In the past few weeks, the world has been inundated with news about COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus. Due to the rapid spread of the virus, however, there has been a lack of understanding of it and its effect on populations and industries. Let’s take a quick look into the virus and how it is causing shifts in hospitality.
What is a Coronavirus?
According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. They cause infections that can lead to the common cold, MERS, SARS, and, as we’ve seen recently, COVID-19. The latest strain of the virus was discovered in December of 2019 and has quickly spread around the globe in recent weeks.
COVID-19 symptoms have been observed as similar to those of the common flu, including coughing, sneezing, and body aches. While most individuals – around 80% – have recovered, there are several cases in which additional hospitalization is needed, most notably among older and immunocompromised populations.
How Is Hospitality Affected?
As news of COVID-19 has spread, hotels and travel companies have quickly become aware of some of the challenges that will be faced as a result of the virus. Many business and leasure travelers have already canceled travel plans, leading United Airlines to decrease North American flights by 20%. Other airlines are likely to follow suit, which is estimated to cause approximately $60 billion in losses for the industry. The cancellations have also led to thousands of room cancellations, leaving hotels scrambling to find ways to fill empty rooms.
In addition to customer-initiated cancellations, there have also been mandated restrictions. Italy made headlines in early March when the entire country was placed on lockdown in an effort to contain the spread of the virus. The United States announced soon after that it, too, would be restricting travel from Europe, including Italy.
These restrictions have had a ripple effect on communities worldwide, leading to cancellations of many events that help boost tourism and hospitality dollars. ITB in Berlin was one of the earliest conferences to be cancelled as a result of the virus. Since then, concerts, sporting events, and school classes have closed their doors while they explore containment solutions.
How To Protect Yourself
Similar to the common flu, it is recommended that you take a few precautions to ensure that the potential of spread is minimized
- If you begin to feel symptoms, stay home to recuperate
- Wash your hands frequently
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing
- Avoid touching your face
How To Protect and Reassure Your Clients
While taking care of ourselves is key, hotels and travel partners also need to be cognizant of how the virus is affecting end clients. Many vacations and business trips have been suddenly halted, causing disruptions in customers’ lives. And those that haven’t been cancelled leave clients concerned for their safety. Be sure to do the following to help ease some of those tensions.
- Ensure that you are being vigilant with cleaning and communicating this with clients. Scrub heavy traffic areas on a frequent basis and make sure that surfaces are wiped down regularly.
- Clearly communicate any company refund/voucher policies. This is a common concern for travelers, so being able to quickly access this information will help to minimize the number of questions your staff receives.
- Stay up-to-date on any official developments and ensure that your staff is equipped to answer questions, should your clients have them.
Where To Find Additional Information
In order to ensure that you are getting the most up-to-date information about coronaviruses and COVID-19, be sure you are monitoring these official channels for updates
- World Health Organization
- Centers For Disease Control and Prevention
- Your local government health service can also provide you with location-specific news or restrictions related to the virus