Insider: the state of state aid

This week saw the operational reality of having hotels at 20% occupancy, with everyone from Marriott International down talking about the need to preserve cash at a time when none was coming in through the door.

In the US, CEOs including Marriott’s Arne Sorenson and Hilton’s Chris Nassetta asked Donald Trump for help - $250bn of it -  with Sorenson looking for “emergency assistance for employees, preserving business liquidity and tax relief to relieve near-term cashflow challenges”. His message was shared by the rest of the sector, under the mantra “employees first, liquidity second”.

Roger Dow, US Travel, concluded: “$355bn is what we’re going to lose, 4.6 million employees will be out of work, and we’re predicting unemployment will go to 6.3%.  So now it’s serious.”

Trump responded: “I know. We’ll work on it.”

And it was at that point in which black became white, up became down and people began to search the skies for signs of the four horsemen, because surely this was A Sign that things were, at the very least, somewhat off kilter. Until you recall how Trump used to fill his days before becoming president and we’re not talking ‘down the Hawaiian Tropic spray-tan shop’.

So it seems likely that $250bn will be forthcoming. The delegation to the White House was lacking in Accor, but the company told is that it was maintaining “a very positive dialogue” with the government in France, while ensuring that hotels in the country were available for medical personnel, police officers, foreign nationals stranded on the territory and homeless people.

These actioned have been mirrored around the world. In the UK CMS’s Tom Page was amongst those working with the NHS and hotels to provide accommodation for NHS staff who couldn’t stay at home because of self-isolating or sick relatives. A useful use of beds, but a race against time to get to hotels before they were forced to close.

Elsewhere, here at Questex, we were supported by close to 1,000 people across the sector in our  call for wage support, tax relief and financial aid.

Alexi Khajavi, managing director, EMEA, Questex Hospitality Group: “The response to our call to action is a testimony to how important the sector is. Hotels play a key role in communities, economies and cultures. They provide us with cultural hubs, meeting places, careers and with a home when we are away from home.”

The onus now is on governments to come up with workable help, before employees are sent home and the shutters are pulled down. What we have taken from this week is that the sector knows its value and it is prepared to fight for its rights. Onwards to clarity.