Gender Diversity At The Top Of The Ladder: Will Hope Become Reality?

Universities are educating more and more women

Education is a major factor enhancing development and quality of life. As highlighted by the United Nations, it has become a priority in international development goals. In recent decades, the share of young adults (25-34 year-olds) reaching tertiary education [1] across all OECD countries increased to 44%, which is significantly higher than the 27% for their 55-64 year-old counterparts (OECD, 2019). In Switzerland, 53% of young adults had a college degree in 2019, while this figure was as low as 26% in 2000. In an increasingly competitive world, education works as one of the main signaling systems for individuals (if you manage to get a high enough GPA from a respected university, you are signaling to future employers that you might have some valuable skills). Yet education remains flush with inequity, and the increase in educational attainment is more pronounced for certain categories of the population.

For example, did you know that in almost all OECD countries, more women attend college than men? If you’ve had the chance to visit a university campus recently, you might have noticed. A concrete example is EHL, one of the leading hospitality management schools in the world based in Switzerland, where 59% of bachelor students are women. This figure is in line with recent OECD data showing that 57% of young adults with a university degree are women, versus 51% for 55-64 year-olds (OECD 2019, Education at a Glance Database).

Many female college grads don’t make it to the top of the ladder

Overall, statistics show that universities are educating more and more women, with most majoring in business administration studies [2]. Logically, the proportion of women in top management positions – especially finance-related ones – should reflect this general trend … but this is where the figures don’t exactly add up.

In the European Union in 2019, women accounted for 28% of publicly-listed companies’ board members and only 18% of executives, versus 15% and 10% in 2012 (Eurostat, 2019). In other words, the trend is positive, but most female college grads don’t make it to the top of the ladder. Moreover, significant heterogeneity remains across countries, and large changes occurred predominantly in countries that voted quotas into law. Finally, women have easier access to management positions in certain industries. For example, 33% of senior top managers in the hospitality industry in 2015 were women, slightly below education (41%) and healthcare (41%), which contrasts with construction and real estate (18%) and mining and quarrying (12%) (Statista).

Men and women make decisions differently

Things are starting to change, albeit slowly, and gender diversity has become a central concern from a social, political, and governance point of view. Given the current overall positive trend showing that women are more present in boards and executive committees, it is important to understand the consequences of having more women in high-skilled financial positions. Indeed, gender diversity might bring diverse experiences, perspectives and incentives into the discussion and improve the decisions that are made.

The literature documents that gender-based differences include behavioural aspects in terms of planning, decision-making, risk tolerance, and overconfidence (Ittonen and Peni, 2012; Khlif and Achek, 2017). Indeed, men and women make decisions differently (Lee et al., 2019) and female top managers tend to be more diligent and conservative, less overconfident, and more risk averse.

Much-needed research is on the way

To understand the consequences of increasing gender diversity in high-skilled financial/accounting positions, researchers from EHL and Grenoble Alpes University are currently working on a project investigating Swiss publicly-listed companies. The goal is to analyse how audit quality is impacted by the interplay of women in the auditor-auditee relationship. Descriptive data show that, between 2010 and 2017, the percentage of audit committees (a committee composed of board members in charge of the oversight of the financial reporting process) with at least one woman increased from 13% to 39%.

Regarding audit reports, it appears that they were signed by at least one female auditor in 26% of the cases in 2010, and 35% of the cases in 2017. These increasing trends are important factors that might impact the negotiation and the relationship between the auditor and the client, the auditing process itself, and the subsequent accounting information quality. For instance, several studies document that women audit partners provide higher quality audits in Finland, Sweden and the UK (Ittonen et al., 2013; Cameran et al., 2017), and that female directors are more effective in dealing with complex audit tasks and judgments (Chung and Monroe 2001; O’Donnell and Johnson 2001; Neidermeyer et al., 2003; Lee et al., 2019).

The results of the study will be released soon. For the moment, however, the figures tell us that women are becoming increasingly present in high-skilled financial functions although there is still a long way to go to reach parity.

[1]Tertiary education is defined by the World Bank as “including both public and private universities, colleges, technical training institutes, and vocational schools.”
[2]Most tertiary-educated people have a degree in business administration or law (25%), while less than 5% have a degree in information technology, natural sciences, mathematics, or statistics (OECD, 2019).
[3] Castell Research Project
[4]Data covering 31 US publicly-listed firms.

Source: Poretti, C. (2021) | Hospitality Net: https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4103539.html

Covid-19: Hoteliers Review Their Human Resources Strategies

Major hotel chains are reducing their workforce.  The business is performing 50% below normal levels in the European market and Asia Pacific, excluding China [iii] ; Marriott’s CEO Arne Sorenson said that the hotel business was running almost 75% below normal levels. This is the reason behind Marriott’s decision to cut off two-thirds of its 4,000 corporate employees at the Bethesda, Maryland head office, which means approximately two-thirds of corporate staff abroad will also be furloughed.

All the way down to the hotel operation level, the international brands are facing the critical issue of redundancy during this current COVID-19 crisis, regardless of each owner’s specific cash flow situation.

GAS HR

What are your underlying drivers for retention or downsizing strategies?

This article will navigate through the upsides and the downsides of these two strategies: Retention or downsizing. We will provide you with examples and reflections that you may find useful to evaluate your best actions.

The underlying variables of the post-COVID-19 business plan are related to economic and governmental policies, and they are not consistent worldwide. Therefore, in this document, we are not going to provide our opinion nor recommendations. Nevertheless, our hotel asset management team can provide best practices and adapted approaches to each particular hotel.

STRATEGY ONE: TO AVOID COVID-19 LAYOFFS

PRO “ Instilling Loyalty Among Your Staff”

The corporate value of international hotel brands includes the relevant element of employee caring. For example, Marriott states that they put people first and their value is “Take care of our associates and they will take care of our customers.” Besides the written contract, the hotel chains have built psychological contracts with their employee that create unwritten expectations in the employment relationship.

As such, the handling of employee-related issues would determine if the psychological contract is perceived as being kept or breached. The breach can severely damage the motivation and performance of the staff.

In this hyper-connected world, information about mishandling labour-related issues could be quickly propagated and damage the employer branding of the hotel chains. However, it could be an opportunity for hotel chains to show that they care for the well-being of their employees. For instance, Hilton has announced that it will team up with 30 leading companies to provide temporary jobs, in addition to the common practice of covering health benefits. Furthermore, Accor will allocate EUR 70 million in a fund to cover those employees without medical insurance or social security that present COVID-19 health issues and to support front-line healthcare professionals & non-profit organizations. The fund has been raised from the unpaid year 2019 dividends.

The determination to maintain a positive attitude towards staff-caring and experience throughout the crisis is crucial for the recovery phase. There is no doubt that the different hotel brands will restart the competition for the talents in the industry once the market starts to recover. Good employer branding can be a competitive edge. Besides employees do not forget when you support them during tough periods.

CON “Adding Substantial Pressure to Your Cash flow”

When occupancy is plummeting to single digits, cash flow management becomes the lifeline of nearly all the hotels. As labour costs, regardless of the hotel category, generally represent the largest component of operational expenses, multiple hotel chains including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Accor and MGM have announced furloughing schemes as a component of their COVID-19 responses in order to slash costs.  Furthermore, these hotel chains have also declared a different degree of pay cuts for the remaining employees. For example, CEOs put a halt to cash dividends and reduced salaries to senior executive teams by 50% [iv].

The cost-saving exercise should be conducted in a way that allows the hotel to recover quickly once the demand comes back. A salary cut policy is required at every level to survive; in other words, we all need to tighten our belts until the ramp-up stage.

The significance is that, if the termination of the employment contract is not an option, some businesses may be only left with one choice: a total shut down. When planning different financial scenarios, it is essential to manage the working capital for the short term and medium term. Owners need to start pro-active discussions with their banks or other investors to increase their debt service, (we have published another article specifically on this topic).

On 28th March, the Wujiang Hotel Chain, an emerging hotel chain that was formed under the investment of C-trip last year, was the first hotel chain to collapse in this crisis. Xiaodong Ma, the CEO of this hotel chain, has announced they will terminate all employment contracts by 30th April [v] . There is no doubt that the ban on unilateral termination of employment contracts in China during the lockdown has greatly contributed to the downfall of this one-year-old hotel chain [vi].

STRATEGY 2: TO EXECUTE COVID-19 LAYOFFS

PRO “Team optimisation and transformation”

The drastic drop in business has forced many hotels into a minimum level of operation. At the same time, the crisis has made it easier for the operators to identify who are the core staff and who are the weaker team players. We all know that layoffs are necessary and that they open up an opportunity to review the organization to optimize productivity, reduce long term costs and often improve the overall operation/guest experience.

In addition, the Human Resources department should optimize the workforce according to several variables that will impact the labour cost structure:

  • Adjust the business plan with several tentative re-opening dates.
  • Adapt the workforce to different ramp-up occupancy levels.
  • Reorganize F&B team to the gradual opening of the various outlets (the same applies to other operating departments).
  • The well-being of employees: Motivate, train (e.g., new hygiene procedures) and reassure the team after this challenging period.

CON “Consideration of recruitment & re-training costs, and reputation”

As China’s economy is slowly shifting towards recovery mode, many labour-intensive companies, including hotels, have found themselves short of workforce. The reason for this labour shortage varies; but one of the reasons was that some employees were reluctant to return for fear of infection.

Since 2016, many industry analysts have been expressing concerns over a labour shortage at all levels, especially in the operational departments. This phenomenon is highly detrimental to the industry, as hotels’ operation requires a set of expertise in every department. The labour shortage can be statistically proven by the increasing labour cost percentage at hotels.

Also, other than payroll, there is a key factor that justifies the value of raising the labour costs: Training. When hotel management executes a training plan for different levels of staff, the costs included in this are training materials, supplies, certification programs and instructor fees. A thorough training will have a direct positive impact on productivity, customer satisfaction, revenue growth through upselling and enhance employee satisfaction that leads to lower turnover.

It is logical to interpret similar situations that would occur in other sectors in the recovery phase; keeping the current staff may be a sound strategy for minimizing the cost of rehiring. As hotels in China rely on the domestic labour force, it can be estimated that the increase in hiring cost after the crisis can be even steeper for countries which are mainly relying on foreign labour. 

Last but not least, owners and operators should consider that downsizing has a reputational risk, especially if the crisis is short. Before making any decision, it is important to consider the following: What are the hotels core values? How do owners and operators want to be recognized in the market? How will this impact in the recovery period? 

The list of pros and cons of each strategy seems to be limitless and we are only listing out the general considerations. As such, please do not hesitate to share with us your thoughts and considerations on your staff retention and downsizing strategies.

Source: EHL Insight | https://hospitalityinsights.ehl.edu/hoteliers-human-resources-strategies

Travel Advisors React to Travel Companies Mandating COVID-19 Vaccine

Headlines about mandatory COVID-19 vaccines are proliferating around the country and the world.

Cruise lines, airlines and many other leisure and hospitality companies are now grappling with whether or not to require coronavirus vaccines for employees and customers.

While vaccines are quickly becoming a hot commodity with many Americans lining up to get their jab, there remains a large part of the population that is hesitant to get a shot for such a new virus with a vaccine approved only for emergency use. However, despite vaccine hesitancy and scarcity, companies are already considering vaccine requirements for both customers and employees—some have even announced new policies along these lines.

Because vaccines provide a clear path to reopening travel, TravelPulse spoke with travel advisors to see what they thought about vaccine policies and requirements.

Importantly, many advisors noted that safety was a top concern.

Beth Rasor of Vacation Daze, who practiced pharmacy in community and hospital settings before becoming a travel advisor, praised the science that created these vaccines but also sees both sides of the issue for clients and companies. However, Rasor cautioned against vaccine mandates.

“Deciding to receive the COVID-19 vaccination should be a personal choice, not a mandate for travel in my opinion. Each person has to consider the risk of contracting the

isease and make the best choice for his/her situation,” she said. “As distribution of the vaccine is still limited, vaccine mandates will be hard to implement anytime soon. Additionally, the vaccine isn’t yet approved for all patient populations such as children.”

Rasor also noted that vaccinations alone will not stop COVID-19 from spreading.

“Vaccine distribution isn’t the solo golden ticket to getting ‘back to normal,’” she said. “As with most viruses, viral mutations make vaccine development difficult and cause vaccines to lack efficacy. Therefore, sound cleaning protocols, effective air filtration systems, diligent hand washing, wearing face coverings when necessary, symptom monitoring and testing should continue to be our main focus in stopping the spread of the disease for those choosing or needing to travel. Vendors also need to maintain or adopt flexible cancellation policies for guests needing to cancel at the last minute due to illness.”

Miki Taylor, founder and CEO of Taylor & Co. Travel, suggested that it could be more equitable to use medical passports since vaccines remain elusive to many and some people will not be able to take them.

“I think having the vaccine to travel would protect everyone that travelers would come in contact with, but at the same time, the vaccines need to be more readily accessible to everyone,” said Taylor. “Also, I feel that if someone has an underlying medical condition that could potentially put them in even more danger should they receive the vaccine then this is where the medical passport could come into play because it isn’t fair to tell someone who could potentially have an adverse reaction to the vaccine due to an existing medical condition that they can’t travel unless they put themselves at greater risk and get the vaccine.”

Stephen Scott, luxury travel advisor for Protravel International, sees vaccines as the fastest way to getting travel back on track and points out that those who don’t want to be vaccinated don’t have to go to places where inoculation is required.

“Our goal in tourism needs to be to reopen with the least amount of damage to the health and the economy of our travelers, the employees within tourism, and also the people in the destinations we travel to,” said Scott. “Right now, this is the way to meet both of those needs.”

He also pointed out that travelers who don’t want to be inoculated can choose not to go.

“I see this as the fastest opportunity to re-open theme parks, cruise lines, and tourism districts,” said Scott. “The Yellow fever vaccine may already be required for entry into certain countries in Africa and South America. That means, if you don’t want to take it, you don’t have to go there. The same thing will apply for any companies or countries that add this new vaccine to their list of requirements. If you don’t want to take it, then you don’t have to go.”

Kim Cook of Love to Travel in Overland Park, Kansas, noted that testing for COVID-19 is one of the best ways to slow the spread of the coronavirus and pointed out that testing is very accessible right now.

“Currently, I think the testing requirement is more important for slowing the spread of Covid,” Cook said. “Testing is widely available in the U.S. and in the international destinations we sell. From everything I am reading, it is going to take a while for the general population to be vaccinated with some choosing not to take the vaccine. If having a vaccine is required for travel, I think it will slow tourism’s recovery. Eventually, I can see a vaccine requirement for international destinations but not until it is widely available.”

While we wait for vaccines to be more widely available, testing certainly will play a major role in reopening travel. However, it is unlikely that, at least in certain parts of the travel industry, there won’t be vaccine requirements in the future for COVID-19.

Source: Christopher, J. (2021) | https://www.travelpulse.com/news/travel-agents/travel-advisors-react-to-travel-companies-mandating-covid-19-vaccine.html

The Best Of Vietnam Tourism: Top Food From Every Region

Vietnam tourism has significantly gained in popularity over the last few years. And why not? Haunting landscapes, jewel-studded waters, the romance of a pastoral life and impressive architecture – for those struck with wanderlust, Vietnam is paradise. But if you were to consider Vietnam visits worthy merely for its natural beauty, or cultural heritage, you’d be doing the country a disservice. Because, Vietnam tourism is incomplete without trying the food of Vietnam!

Vietnam Tourism: What you need to know about the food

Vietnamese cuisine, one the healthiest in the world, is all about freshness, and many chefs shop twice a day for ingredients. The real appeal lies in the balance of flavors and according to ForbesHo Chi Minh city, formerly known as Saigon, is one the 10 best places in the world for street food.

The Best Of Vietnam Tourism: Top Food From Every Region
A vegetable market in Hanoi

Each region has a dish they make especially well.

Despite heavy historical and geographical influences, the cuisine is unique to Vietnam. It’d be a shame to miss out on local delicacies, which add that little bit extra to your Vietnam experience.

Vietnam Tourism: What you should eat in the North 

China has certainly left its mark in the north – the love for noodle soups and stir fries all comes from the Chinese. If you’re not very fond of spicy food you’re going to love the food in Hanoi! Pepper is about the only spice northerners indulge in.

The Best Of Vietnam Tourism: Top Food From Every Region
There is no way that you can be in Vietnam and avoid Pho, often called the ‘national dish of Vietnam’.

The aroma of freshly cooked Pho (noodle soup) wafts in from almost every busy street in Hanoi. You’ll find hundreds of people seated on plastic chairs in front of street-side restaurants every morning, sipping from their soup bowls.

Try Pho – a simple salty broth, with rice noodles, beef (popular in the north) or chicken, and fresh herbs.

Sample delicious grilled pork for lunch, served with vermicelli rice and called Bún chả. Just follow the heady aroma to the smoky grill of any street-side shop and you’ll find patrons in front of restaurants, hungrily wolfing down mouthfuls of this dish. It’s quite a favorite in Hanoi!

The Best Of Vietnam Tourism: Top Food From Every Region
A street-side restaurant in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Tip: You’ll probably want to avoid dog meat, or even cat, both of which are rather popular in the north.

Vietnam Tourism: The best of the central districts

The people of Central Vietnam love spicier cuisine. In Hue, food is cooked elaborately and the dishes are very colorful. The main course is served with many sides, like in an Imperial banquet – a hangover from the Imperial days of yore.

Try the Bánh khoai, a stuffed crepe made of rice flour, cooked with turmeric and pan fried to perfection.

You can find delicious Banh khoai everywhere in Hue, but we recommend the ubiquitous street carts for some authentic flavors.

The Best Of Vietnam Tourism: Top Food From Every Region
If the lantern-lit beauty of Hoi An’s streets doesn’t take your breath away, the Cao lầu that’s a specialty here, certainly will!

Cao lầu ismade only with water drawn from the thousand year old Ba Le well. This dish is an incredible mixture of many different cuisines – the thick noodles remind you of Japanese Udon and the wonton crackers are typical of the Chinese; but it’s the herbs and the broth that make this dish unique to Vietnam!

The Best Of Vietnam Tourism: Top Food From Every Region
Cao Lau in Hoi An, Vietnam

Tip: Try your hand at cooking a local delicacy in one of the many cooking schools of Hoi AnClick here to read more and book yourself a cooking class.

Vietnam Tourism: What to eat in the South

Ho Chi Minh City in the south boasts of delicious cuisine, distinctly different from all other regions. French colonization has left its mark on Ho Chi Minh City and you will find lovely boulevards and coffee shops around every corner. The Bánh mì – much like a stuffed baguette, is an obvious leftover from the colonial era.

The Best Of Vietnam Tourism: Top Food From Every Region
The Pork Bánh mì Sandwich is very popular in Saigon.

The Bánh xèo is a great way to keep hunger at bay while you drift through the floating markets of Saigon. These are pancakes fried with a heap of things, and wrapped in lettuce and herbs.

In the warm, tropical south, people prefer their food sweeter.

The Mekong Delta is the world’s second largest producer of rice, often called the ‘rice bowl of Vietnam’, and it’s no surprise that the southerners prefer rice to noodles. Seafood is very popular here thanks to the extensive coastline, as are tropical fruits.

The Best Of Vietnam Tourism: Top Food From Every Region
Fishermen at work in the Mekong Delta of Vietnam.

In the Mekong Delta, the Canh chua, which literally means ‘sour soup’, is very popular. Made from fresh fish from the delta in a tamarind flavored broth, it’s like an explosion of flavors in your mouth, in a good way of course!

Source: https://www.enchantingtravels.com/travel-blog/vietnam-tourism-top-food-every-region/

Global hospitality leaders launch coalition to accelerate gender equality at highest industry levels

Some of the world’s leading hoteliers and hospitality academics have joined forces to launch a pioneering initiative that aims to accelerate the path to improved gender equality in higher level positions across the industry, in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 5.

LeadingHôtelières is founded by CEO and President of the prestigious HoteliersGuild community, Frank M Pfaller, and co-founded by Lindsey Ueberroth, CEO at Preferred Hotels & Resorts. Considerate Group Founding Partner, Xenia zu Hohenlohe, leads as Chairwoman for the inaugural year and is joined by co-chair Associate Professor of Management at the leading Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), Dr Sowon Kim.

The team has enlisted support from the likes of Grand Hotel Tremezzo owner and CEO, Valentina de Santis, leading sustainability architect Yasmine Mahmoudieh, Director of Red Carnation Hotels, Vicki Tollman, Director of Spa at Four Seasons Hong Kong, Dr Tania Bardhan and Hospitality Consultancy WE(i) Think CEO, Celine Vadam, among others, who will all take on vital roles in addressing gender balances at a systemic level, from research, to design, to networking, with communication coordinated by Maria Pajares, MD of Mason Rose.

Additionally an impressive advisory board that will provide expert advice and support is gradually taking shape and includes amongst its advisors Sue Harmsworth, Founder of ESPA International, Professor Dr Henri Kuokkanen, Associate Professor at Institut Paul Bocuse and Dr Willy Legrand, Professor at IUBH University of Applied Sciences.

Ueberroth said: “I’m happy to see more women CEOs in hospitality, but we are still a far cry from where I hope we can be in terms of representation.

“The biggest challenges for women looking to achieve top leadership roles were the need to travel, relocate and dedicate long hours. In the past, once having children and raising a family came into the equation, many women were forced to make a choice, and those challenges were hard to overcome.

“Given the innovations in technology and a more open attitude towards flexible working hours and “home offices,” many of these hurdles seem alleviated.”

LeadingHôtelières aims to accelerate gender equality by providing guidance, mentorship and training through a powerful network of contacts in the industry.

The focus of 2021 is specifically geared towards flexible working structures. Heading the research arm of the initiative, Prof Dr Kim said: “We are currently working on a framework to test whether the outcome of our goal, to improve gender equality among directorial and operational roles in the hospitality industry through updated flexible working schemes, actually works for our hotelier partners. We aim to create new and relevant knowledge and share these findings in a meaningful, productive way.”

Hohenlohe added: “Gender equality is a key part of the UN’s Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and any business serious about future proofing itself will need to address this issue.

“We have an incredible collection of women with highly professional profiles paired with great brainpower in this group, all driven by the motivation to ensure the female hotelier of the future will be able to finally have the same opportunities for career development as their male peers.

I am delighted to be co-chairing this chapter with the wonderful Sowon Kim and we hope to be able to make a real difference with this work.”

On first devising the project, Pfaller commented: “When we looked at our HG membership roster we realised that we had far too few women in leadership positions. Reaching out initially to Lindsey, Xenia and Sowon, we were thrilled to realise their enthusiasm to join our cause to making a real change”.

Source: Gosling, S. (2021) | Hospitality Net

The 2020 Hospitality and Tourism Trends That Will Likely Stay in 2021 and Beyond

Looking back before we look forward

At year-end 2019, I predicted a few 2020 trends in hospitality, retail, and tourism businesses. For example, I recommended that we should pay special attention to the following areas:

  • A shifting focus on food delivery, sustainable food, and quick-casual restaurants.
  • Using AI and facial recognition in service operations.
  • The threats from Google, Amazon, and Airbnb as a (potential, new) giant tourism enterprise in the market.
  • Investors’ growing interest in boutique retail stores and hotels.
  • Customer loyalty issues as more travel companies adopted the dynamic pricing strategy even in their frequent traveler programs.
  • Safety issues during travel.

Certainly, the global pandemic was not anything I could predict back in 2019, but COVID-19 might have just accelerated many of the foreseeable changes we expected for the future. Moreover, many of the changes we observed in 2020 will very likely stay in 2021 and beyond, including

Delivery and contactless self-service will continue to grow

Delivery service in restaurants and supermarkets, among other sectors, had observed a boost since the pandemic hit in March. Additionally, restaurants, hotels, and airlines have extended or rolled out contactless self-service through mobile apps, kiosks, and facial recognition technology.

A large number of fast-food chains also introduced new restaurant designs that embrace such trends, including double- or triple-drive-thru lanes, conveyor belt delivery, and food lockers for pick-up orders. In some cases, dining rooms become optional, where the restaurants only focus on delivery and pick-up services.

Meanwhile, Amazon began testing Amazon One, a new biometric payment device that relies on cloud and palm recognition technologies. Palm recognition might become a popular biometric tool in the future as it has some advantages over those more commonly used facial or fingerprint recognition technologies.

Home-sharing will remain a large share of the lodging industry

When the pandemic hit, I wondered if home-sharing guests would choose to stay in chain hotels instead due to hotels’ enhanced cleaning standards. It turned out that home-sharing and luxury hotels might recover sooner than other lodging products. Furthermore, Airbnb is ready for IPO in mid-December, targeting $30 to $33 billion.

As we discovered more about home-sharing services through research, such as their 7 P’s marketing mix, consumer preferences of sharing or accessing the accommodation facilities, and Airbnb listings’ agglomeration effect, some hotel chains had already gotten into the home-sharing business. Like Airbnb, hotels’ home-sharing arms are doing well even during the pandemic, which may encourage more hotel chains to enter the home-sharing market.

If COVID-19 becomes a catalyst for more hotel mergers and acquisitions, will more hotels get into the home-sharing market through acquisitions? Or the other way around, will Airbnb acquire a hotel chain or another OTA (online travel agent) site?

Work from home will stay but is not helping business travel

Many companies cut the budget for business travel, and an increasing number of organizations let employees work from home permanently. When fewer people commute or travel for work, the work-from-home trend does not help the hospitality and tourism industry but may stimulate extended-stay hotel growth.

When will travel recovery take place?

Some people believe that COVID-19 will forever change the way people travel. While indicators showed travel and hospitality businesses were picking up in the summer, largely from leisure travelers, nobody can precisely predict what the future holds. Until we can travel again, or more importantly, until people travel for business again, we will not see a real recovery. Right now, it is not a bad idea to target baby boomers for leisure demand.

Other trends

Facebook is losing its charm to certain internet user groups. It becomes critical for us to know where our prospects hang out after they abandon Facebook.

Following the breakthrough results of the COVID-19 vaccines, it is safe to predict coronavirus restrictions will be lifted soon. I hope we will resume our normal routines shortly. Still, it will take a while before we can ease our cautionary measures against the virus.

Source:  Linchi Kwok, Associate Professor at The Collins College of Hospitality Management | Hospitality Net

https://www.hospitalitynet.org/opinion/4101917.html

UNWTO and Google Host Tourism Acceleration Program in Middle East

The program is designed to boost innovation, digital transformation and planning in the tourism sector

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) in partnership with Google hosted their second edition of the global Tourism Acceleration Program in the Middle East region, a program designed to boost innovation and digital transformation in the tourism sector in each of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt by providing key insights and market intelligence for effective tourism planning.

Held last Thursday, the online event was attended by UNWTO Member States’ tourism ministers, top travel associations, tourism boards and Destination Marketing Organizations from across the region. Participants gained first-hand access to UNWTO and Google’s insights of the tourism sector and developed new strategies for a more sustainable recovery.

UNWTO is proud to partner with Google to bring the power of innovation and digital transformation to tourism across the Middle East region

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “UNWTO is proud to partner with Google to bring the power of innovation and digital transformation to tourism across the Middle East region. The effective use of data can help destinations of all sizes grow their tourism sectors, while at the same time providing key insights into how tourism can be managed responsibly and inclusively, with sustainability as the driving force.”

Below are some of the regional travel data insights shared with participants during the session:

Top asked questions

Google Search data shows that the top questions asked about the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are related to COVID-19 travel restrictions such as “is it safe to travel to Dubai right now?”, “is Mecca open for tourism?”, or “is Egypt on the quarantine list?”. Similarly, and on a global level, 45% of the top 100 questions related to travel also focused on the impact of COVID-19, the yearn to travel, and required safety measures.

Trends on Google Search

Since the recent announcement of the vaccine two weeks ago, queries related to air and accommodation to the UAE have picked up rapidly for the first time since the pandemic has started, compared to a slower growth in Saudi Arabia due to travel restrictions. In terms of outbound flights, the recent research shows that 33% of UAE travelers plan on taking a vacation abroad in the next 3-6 months compared to 25% in Saudi Arabia and 20% in Egypt.

The pandemic has also shifted some travel interests towards the outdoors and nature destinations. For example, there has been an increase in online searches for eco & sustainable tourism in Saudi Arabia (90%), the UAE (35%) and Egypt (20%) as people are looking to explore natural reservations compared to a decrease in queries about cruises, luxury travel and theme parks.

Rising domestic destinations

In November, search trends on top rising destinations across the region show that people are leaning towards traveling more within their residing countries and cities including Al Gharbia (Abu Dhabi) and Umm Al Quwain in the UAE, Dhahran (Al Dammam) and Al Khobar in Saudi Arabia, Mansheya El Bakry (Cairo), and Sidi Gaber (Alexandria) in Egypt. At the same time, there has been an increase in people looking for international flights to Saudi Arabia (52%) and Egypt (80%) in the last few weeks.

Commenting on the program, Lino Cattaruzzi, Google’s Managing Director in Middle East, said: “Digital skills are now more critical than ever and they will be vital in helping our region recover more quickly and more sustainably. Today’s acceleration program is an opportunity for tourism boards and businesses in Middle East  to prepare and find new ways to engage with would-be travelers. We remain optimistic about the future of the travel and tourism sector, and about the role that Google and technology can play to help it recover faster.”

The Acceleration Programme is part of the close partnership between UNWTO and Google. The first edition was held virtually and hosted by South Africa last September in an effort to accelerate the power of tourism, and drive sustainable growth for millions across the world. Following editions of the program will be announced on our website.

Source: https://www.unwto.org/news/unwto-and-google-host-tourism-acceleration-program-in-middle-east

4 Future-Proof Reasons for Travel Companies to Automate Tours and Activities in 2021 and Beyond

It’s been a rapid and wild run for the travel sector in 2020. With the industry looking to move forward and chart a plan towards recovery, travel companies are re-evaluating their operations to set themselves up for future success.

Unsurprisingly, technology is set to play a pivotal role in the years to come, and with the overhaul of digital distribution channels, manual and labor-intensive operational processes are destined to be things of the past.

Tech innovation group Livn recently demonstrated its leadership in the field through its Open Connectivity Hub: an API infrastructure that synergizes industry players, harmonizes systems and infrastructures, merges and streamlines a traditionally fragmented tours and activities (T&A) space, and connects tour operators to travel resellers in real-time.

Though much of the travel industry is scaling down or on hold in the current climate, Livn is poised for a strong recovery and set to launch its updated second iteration of the API in December.

To highlight the major benefits of Livn’s dynamic platform, SkiftX unpacks four future-proof reasons why travel businesses ought to automate their tours and activities in the post-pandemic world.

LIVE INVENTORY

One of the main limitations to securing full occupancy on T&A products in previous years had to do with businesses’ inability to fill bookings and cancellations at the last minute.

Before the pandemic, travel agencies and in-person were the prime channels for bookings in this space.

Post-pandemic, consumer demand is calling for a stronger shift towards ‘instantaneous’ booking options, as travelers seek personal control of their own plans.

This trend dovetails with rising demand for experiential travel, and a pre-existing desire for greater online booking options that allow for spontaneous, fast-confirmation connectivity.

A core feature of Livn’s Open Connectivity Hub is that it solves this problem: giving travel resellers access to live inventory, thus facilitating last minute bookings in real time.

This clearly benefits both tour operators and resellers: maximum sales, while giving next-level responsiveness should any last minute rules or regulations, such as the opening or closing of travel corridors due to lockdown limitations, impact the industry.

HARMONIZATION

It’s well known that the T&A sector traditionally functioned as a fragmented and disparate space mostly because its products are so diverse. To shift this, Livn’s API brings a new level of industry-wide harmonization.

Livn technology translates many tour reservation system implementations into one unified and streamlined API, a powerful synthesis that gives structured access to and interaction with global tour products via a single connection point.

“In our learnings over the last nine years, looking across dozens of systems, we have gained unique technical insight into the most efficient way for data to be transmitted and shared between all parties in the distribution chain,” says Livn’s founder and CCO Steve Martinez, “from source tour operator inventory to end traveler consumption and demand.”

What this also delivers is a clear and well-defined industry standardization>—something previously lacking in the T&A spacewith all information unified, and technical aspects of the reservation process simplified for travel resellers, including structured product content, availability data, metadata, terminology and pricing.

This goes for different channels and verticals (hotel, airlines, etc.) as well as mediums (desktop, tablet, mobile and travel agency environment).

COLLABORATION

Livn’s API works collaboratively, connecting with over 20 different tour operators’ reservation system providers around the world.

In an industry rife with different systems (rarely do two exist with identical, overlapping features, requirements or naming conventions) this alone marks a significant development.

“Our vision is to become the industry standard for T&A API connectivity which the industry has been lacking for years,” said Martinez.

“We have a very privileged and broad view of current tour operator API landscape (through our deep integrations with their reservation systems) and on the flipside (distribution) we have a variety of real life use cases on how this data is actually being used – including bricks and mortar and online travel agencies, content marketing business models, mobile application companies,, local visitor information centres, airline middleware platforms, and Global Distribution Platforms (GDS). This inflection point is one of great responsibility, which very few companies occupy and, we intend on making the most of this opportunity by driving real change and working with all parties involved to bring the sector forward.”

All this is driven by Livn’s core philosophy that learnings and best practices be incorporated and shared for mutual collaboration across the sector.

CONNECTIVITY

No other platform in the T&A space is capable of connecting as strongly or widely as the Livn API. From PAX details, to pick-up points, to cancellations, the platform is able to implement all usable API features from an underlying reservation system. Once confirmed, reservation and ticket information is completely binding, valid and 100 percent traceable.

Livn’s approach is complete integration, a contrast to the ‘partial’ implementations that the space is used to – for example: situations where brochureware content is delivered via an API, while reservation information is transmitted via email.

Likely to be the industry’s most widely connected platform by 2022, it’s the only platform that allows travel companies to use its technical infrastructure to transact without interfering with their existing commercial agreements. Effectively, it’s an ‘open’ model, where travel resellers are charged a small transaction fee for each booking that passes through the API.

Livn’s innovative infrastructure will allow the API to triple the number of connected Reservation Systems by the end of 2021.

PREPARE TODAY FOR TOMORROW

After a tumultuous 2020, in this moment of pause, the industry awaits its green light to surge ahead. Consumers have their eyes set on travel again, and will continue to seek the most streamlined, instantaneous, ‘low-to-no touch’ booking solutions available.

These consumer demands “all come at a time when the industry is finally starting to show signs of cohesion and standardization,” adds Martinez.

Transition is the name of the game here, as more and more companies align with the growing trend to engage professional partners with vertical specialization, enabling them to free up their resources and capital to focus on their core business model.

“The T&A sector is transitioning into the same easy, reliable and accurate realm the industry has enjoyed for airline, car, and hotel sales – and Livn is uniquely placed in this space,” said Martinez.

England Will Use Covid Testing to Shorten Travel Quarantines

England will introduce a new system on Dec. 15 allowing passengers arriving from high-risk countries to take a COVID-19 test after five days of quarantine and to be released from any further self-isolation if they test negative.

Airlines and other companies in the travel and tourism industries had been calling for such a scheme for months, having suffered devastating consequences from a 14-day quarantine rule that has deterred people from travelling.

“The move will give passengers the confidence to book international trips in the knowledge that they can return home and isolate for a shorter period if they have received a negative test,” the government said in a statement on Tuesday.

The new scheme will be open to all passengers arriving from countries not featured on the government’s safe travel list, such as France, Italy, Spain and a number of other major destinations usually favoured by British tourists.

“With this announcement there is now light at the end of the tunnel not just for carriers and UK aviation but consumers looking to get away at Christmas and beyond,” said Tim Alderslade, chief executive of industry group Airlines UK.

People travelling to England by plane, ferry or train from Dec. 15 and wishing to take advantage of the scheme will have to book a test with a private provider from a government-approved list. They will have to pay for their test.

Those who decide not to take a test will still be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

British Airways said the new scheme was “a significant step in the right direction”.

The airline added that it planned to publish results of trials it was conducting between Britain and the United States that it said would show that a robust pre-departure testing system would eliminate the need for quarantine altogether.

The government also said it would introduce new financial support for commercial airports and ground handlers in England in the new year, capped at up to 8 million pounds ($11 million)per site.

“This new package of support for airports, alongside a new testing regime for international arrivals, will help the (aviation) sector take off once again as we build back better from the pandemic,” finance minister Rishi Sunak said in the government statement.

Source: https://skift.com/2020/11/24/england-will-use-covid-testing-to-shorten-travel-quarantines/

Portugal Admits It Must Diversify Beyond International Tourism

Portugal’s tourism sector is set to lose 60,000 jobs this year alone due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and a recovery is still far off, Tourism Secretary Rita Marques said on Monday.

Some of the country’s regions must diversify their tourism-dependent economy after the pandemic, Marques also told Reuters in an interview.

She expected a rebound of international visits to happen by the third quarter of 2021, depending on the success of a COVID-19 vaccine, but it could take until 2023 for those to return to pre-pandemic record levels.

Last year, Portugal had more than 16.4 million foreign visitors.

“We know it will be hard, it will take some time,” Marques said, adding that Portugal sought to be among the first to benefit when people were allowed to travel freely again.

Tourism was crucial for Portugal’s recovery from the 2010 economic and debt crisis and Marques is convinced it will help Portugal recover from the pandemic.

However, some regions rely too heavily on tourism, she said, calling for the development of other sectors there and a boosting of their international competitiveness.

Regions such as the southern Algarve, famous for its beaches and golf courses and particularly popular with British visitors, are among the most affected.

In Algarve, the tourism industry is not only suffering with the economic impact of the pandemic, which pushed the number of registered jobless up 134% to 24,088 last month from a year ago, but also from concerns about the implications of Brexit.

It is crucial not only to develop other sectors but to also attract more tourists from markets other than Britain to Algarve, Marques said.

“We need to diversify…but we will work to guarantee the Algarve continues to welcome all British people – no matter what happens with Brexit,” Marques said.

The tourism industry contributed about 15% to Portugal’s gross domestic product in 2018, latest official data show.

Though the sector all but collapsed due to the pandemic, with revenues sliding nearly 65% between January and September, Marques said residents opting to spend their holidays closer to home have lent a helping hand to the sector.

“I believe domestic tourism is here to stay,” she said.

Source: https://skift.com/2020/11/25/portugal-admits-it-must-diversify-beyond-tourism/