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Covid-19, how to recreate health confidence and what kind of tourism for tomorrow?

The health crisis that began in the city of Wuhan in China at the end of 2019 and all the measures that followed (border closures, closure of restaurants, leisure properties, events...) put a stop to the tourism industry. The various tourism stakeholders and governments around the world are preparing for the revival of these sectors and are planning to reopen properties within a few weeks, or some countries have even already authorised the reopening of some properties.

This crisis implies important changes at least temporarily for the sector. What constraints are weighing on professionals in the sector and for how long? How can customers be reassured of the security of tourist properties and infrastructures? What actions are being and will be implemented around the world to revive despite the epidemic?

An industry particularly affected by the Covid 19 crisis

The tourism sector has suffered the full force of the crisis because the very principle of this activity, which is subject to gatherings of people, whether at events, in restaurants, transporting travellers from one country to another while accommodating them in hotels, etc., runs counter to the isolation measures that are strongly recommended in the context of such a health crisis. For this reason, it is highly likely that this sector will resume its activity the latest. This is the case in France, for example, where since the end of containment on the 11th of May, most economic activities have been able to resume with the reopening of shops that are not essential to daily life, but not yet restaurants, major museums or leisure parks. The right to travel is still limited to 100 km from home, which effectively restricts the activity of transport and tourist accommodation.

The challenge for governments and tourism stakeholders is therefore to reinvent, or at least provisionally, these trades so that they are compatible with these new standards. This poses several problems because it implies a reduction in human contact, which seems contradictory to the service offered in a restaurant or hotel and also contradictory to the events sector, whether it be congress centres, exhibition centres or caterers whose very principle is to bring people together.

The other issue is also that of profitability. These sectors have suffered from the containment measures which caused a loss of almost all their turnover over this period and are therefore now anxious to reopen their doors in order to hope reviving their activity. Professionals in the sector are sounding the alarm and fearing a wave of bankruptcies, particularly of small independent establishments which are the most fragile.

However, a reopening cannot take place at any price because a lack of sufficient precautionary measures could lead to a second wave of the virus and, on the contrary, overly strict standards could have to a financial impact on the players and cause them to reopen at a loss. Sanitary measures generate certain costs that must be taken into account:

  • There is the cost of information and training for the staff who will have to be able to implement the new provisions which they may feel to be contradictory to the rules of their profession.
  • The cost of setting up, monitoring and checking the measures put in place to verify their correct implementation by the teams and the effectiveness of the measures against the spread of the virus.
  • The investment in communication equipment and the purchase of protective equipment for employees and customers.
  • Fourthly, these restrictive measures will inevitably be detrimental to the economic performance of the players due to an increase in the cost of production of the service by the employees and a decrease in production (e.g. more time spent by the teams on the new health security measures, more human and material resources needed per customer served). In addition, there is the impact on activity caused by the limited number of customers due to physical distance measures (e.g. reduced number of tables in the restaurant, limitation of the number of people to respect the recommended rule of one person per 4m² of available surface area, disinfection cycles that do not allow the spa treatment schedule to be completed, etc.).
  • Last but not least, there must be some demand. This may seem easy because after there have been containment measures in several countries affected by the pandemic, people would like to take advantage of the deconfinement to go out, travel, go to leisure places and attend events to catch up on everything that could not be done during the containment. The desire therefore seems logical, but there still needs to be trust in the tourism industry to ensure that they can guarantee a good customer experience that is as safe as possible.

Governments and professionnals prepare for the recovery

To enable this revival of the sector, by aligning supply and demand, a health "confidence shock" appears to be an essential prerequisite for the return of tourist activity. Professionals in the sector who have become aware of the importance of health measures in order to obtain the green light from governments and the confidence of customers have embarked on the drafting of healthcharters by company, by branch of tourism and finally for tourism as a whole by committing themselves to setting up health plans in properties.

Different tourism groups have decided to set up their own label with certification offices such as Bureau Veritas and SGS. The Accor Group launched its ALLSAFE Cleanliness certification. Franck Gervais, Managing Director Europe Accor said: "Welcoming, protecting and caring for others is the very DNA of Accor and our business. Today, more than ever, our employees, customers and partners need to be reassured about our ability to welcome them in the best possible conditions.As Europe's leading hospitality provider, we must anticipate needs and respond to health and safety issues with the highest standards. We are pleased to initiate this movement and to lead it with all stakeholders.”

The objective of the creation of this label was to ensure that it was to be taken up as much as possible by different players in the sector, as it was set up in partnership with hotel owners and various representatives of the hotel and restaurant sectors (UMIH, GNC, GNI).

To complete this health plan, Accor has launched a partnership with the AXA insurance company offering medical assistance to the clients of the Group's 5,000 hotels worldwide. Starting in July, this plan will give Accor hotel guests access to AXA's medical offerings, including medical teleconsultations and access to AXA's medical networks, which will enable hotels to refer their guests, if it is necessary, to specialists who are suited to the circumstances and who speak their language.

Other hotel companies have had similar initiatives, including the Spanish group Meliá Hotels International, which also launched its "Safe with Melià" ; label in conjunction with the same firm, while working with the Spanish health authorities and several representatives of the sector in Spain.

Radisson Hotel Group launched its "Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol Program" in partnership with another certification firm. The program imposes new measures on hotels such as increased cleaning frequency, hydro-alcoholic gel stations, regular disinfection of room keys and staff protection and training.

The Hyatt Program accredited by GBAC STAR™ in addition to the sanitary measures found in most similar proposals includes a daily questionnaire to measure the well-being of staff.

Marriott International has set up a committee, the "Marriott Global Cleanliness Council", which brings together both internal experts from within the group representing the various professions (cleaning, catering, reception...) and also external health experts. This committee is responsible for all hotel health concerns. Its role also includes working on new technologies for disinfecting objects and surfaces.

The "Hilton Clean Stay" program includes original measures such as sealing the room doors after each cleaning, "Hilton CleanStay Room" to prove that no one has been in the room since the last visit of the cleaning staff, and exploring new technologies to disinfect surfaces such as the use of electrostatic sprays and ultraviolet rays. Minor Hotel Group through its Avani brand goes even further by deciding to seal rooms for 24 hours after cleaning and disinfection before reopening them to guests.

The French hotel operator Akena Hotels, as part of its program, has planned a health inspection of the various hotels every quarter with a detailed report at the end to enable hoteliers and managers to know the possible improvement paths for each hotel.

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