In the past few months, COVID-19 has forced the hospitality industry to make a lot of changes. Will it permanently change our way of life? This is a million-dollar question.
As many countries around the world have almost succeeded to flatten the curve, the next task is to figure out how to revive their economies and start adjusting to the new norm. The reality of massive job losses means that people have fewer financial resources to spend on entertainment, leisure, tourism and going out to restaurants.
The return of social confidence is a challenge which will be difficult to revive to pre-pandemic levels. Still, slowly but surely, this will happen too, just as living with the virus has become the new norm.
As we attempt to enhance social confidence, simultaneous efforts need to focus on relaunching ways to boost the economy too. As local domestic air travel is being opened in countries, the internal tourism and airline industry will get the much-needed oxygen to help survive and get the energy to wake up related industries.
As and when domestic tourism revives, the next step would be special arrangements between countries who have strong relationships. These green zone countries can enter into visa free travel for their respective citizens. The two-week period of quarantine at source and destination is not a sustainable solution. Hence special mutual agreements would need to be made to drive the sector.
Another aspect would be to acknowledge the fact that there is a huge inventory of oversupply. This is the time to put a stop to all big investment plans and focus truly on awakening the existing business. The refurbishment of venues can be undertaken to welcome the guests when doors are open.
Grit, resolve and patience are needed for the road ahead. It will not be a quick fix. Every business needs to ensure that their clients feel reassured by the hygiene and sanitation standards put in place under the new normal.
Technology and creative innovations would need to be explored to ensure the health and safety of all guests. And when the new normal does set in, the economy will slowly but steadily return to the recovery path. To do so, we must all unite. Now is not the time to fall back to the survival of the fittest.
For countries like the U.S. China and the UAE, domestic travel will play a huge role during the recovery phase. It is vital for airlines, hotels, and tour operators to capture such a shift with enhanced agility, with very focused operational and marketing strategies.
The post pandemic period will witness a shift in consumer behaviour and lifestyle. It is forecasted that clients will be more cautious with their spending patterns. Expenditure on luxury, travel, hospitality, movies, fine dining, white goods and gadgets are seeing a drop. The recovery from this changed behaviours and spending pattern, is estimated to continue for the rest of this year. Still, experts predict that, in the last quarter of this year and into 2021, there will be a bounce back.
In the meantime, it's important to use this period wisely to reinvent and relearn new growth strategies for recovery. Needless to say that it is absolutely vital to stay connected with your clients and regular customers during the pandemic period through the effective and innovative usage of social media, surveys, smart digital campaigns and even interesting online contests and quizzes.
It is necessary that you are always in your guests’ minds and hearts, not just for financial gain, but also as a show of support during these challenging times.
Maintaining strong lines of connection and communication is extremely important to maintaining a wide consumer base. People will always remember who stood with them through thick and thin and these are the people who will also be there during re-launch and recovery.
With more than 28 years of hospitality experience globally, Naim Maadad is the founding CEO of Gates Hospitality, which owns and operates Ultra Brasserie, Bistro des Arts, Reform Social & Grill, Publique and Folly by Nick & Scott. The company also has ownership of Six Senses Zighy Bay.