doing so.
Conversely, some Las Vegas hotels reputedly have raised the already despised resort fees to help offset fallen bookings, which is something else that should not be forgotten when this hideous virus is out of the way.
Finally, let’s not forget how this virus is believed to have originated.
I have heard politicians increasingly state that food-chain systems need to be radically improved and that this crisis points to two new truths: In a very globalized world, nowhere however remote cannot consider Wuhan as very much connected to it; and that a slavishness towards economic growth at the expense of all else is not sustainable.
The main cost of the virus is the tragic human cost.
Another victim is transportation.
The U.K. government has made a lot of noise as to how it wishes to champion the U.K. regions in terms of connectivity, which it signals will lead to more robust economic health (albeit please not slavishly).
In January, the government pledged to review air duty taxes on domestic flights in an effort to keep regional airline Flybe in the air, with the airline saved by a buyout from airline investors.
As of 5 March, the airline went into administration—it managed to survive economic hardships, but it could not survive coronavirus, seemingly.
Flybe’s headquarters were in Exeter, Devon, and the company was the major airline in such regional cities as Southampton and Belfast. The island of Anglesey, on the north tip of Wales, pretty much has no airline service as of now.
It is uncertain if other airlines will take over some of Flybe’s routes. Do not hold your breath. Airlines know that profit generally starts or ends in London.
No doubt, something will plug any profitable gaps, but the real story might be how the government will continue its policy of spreading wealth and accessibility across the U.K., not just to the South East.
The HS2 high-speed train network is one of the government’s ideas to do this, but that is far from a done deal, despite being approved by Westminster, with environmental groups challenging in court the initiative’s environmental credentials, or lack of them.
The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.