Global view: Vaccines offer hope for travel's future

A vaccine will take months—at least—to have a meaningful effect, and in the meanwhile, businesses and individuals alike are still struggling to survive. Photo credit: Getty / E+ / Geber86 (Vaccine)

Hospitals in Britain have started dispensing the first vaccines against the COVID-19 coronavirus, and businesses across the travel industry are eagerly waiting for the expected return to normalcy to begin as risk decreases. According to Travel Agent Central, travel insurance and assistance provider Allianz Partners surveyed 3,500 of its customers in order to gauge travelers’ intent in booking trips more than 100 miles from their home (for at least two nights) and to track changing travel sentiment since a similar survey was conducted in the spring. The majority of customers (58 percent; up six points from the spring survey) who were surveyed shortly before the news broke last month about a promising vaccine responded that a proven vaccine would make them feel safe again to travel.

But the vaccine will take months—at least—to have a meaningful effect, and in the meantime, businesses and individuals alike are still struggling to survive. According to Hospitality Insights, UKHospitality has warned that the sector is on a countdown to a devastating rent tipping point that could trigger a New Year “bloodbath” of hospitality businesses. The group estimated that there is £1.6 billion in unsettled rent from the COVID crisis period within hospitality. This will increase further with the Dec. 25 rent quarter payment date looming.

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In addition, 87 percent of respondents to a recent survey—all of whom voted in the Nov. 3 election—believe there should be another round of coronavirus-related relief from Washington, according to results released Tuesday by the U.S. Travel Association. According to Travel Agent Central, the survey found a strong majority among every voter group, demographic subgroup and geographic region support another relief bill. 

Owners, meanwhile, are eager to hold onto some of the gains made from the brands and keep costs down. Sagar V. Shah, Dharam Goragandhi and Rich Gandhi, co-founders of Reform Lodging, called on the leading global operators to consider eliminating or reducing complimentary breakfast requirements. Polling of Reform Lodging members revealed that 90 percent were requesting changes in the name of safety and profitability.

Owners and managers also should consider leveraging technology to improve guest relations during the downturn. According to a study from Sitel Group, only 8 percent of consumers believe the hospitality industry was the most innovative when it came to the use of technology in providing customer experiences. Now is the time for hotels to change this consumer perception, and a Hotel Management column examines three key technologies they can implement to meet the needs of the pandemic holiday traveler.

Good News

Tourism company TUI has secured €1.8 billion in additional funding, which CEO Fritz Joussen told Hospitality Insights would allow the group to secure “liquidity for a continuing pandemic in 2021.” The company said that it expected the pandemic situation to improve in the course of the first half of 2021.

As part of its “2030 Agenda” to eliminate waste, source responsible seafood, neutralize carbon emissions and improve the health of the ecosystems surrounding its hotels, Iberostar has now specified its carbon emissions roadmap, which will offset emissions by implementing nature-based solutions at its destinations. As Luxury Travel Advisor reported, a responsible tourism model must lead the way and help companies in the sector build back better after the pandemic by facing three challenges: adopting a long-term vision, aligning its objectives with science and considering any impact of a company on the environment.

And Hotel Management announced this year’s “GMs to Watch” list, showcasing the most dedicated and driven general managers in the hotel industry. Each year, Hotel Management opens up its call for nominations to the greater industry in search of general managers making a true impact not only in the success of their hotel, but in the lives and careers of the talent they lead. This year, nearly 200 nominations were received and 31 professionals around the world were chosen by Hotel Management’s senior editorial staff for their outstanding achievements and superb leadership and hospitality skills.