From the desks of the Hotel News Now editorial staff:
- Union accuses Omni of misusing PPP money
- UK COVID-19 cases spike despite lockdowns
- How the pandemic has changed hotel operations
- COVID-19 accelerated employment changes
- Cuba curbs international flights
Union accuses Omni of misusing PPP money: Officials with Unite Here told NPR they believe Omni Hotels & Resorts took roughly $76 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans but didn’t use the money to pay workers at the 32 hotels that received the funding.
In a statement to NPR, Omni officials said they are following the outlined rules for PPP funding and "any amount of the PPP loans that are not forgiven will be returned or repaid with interest per program terms."
But Unite Here EVP Carlos Aramayo told NPR that violates the spirit and intended purpose of the program.
"It's disgusting if companies want to use this as a way to get a low-interest loan from the federal government," Aramayo said. "It's really not fair for a company to take money that was intended to help out their own workforce and use it for some other purpose."
Omni did not respond to a request for comment from HNN Tuesday morning.
U.K. COVID-19 cases spike despite lockdowns: Despite having more than half of England under the highest level of lockdown, COVID-19 cases are spreading even quicker, The New York Times reports. In all, 41,385 new cases were reported Monday, the highest single-day amount yet for the U.K., and there are now more than 20,000 people hospitalized with the coronavirus.
Scientists in the U.K. have said there is a more contagious variant of the virus driving the increase, the newspaper reports.
The Times reports there is renewed pressure for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to impose a new national lockdown and switch schools to strictly remote learning.
How the pandemic has changed hotel operations: The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has necessitated massive changes in the hotel operating model in 2020, and at least some of those changes are expected to stick around even as the world (eventually) moves on from the pandemic, HNN’s Dan Kubacki writes.
While the cleaning and safety protocols are one of the most obvious changes for hotels, Benchmark SVP Ellen Sinclair said being able to train employee on those protocols and effectively communicate them to guests were also huge operational challenges.
“You can buy all sorts of cleaning solutions and disinfectant and pass them out at the door, but if the person that's checking you in or whatever interaction you have doesn't understand what the rules are and why they're important, it won’t make guests feel comfortable,” Sinclair said.
COVID-19 accelerated employment changes: The job market in the U.S. has irrevocably changed and has accelerated changes to the workforce in various sectors, The Wall Street Journal reports. Unfortunately for the hotel industry, leisure and hospitality jobs “have been hit the hardest as travel and in-person recreation activities were drastically curtailed.”
The newspaper reports “travel related jobs have been slower to recover” than other sectors in addition to the disproportionately large drop in jobs.
“Accommodations jobs fell by 1 million early in the pandemic and have gained back 375,000,” The Journal reports. “Tourism-dependent states, such as Hawaii and Nevada, have felt the hit more than others.”
Cuba curbs international flights: Officials in Cuba announced they will allow fewer flights from several countries, including the U.S., beginning 1 January, citing a surge in COVID-19 cases since a November reopening of airports, Reuters reports.
Officials point mostly to Cuban nationals living abroad and visiting home for the spread.
“While most tourists stay in hotels with international health guidelines and additional local restrictions, returning Cubans stay with family and friends,” the news outlet reported. “They are expected to quarantine in place until the results of the second test come back negative, as are people living in the home they are staying in.”
Compiled by Sean McCracken.