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Covid-19, how to recreate health confidence and what kind of tourism for tomorrow? PART 2

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

Within the other activities of the tourism sector, several players or representatives are also at the origin of labels and / or sanitary measures with for example Viparis, operator of convention centres and exhibition parks in the Parisian region, including the Paris Expo Porte de Versailles and the main congress location in Paris, announced at the end of April its collaboration with Bureau Veritas to launch a label whose objective is to guarantee the sanitary safety of event sites.

"This label, named "SAVE V", will be in line with the initiatives taken by other players in the tourism industry, such as the Viparis partners grouped together within the French Tourism Alliance. It will also be proposed as a support for the commitments of the business tourism sector in the charter drawn up by the French union of the event industry (Unimev)", Viparis points out.

In France, SNELAC, which represents the operators of leisure and cultural sites, is proposing a "COVID-19 HEALTH SAFETY PLAN" which takes into account everything specific to these properties, in particular the use of mascots in leisure parks, the fact that the seats in the same auditorium or the same ride are less than 1 metres apart, and so on.

The case of cruises is very specific because a cruise ship is a confined space where many people live side by side. For this reason, in recent times, cruises have suffered from a very bad image and several ports could refuse to see these ships arriving for fear that they would be a source of contamination. In order to regain the confidence of the authorities and tourists, some cruise liners are developing their programs, notably the Asian company Dream Cruises. In addition to conventional disinfection and physical distancing measures that can be found in other tourist operators, cruises and transport in general are planning to implement specific measures because of the lockdown of the premises and the possibility of transporting the virus. When the activity will eventually reopen, passengers of this company will have to have their temperature checked by infrared scans just before boarding, they will also have to fill in health questionnaires and might even have to carry medical certificates with them. Passengers risk being denied boarding if they are suspected of having Covid-19. There is also the issue of masks. Will passengers eventually have to be masked on board the ship? This is a measure that would seem acceptable to Asians today according to the various accounts of what is happening in China, for example, but it could discourage many people who are not used to this kind of situation, and even less so on a cruise that is supposed to symbolize relaxation and freedom from the constraints of daily life.

Airlines have issues comparable to cruise passengers because aeroplanes are confined spaces with little physical distance possible and are vectors for the spread of the virus. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has worked with several governments as well as the World Health Organization to propose measures for the resumption of flights as quickly and under the best possible conditions. The president of this organization, Alexandre de Juniac, assures:

"Normally, if we are followed by the governments we are discussing with, we should be able to travel to France from June, then to Europe in July-August, with reduced traffic and a limited number of destinations".

The proposed measures are similar to those for cruise line companies and include the provision of a health declaration upon passenger arrival at the airport, temperature control at the entrance to the terminal and the mandatory wearing of masks in the terminals and on board the aircraft. People showing suspicious signs could also be denied boarding.

Finally, at the level of the tourism and events industry as a whole, the French Tourism Alliance has taken the initiative to draw up a health charter for tourism and events with the help of the hotel and tourism consulting firm MKG Consulting summering all the proposals made by its members representing the various tourism activities (Mobility / Transport, venues for professional and sporting events, tourism and leisure facilities, tourist accommodation and finally, shops & catering) as well as measures from sector representative bodies and measures inspired by what is done abroad. The government received several sector representatives, including the French Tourism Alliance before choosing and defining the health standards that will be put in place when the properties reopen. This health charter consists of a common core applicable to the entire tourism industry as well as specific parts for each of the different activities. The content proposes different measures grouped by themes which are as follows:

  • Monitoring of the implementation and effectiveness of the measures with as an example, the appointment of a health manager for each property. This person will have to ensure that the measures are properly implemented, and will also have to follow up to check up the effectiveness of these measures.
  • Training of both staff and all service providers on the new instructions to be implemented. The respect of processes specific to the different professions and ensuring that service providers respect the internal rules when they are in contact with the company.
  • The detection and management of suspicious cases, how to identify contaminated people and how to provide them with the necessary care while avoiding that they contaminate others.
  • The barrier measures to be put in place, including the reorganization or restriction of activities (limiting the number of customers, temporary suspension of activities that pose a health risk, etc.), reorganization of staff and working conditions, reinforced cleaning rules, the implementation of physical distance and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Raising public awareness by setting up a specific communication plan on the subject. This involves, specific communication before the stay or visit, explaining the new measures when the client arrives and reminding people of the different rules using printed or on-screen displays.
  • Some long-term measures like providing sanitary equipment to anticipate similar crises in the future, including equipment to take the temperature at the entrance to airports.

How are the re-openings being prepared in concrete terms and how is the takeover going in the properties that have already reopened?

In some countries, some tourism activities have already been able to resume or are in the process of being resumed.

The Shanghai Disneyland amusement park reopened on Monday 11th of May with a maximum capacity allowed by the Chinese government of 24,000 visitors per day, less than a third of the normal capacity. Disney CEO Bob Chapeck announced that they will open to even fewer visitors to ensure that the new health regulations are implemented in the best possible way. A gantry takes the temperature of each visitor at the entrance, markings are placed on the floor in the queues at ticket offices and rides to encourage customers to respect safety distances, and the wearing of masks is mandatory for all visitors and staff members. Finally, some attractions or activities have been redesigned with, in particular, the mandatory wearing of gloves in attractions where people use their hands, such as Buzz Lightyear, a ride where the aim is to shoot targets using a laser that is handled by hand. Rows of seats are left empty in some rides, like Pirates of the Caribbean boats. Parades, fireworks, and amphitheatre shows are not maintained.

Still in amusement parks but in Europe, the Europa Park in Germany announced the reopening on May 29th of its main park and hotels with similar sanitary measures. However, it will first have to reopen without its French, Belgian, Swiss or Luxembourg clientele pending the reopening of the borders. After the end of the strict lockdown in France, French leisure parks were concerned that there were no dates set for their reopening. Notably the Puy du Fou whose owner Phillipe de Villiers was worried about the future of his park. A petition had been launched presenting three reasons to welcome visitors again. It indicated the fact that the parks can, according to the authors, welcome visitors under strict sanitary conditions in the same way as other sectors and also their importance for the local economy.

On Tuesday the 19th of May, French Secretary of State for Tourism Jean- Baptiste Lemoyne indicated that French parks located in the safest departments could probably reopen on the 2nd of June, the same date as is envisaged for restaurants. "All this militates in favour of these parks being able to reopen again, if all goes well, as early as June the 2nd in the green departments. Final answer next week [...]" said Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne.

The various parks in France where already preparing to launch into the usual and specific preparations due to the health crisis for their reopening in the hope of saving what remains of their season.

The German hotel group Deutsche Hospitality operates around sixty hotels under the Steigenberger, Maxx, Jaz, Intercity Hotel and Zleep Hotels banners. All but two of the group's hotels were closed during the German lockdown. These two hotels, the Steigenberger Hotel Am Kanzlerant in Berlin and the Steigenberger Airport Hotel Frankfurt, which had remained open to accommodate essential business travellers, also served as test areas for the new health measures implemented by the group in partnership with other companies, the government and associations. The group's health plan includes measures such as installing glass barriers at the reception desk, disinfecting room keys, distributing masks for guests who are required to wear them in common areas, eliminating the breakfast buffet and replacing it with a take-out menu or table service, rearranging restaurant tables to have a 1.5m space between each of them,  and disinfecting common areas every hour. With these new sanitary measures, the group has already opened some of its Intercity hotels on the 11th of May and some Steigenberger hotels will follow on the 25th of May.

While indoor catering and bars are still banned in France, these properties were able to reopen at the end of March after two months of complete lockdown in China. The French Triple Starred Chef Paul Pairet, owner of several restaurants in Shanghai explains that he was at 70% of his business in his mainstream restaurant at the end of April and that he had a normal activity as soon as it reopened for his triple star restaurant the Ultraviolet with only 10 tables. He explains that today everyone wears a mask in the kitchen and that at the beginning there was a minimum distance of one metre between each table, which disappeared later. According to him, the end of the lockdown happened in a completely natural way:

"In a natural way, people don't pile up, leave some distance between them and the other tables, wear their masks, continue to wash their hands, have their temperature taken at the entrance of the property. Etc. All these precautions are automatic in China. These are measures that are really done naturally. Masks are still used for our dinner services. It may seem strange from France, but here it's fine."

End of the lockdown in China didn't go so well. In some areas of China, including Chengdu & Chongqing, 72 hours after reopening, authorities have again shut down non-essential businesses due to a resurgence of the epidemic.

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