Many Americans plan to travel over the upcoming holidays despite the pandemic, and while that means more business for hotels, it also increases the risk of increasing infections even more.
We’re less than a month away from one of the busiest travel holidays in the U.S., and while the resulting increase in business is certainly a relief, that extra demand will also bring on health risks for hoteliers and other guests.
The U.S. is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, with USA Today reporting the country has seen 500,000 new cases over a seven-day period, which equates to an American testing positive every 1.2 seconds. Along with an increase in cases, hospitalizations are also on the rise.
Last month, Hopper released its Holiday Travel Confidence report, which found 39% of respondents planned to travel for the holidays this year while another 21% said they wouldn’t this year, though they would travel in a typical year. Of those traveling, 50% plan to fly.
The report didn’t go into whether those traveling intend to stay with family or at hotels, but I think we can safely assume at least some of them will stay in a hotel.
Odds are that some of the people traveling will have COVID-19, and I’m sure most of them will not realize it when they start their journey. Some will have tested negative before driving or flying, but we are all aware that a person can be infected for several days before a test comes back positive. One negative test does not always mean someone is uninfected. That means not only will some of those who travel will have COVID-19, they’ll think they’re in the free and clear, at least around their family, likely leading to spreading the virus further.
That also increases the likelihood of a person with COVID-19 staying at one of your hotels, putting your employees at further risk. I am not saying you should shut your property down, but you should make sure your property teams are extra diligent with their health and cleanliness protocols and have all the equipment and training necessary.
The risk also comes from employees who see family and friends. Many of the new infections are coming from small gatherings among people who believe those in their bubble are safe. We will see numbers increase from this as well as from people making an exception for the holidays and including new people from outside their bubble. I would hope all hotel employees behave according to health recommendations, but not everyone will, which emphasizes the need to require all employees to wear masks (and to wear them correctly).
It’s clear most everyone is struggling with pandemic fatigue, which is a danger. With the numbers continuing to grow, we can’t let our collective guard down. Treatments and a vaccine are on the way, but they’re not here now, and they will take time to be widely available. We must all continue doing what we can to keep ourselves and each other safe and healthy.
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