The world of tourism in the midst of the Covid-19 storm, struggling for survival (Part 3)

5 min reading time

Published on 14/04/20 - Updated on 17/03/22

The Future of Tourism

Many stakeholders, both accommodation providers and transporters, are affected by the health measures that have flourished around the world to combat the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic. Hospitality ON provides an overview of the situation, with a third and final part, an analysis of the measures and solutions to ensure the survival of the industry of tomorrow.

The world economy is in trouble. We are entering a period of recession, which, in France as a whole, will manifest itself in a 6% decline in GDP growth, according to the Banque de France's first estimate. In the same report, the authority points out that the sectors hardest hit in the first quarter of this year are construction, trade, transport, accommodation and catering. In other words, everything that contributes to tourist activity.

While most hotels are at a standstill or even closed, the construction of new units that were supposed to enrich the French hotel base this year had to be postponed. These included the Hilton Garden Inn in Nice (120 rooms), the Hilton Tour Eiffel (118 rooms), an IHG Kimpton (149 rooms) and, within the Mercuriales Towers, a Sheraton (570 keys) and a Moxy (272 rooms).

Indeed, the construction sector is suffering the repercussions of containment, bringing any construction site to a halt. But activity is slowly resuming, following the publication of a "Guide to health safety recommendations for the continuity of construction activities" drawn up by the social partners, the OPPBTP and the State and published on 2 April.

This allows the resumption of construction sites, provided that the builder ensures preventive health measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among its employees. But this implies a reorganisation of tasks and working hours in order to limit contact between workers as much as possible. Of course, a control of all the people on the building site must be ensured, in order to isolate any person presenting the symptoms of the virus. All these solutions have a heavy impact on the recovery, which will therefore continue to operate in slow motion.

On the side of hoteliers, restaurateurs and tour operators, no trade-in is possible for the moment. As a result, professionals are looking to the post-crisis period, considering the various growth levers that would allow a quick but also responsible recovery, so as to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry.

It is for this reason that, as a first step, the World Tourism Organization (WTO) has announced the creation of a World Tourism Crisis Committee bringing together international associations and bodies such as IATA, ICAO, WHO and the ministries in charge of tourism in member countries. A fortnightly remote meeting will ensure the development of solutions in line with the interests and emergencies of these contributors.

The UNWTO then called on investors, companies and start-ups in the sector to propose solutions to stimulate the recovery, which it believes will come from innovation. Thus the specialized tourism agency of the Nations is launching a global call to entrepreneurs and innovators by declaring "their request to submit ideas that can help the tourism sector mitigate the impact of the pandemic and revive recovery efforts".

Finally, the UN agency has published its "recommendations" for both the public and private sectors in a third phase. These aim to "mitigate the impact on employment and liquidity, protect the most vulnerable and prepare for recovery", as explained by UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili.

These 23 solutions fall into three categories: mimicking the impact of the crisis, accelerating recovery and preparing the industry of tomorrow. In the first part, we find solutions such as revising the taxation and regulations in force for companies in the tourism and transport sector, but also supporting the self-employed or ensuring the liquidity of the impacted companies.

In the second part, recovery is envisaged through levers such as financial stimulation through investments, development of workforce skills (especially digital skills), establishment of partnerships while ensuring "environmental sustainability in stimulus measures and recovery plans".

Finally, according to UNWTO, the future of tourism cannot be considered without diversification of the industry (markets, products, services), additional investment in economic intelligence, strengthening of the governance of the sector, integrated reflection of the industry into the overall economy of the countries, investment in human capital (particularly through the development of new skills), and finally the transition to the circular economy.

The private sector players share this vision, particularly in terms of improving business and customer relations. In addition to environmental conditions, some see the tourism of tomorrow as more qualitative, more respectful of host communities and their "guests". Ensuring the well-being of visitors will therefore be more central to the debate, particularly in relation to health, in a post-health crisis context. The clientele could indeed be more sensitive to the cleanliness of a property's spaces and premises.

A four-step solution to deliver "rooms to breathe" has been developed by Room To Breath. These rooms, initially designed for people who are hyper-sensitive to environmental pathogens and allergens, could very well develop in such a post-crisis context. 
Indeed, these spaces have the particularity of being able to kill 99.99% of viruses and bacteria, particularly coronaviruses.

The first step consists of cleaning the room using a steam engine that rises to a very high temperature to kill microbes, viruses and pathogens present on multiple surfaces (furniture, bedding, sanitary spaces, etc.). Then, an antimicrobial coating, is applied to all surfaces which captures all viruses and bacteria before disintegrating.

Third step, the bedding and furniture receive a layer of toxin that eliminates all harmful organisms (bed bugs, dust mites, ...) from the surface, toxins that are deadly to these living organisms but harmless to humans. Finally, it also offers efficient ventilation and even air filtration of the rooms and common areas thanks to a technology developed by NASA.

But another forward-looking scenario envisages a more troubled future, dotted with financial difficulties and recovery solutions to the detriment of environmental efforts. Following the example of economic growth forecasts, tourism will show a definite slowdown, announced at 20 to 30% for the year 2020.

But while the players will have to get back on track once the containment measures and travel barriers are lifted, these could be considerably slowed down by their cash flow, which is jeopardised by the lack of activity, or even by the reimbursement of products that have been cancelled. Everyone will have to review their priorities and expenditures to optimize the year's balance sheet as much as possible.

Also, recovery solutions could prove more polluting than before, since many countries are suspending their environmental laws in order to give priority to the fastest economic recovery.

This is the case of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has temporarily lifted all obligations and will not impose any sanctions for air or water pollution. Similarly, the U.S. government has reduced its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 5% to 1.5% less GHGs emitted by cars.

In France, waste sorting and recycling has been temporarily suspended in some municipalities, such as Paris, even though hotels in the capital had initiated unprecedented measures in this area, such as the first single-use zero-plastic hotel in France.

Only time will tell whether the lifting of environmental restrictions will become widespread, and for how long, if at all. It will be up to national, international and governmental bodies to regulate the activity in such a way as to preserve what constitutes the wealth of our industry, namely its territories, with its natural heritage and its communities, the sustainability of which is the challenge of tomorrow's tourism.

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