Spain to reopen to international tourists in July

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has announced the country will reopen to international tourists from July, pledging to guarantee the safety of visitors and the workforce.

The leading destination receives over 80 million tourists per year.

Starting in July, Sánchez said that international tourism can resume once more, adding tourists can start planning their holidays.

Sánchez confirmed that as part of the planning for Spain’s phased reopening plan – known as the ‘Plan de Desescalada’ – the government was working with the tourism sector to prepare measures for the reopening.

The moves will be coordinated by ministry of industry, business and tourism in collaboration with Spain’s autonomous communities.

Going forward, the prime minister announced that Spanish tourism will have two new hallmarks – health and safety and environmental sustainability.

GreecePoland and the Algarve have announced similar moves in recent days.

At the same time, the European Aviation Safety Agency has been considering how to get passengers safely back in the air.


Wyndham Continues to Grow New-Construction Pipeline

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts announced today that the company is continuing to forge ahead with new-construction growth, opening 11 newly built hotels across the United States in the first quarter and breaking ground on a number of hotels in its new-construction pipeline. In the same period, the company executed agreements for more than 25 future new-build hotels in the United States, further expanding its pipeline and planting roots for travel recovery in the long term.

New Openings in Q1

The company’s 11 new-construction openings in the United States represent nearly 1,000 rooms. The recent openings—including properties across its La Quinta by Wyndham, Wingate by Wyndham, Days Inn by Wyndham, and Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham brands—are in destinations primed for domestic, drive-to leisure travel such as Miramar Beach, Fla.; Houston, Texas; Spokane, Wash.; and Wisconsin Dells, Wis.


Developers are also starting construction on hotels in the pipeline, reinforcing optimism for the industry’s recovery. Developers for Wyndham-branded hotels broke ground on approximately 10 new hotels in the United States year-to-date, including a Microtel hotel in Hot Springs, Ark.; a La Quinta hotel in San Antonio, Texas; an extended-stay Hawthorn Suites hotel in Oklahoma City, Okla.; and a Trademark Collection by Wyndham hotel in Leavenworth, Kan.

“Despite a rapidly changing landscape for hotel developers around the world, a number of our owners are pressing forward with new-construction projects in the economy and midscale segments, reinforcing our overall confidence in the long-term viability of our industry,” said Krishna Paliwal, head of architecture, design, and construction for Wyndham. “New-construction growth, however gradual, represents our optimism for the future of travel.”


Though construction has generally slowed across the industry, Wyndham continued to add new conversion projects in the first quarter—the company’s conversion pipeline increased 8 percent globally year-over-year.

Looking Ahead to Recovery

As the pandemic begins to abate in the United States, Wyndham maintains that its existing franchisees are well-positioned for recovery: The company operates a nearly 90 percent drive-to business in the United States with a concentration in the select-service chain scale segments—which have outperformed higher-end full-service hotels during the pandemic—and more than 95 percent of its domestic guests originate within the United States, making them less reliant on air travel.

Wyndham also recently announced “Count on Us,” a new initiative to build confidence among guests and to support franchisees as it prepares to welcome travelers back to its U.S. hotels.


11 EU states agree on rules for tourism reopening

Eleven European Union states, including Greece, on Monday agreed on a set of rules regarding the gradual easing of movement restrictions introduced to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The agreement was announced following a video conference between the foreign ministers of Greece, Cyprus, Germany, Spain, Italy, Austria, Croatia, Portugal, Malta, Slovenia and Bulgaria. It is based on the guidelines issued last week by the European Commission, and it is designed to coordinate the reopening of borders for tourists.

In a joint statement, the ministers said they had agreed on four guiding principles, namely that an approach of phased steps, coordinated and agreed among EU states is the best way to achieve a gradual normalization of cross-border traveling; exploring ways of allowing travel while avoiding an unsustainable rise in infections is key priority; ensuring that citizens who travel freely within Europe can also safely return home (they stressed the need for a harmonization of health-related standards and procedures); and, finally, that the restoration of the freedom of cross-border movements can be achieved progressively, provided current positive trends continue leading to comparable epidemiological situations in countries of origin and of destination.

“We call on tourism businesses and related private actors to use the coming weeks to take appropriate precautionary measures to protect travelers once freedom of movement and traveling is restored. We believe this is a crucial element to rebuild public trust in the safety of traveling,” the statement said.

“Even though currently the situation concerning the corona pandemic continues to differ from country to country, it is our common goal to coordinate our approach among European partners as closely as possible with a view to restoring freedom of movement and safe travelling in the near future,” it said.


Deserted Venice contemplates a future without tourist hordes after Covid-19

A few days before Italy is set to lift restrictions across much of the country after being locked down since March 10, the streets of Venice are starting to spring back to life. 

There are no tourists here just yet. Instead the noise is from vacuum cleaners and sanitation crews inside stores that are getting ready for the grand reopening on May 18.

But even as shop owners prepare for whatever post-lockdown Venice looks like, everyone here in this deserted tourist town is asking the same question: who are they reopening for?

Every year, as many as 30 million tourists from all over the world descend on Venice, pumping up to $2.5 billion into the local economy, according to the Italian Tourism Ministry.

But few are Italians, who have never been as enamored with the lagoon city as the rest of the world, according to Matteo Secchi, head of the tourist group Venessia, who says Venice has always attracted far more international tourists than national ones.

“When the city reopens next week, it will still be much like it looks today,” he told CNN in an eerily empty Venice this week. “Tourists won’t really start coming back until the borders are reopened and international travel is allowed.”

Not everyone wants things to go back to business as usual.

Jane da Mosto, who heads non-profit group ‘We Are Here Venice’, has been fighting to get policy makers to understand the advantages of sustainable tourism for the city by launching campaigns to keep massive cruise ships out of the historical harbor and studying the options for preventing flooding like the city endured last fall.

She sees the pandemic as a turning point for the city, and envisions a new Venice emerging in the post-pandemic world.

“The new Venice I dream of after this is like it is now, just with more residents,” she told CNN in an interview in Venice. “The problem for Venice isn’t the lack of tourists, it’s the lack of permanent residents. And with more residents, the city will reflect more the Venetian culture and the wonderful lifestyle that this extraordinary city offers and future visitors to the city will be able to enjoy Venice more.”

A funeral for Venice

In many ways, Venice has lately become a victim of its own popularity in a worsening struggle between overtourism, fed by the popularity and affordability of cruise ships and low-cost air travel, and the steady decline of local residents who have been fleeing the tourist invasion in record numbers.

The population of Venice has dropped from 175,000 after World War II to just over 52,000 today.

Secchi’s group even helped stage a funeral for Venice in 2009 when the population dropped below 60,000. Things have only gotten worse since then.

“The virus shows just how tourism has massacred the population,” Secchi, who is also in the hospitality industry, says. “When the city locked down and it was just Venetians here, you could see how few we really are.”

Last summer, that inner struggle with mass tourism came to a head when the government, worried about the ecological effects of mass tourism on the city’s canals, threatened to ban cruise ships from entering the historical port by way of St. Mark’s Square, which is a highlight on any Venetian port call. 

It was a tough choice for Venetians since the massive cruise ship terminal employs thousands. The plan was eventually scrapped when the government fell in August, but the city was left with a tough choice: keep going the way they were and risk destroying the city entirely.

Then, on February 25, Covid-19 did what Venetians have not been able to do: make everything stop.

As the spread of the virus turned the surrounding Veneto region into a hotspot, the annual Carnival celebration was canceled for the first time ever.

“The shock of canceling Carnival really woke everyone up,” Secchi says. “It was like having the rug pulled out.”

A turning point

Many in Venice now see the pandemic as a chance to do just what city governments have failed to carry out in the past: rethink mass tourism and try to create a new type of sustainable tourism for the fragile city.

Melissa Conn, the director of the Venice office of Save Venice, an American cultural heritage group that works to preserve the city’s vast cultural heritage through conservation grants, sees the pandemic as a turning point. “We are using this time in a positive way,” she told CNN in Venice.

They are moving forward on between 30 and 40 urgent projects to help after Venice suffered historic floods last year.

The group normally has to work around tourists, but in their absence, they have been able to work less hindered.

“What will follow will be slow tourism, not mass tourism anymore,” Conn says. “We are confident that we can rebuild, reestablish and rethink Venice, concentrating on helping the city withstand the elements and tourism.”

Conn knows that pulling the plug on the sort of mass tourism that Venice has experienced in recent years will cause some businesses to close.

“We’re going to see empty shops,” she says. “We are going to need to rethink Venice, to bring it to a higher level.”

But she’s not talking only about designer shops and luxury goods. “We don’t want it to become a Monte Carlo,” she says. “We need to focus on the Made in Venice brand, to promote local artisans and bring that Venice back and offer a better quality of life to the people who live here and who visit.”

She also sees an opportunity in the vacuum created by the absence of mass tourism due to travel bans instituted by the pandemic to lure academic programs back to the city.

She envisions the tourist apartments housing students and bringing new energy to the city. “We feel more than ever that this is the moment,” Conn says. “Saving Venice is a very particular mission, but we are on a roll right now.”

Black Death

What happens next in Venice is crucial for its future.

After all, this city has risen from pandemics before. The very word quarantine was born out of the city’s response to the Black Death more than 700 years ago when the city was a powerful trading hub that brought merchants from around the world.

When the plague hit, they decided the only way to protect the city was to isolate incoming ships for 40 days, or quaranta giorni, which became known as the quarantina, what we now call quarantine.

What happens next in Venice is in the hands of the Venetians, perhaps for the first time in centuries.

Mattia Berto, who runs a theater company in Venice, believes the city can find the right balance.

“Venice in many ways has been a perfect lover, willing to give everyone what you want without asking for any commitment for the future,” he told CNN.

“But it’s time to rethink what Venice can be. It’s time to finally solve this conflict between the two Venices, the one for tourists and the one for Venetians. It’s time to finally commit to our future.”


Is it safe to rent an Airbnb, Vbro or vacation home right now?

With Memorial Day weekend fast approaching and summer nipping at its heels, renting a vacation home may seem like the perfect way to get a change of scenery while maintaining social distancing protocols. Alison Kwong, a spokesperson for booking site Vrbo confirms that, beginning in mid-April, they started to see more U.S. demand on its platform, especially for longer trips toward the end of summer.

Are vacation rentals safe?

While rental booking sites like Airbnb and Vrbo have set out to establish cleanliness guidelines, Dr. Andrew Janowski, instructor of pediatric infectious diseases at Washington University School of Medicine/St Louis Children’s Hospital, says the biggest and most under-appreciated weapon renters have against coronavirus is time.

“From the study that evaluated how long the virus persists on surfaces, we know the virus can be stable on some surfaces for up to three days,” Janowski explains. “The longer the home has been unoccupied, the better. I would be concerned there could be infectious virus if someone was in the home in the past day or two, but after about three days, I think the risk is exceedingly small.”

Dr. Thomas A. Russo, chief of the division of infectious diseases at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, agrees. “The major mode of transmission of this virus is respiratory. If those respiratory infectious particles land on a high-touch area, and you then touch your eyes, your nose, or your mouth, etc., there’s a finite risk you could get infected. However, this virus has a half-life (meaning there is less and less of it over time). So, if you rent a house and, assuming the high-touch areas have been cleaned, the risk of getting the virus from the physical objects in the house is very low,” he says.

How can you make sure your rental is cleaned properly?

Online booker Vrbo recommends landlords allow 24 hours, while Airbnb recommends a CDC compliant cleaning protocol and asks landlords to agree to a minimum 24-hour buffer after a guest checks out. Hosts that can’t commit to the cleaning protocol can opt-in to a 72-hour booking buffer between stays.

Janowski recommends having an open conversation with the owner about when the last person was in the home, and perhaps, get that reassurance in writing. “The more recently someone has entered the home, the higher the risk.” Janowski explains. “This would be the one area I would push really hard if I was considering renting a home from someone.”

If the home was recently occupied by cleaners or a previous tenant, Janowski says it might make sense to delay your stay for a couple of days, even though the risk of staying in a rented home that had been entered by others recently was fairly small — and even smaller if it was recently cleaned. “The problem is that I wouldn’t know where those people had been in the home and what areas where cleaned.”

What should you clean when you get there?

Russo says it’s important to weigh your personal risk as well as the general risk of exposure. “If you’re in a high-risk group you might be more inclined to be extra cautious,” Russo says.

Shared areas

Some cleaning products work better than others at killing the viral particles of coronavirus — just make sure you use them safely. The CDC recommends cleaning and disinfecting “high-touch surfaces,” like tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, phones, tablets, touch screens, remote controls, keyboards, handles, desks, toilets and sinks.

Cups and plates

Wash any plates, cups, or silverware (other than pre-wrapped plastic) with dish soap and hot water, and dry thoroughly before using.


Janowski says clean sheets are of very low risk to renters. “The lone risk to the renter would be whether the person making the bed coughed or sneezed on the sheets. One way to get around this is to talk to the owner and ask if you could get clean sheets from them and then you could make your own bed.”

Common areas

If you’re renting an apartment or condo in a complex, Janowski also recommends asking landlords about common areas in the building or neighborhood to get a handle on what’s open or closed, and how social distancing is practiced. “Everyone should still wash their hands after coming into contact with objects in common areas,” he says.


Janowski says pools are generally safe as the water would dilute out any viral particles that are shed into them. “The chlorine in the pool will also help to breakdown the virus so no additional cleaning is needed. My biggest concern isn’t the water, it’s the people around the water. People still need to practice good social distancing once you are out of the water in any shared pool areas,” he says.

Last but not least, don’t forget to wipe down the keys, says Janowski.

Should you quarantine when you get there?

Whether or not you should quarantine depends on if you’ve been exposed to someone with possible symptoms, or who tests positive. If you have, the CDC says you should quarantine at home. Assuming you’ve already been sheltering in place with your travel companions and everyone is in good health, social distancing on your journey — with a mask and using hand sanitizer — is vital.

What activities are safe when you get there?

Quiet, unpopulated hiking trails are one thing, crowded beaches are another.

“The greatest risk is what you decide to do on that vacation, and how many people you come in contact with and what part of the world you’re in,” Russo explains. “We can’t make risk go to zero, so you have to pick and choose your risk battles, what you deem is most important. Bring your mask, wear your sunglasses and practice good hand hygiene.”


WTTC calls on G20 tourism ministers to take initiative in Covid-19 recovery

The World Travel & Tourism Council has called upon G20 tourism ministers to lead a united and coordinated recovery for the sector out of the Covid-19 crisis.

The body, which represents the global tourism private sector, argues only the G20 has the power to influence and drive forward a coordinated recovery effort needed to preserve the sector.

According to WTTC analysis, the Covid-19 outbreak is threatening the jobs of 75 million people around world and one million jobs daily, significantly impacting major source markets.

The extraordinary tourism ministers meeting due to take place on Friday is set to discuss how to combat the crisis crippling the entire sector.

Ahead of the meeting, WTTC praised the G20 for freezing the debt of the poorest countries as a major step towards enabling them to bolster their health systems, to save lives and combat Covid-19.

Gloria Guevara, WTTC chief executive, said: “The proven record of the G20, which powered the recovery following the financial crisis in 2008, and the recent decisive action to freeze debt proves this forum is the best platform with the speed and agility needed, to drive forward the urgent actions required to set the pace and save the global tourism sector and enable it to survive and thrive.

“WTTC proposes tourism ministers participating in the meeting, fully jointly commit with the private sector to four key principles to achieve a faster recovery.

“This would involve including the private sector in the coordinated response, ensuring all measures put the traveller at the heart of their actions.

“This would include a seamless traveller journey with enhanced health security standards enabled through technology, developing joint public-private and G20-wide health protocols as well as ongoing support packages for the tourism sector beyond lifting of lockdown and into the recovery.

“As the premier forum of international cooperation, the G20 is the best proven vehicle to help achieve global economic stability and sustainable growth, which has successfully partnered with the private sector to achieve such objectives.

“Millions of people around the world depend on their actions.”

The four WTTC principles to ensure swift recovery for the tourism sector and the global economy following the end of the Covid-19 outbreak are:

  • A joint public-private coordinated approach across the G20 to re-establish effective operations, remove travel barriers and reopen borders. This would ensure the efficient resumption of flights, movement of people and widescale travel essential to re-build confidence in tourism.
  • Enhance the seamless traveller journey experience, combining the latest technology and protocols to increase health standards. Consider the “new normal” for the sector with components of health, security, hygiene and sustainability with a traveller centric approach.
  • Work with the private sector and health experts to define global standards for the new normal, grounded in science which can be easily adopted by businesses of every size across all travel industries and can be implemented across the world.
  • Continue providing support to the tourism sector during the recovery phase, throughout the entire travel eco-system. Financial aid for workers and businesses to promote a swift recovery. It is vital the domino effect is fully realised so that businesses large and small can all recover and prosper.


Experts Say It Could Be 18 to 24 Months Before Travel Picks Back Up

As we near month two since the coronavirus outbreak was officially declared a pandemic, workers in the travel industry would like nothing more than for the world to return to normal.

They may have to wait a while, however. CNBC has reached out to experts in the public health and tourism industries for an estimate on when travel will resume for its series “The Next Normal.” In its segment, CNBC outlines the challenges the travel industry will face even after the pandemic diminishes.

Experts agree that it may take around 18 to 24 months before airlines see a substantial increase in demand. While there are a recorded number of people willing to travel once the pandemic recedes, there will still be many people who will remain cautious. Airlines and airports are already trying to reassure travelers by implementing new kinds of security checks to screen travelers who are sick.

Delta has been exploring ways to get people traveling again while reducing exposure, such as issuing “immunity passports.” Airports have been checking the temperatures of all passengers, and many airlines are now requiring crew members and passengers to wear protective masks.

Ultimately, however, these solutions are not completely foolproof, and many will still refuse to travel until a proven treatment or vaccine can be found or senior health officials and scientists, not just airlines and travel experts, confirm that air travel no longer poses a risk.

“Many people are not going to feel safe going back to crowded airplanes … until they see that the number of new deaths from the virus has gone down to almost none in their region, or until there is a vaccine or much better ways of tracing and isolating who has it,” said Robert Reich, the former U.S. Labor secretary and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

Additionally, the pandemic has caused mass furloughs around the world; many people may not want to travel after the industry resumes simply because they cannot afford to travel or do not want to spend so much money right away. Businesses in the travel industry will likely market themselves to locals for a while to appeal to the desire of a “staycation.”

The furloughs and layoffs throughout the industry also mean that small, local tourism businesses will be struggling well after the pandemic is over, unlike larger, high-end chains. And even these businesses will most likely have to continue enforcing social distancing after they open their doors. The fewer options combined with enforced safety precautions may not appeal to most travelers.


Wyndham’s Coronavirus Survival Strategy Is Signing Struggling Indie Hotels to Its Brand

Wyndham is banking future growth will come from independent hotels converting to flagged properties, but continued uncertainty in travel will dictate the opportunity timeline.
— Cameron Sperance

Wyndham is taking a page from its Great Recession recovery playbook to guide future growth.

The hotel industry is in coronavirus survival mode, grappling with cratered occupancy rates and revenue per room. But executives at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts also see room for opportunity from the downturn. Wyndham leadership expects independent hotel operators to rush to branded opportunities to capitalize on bigger reservation systems, loyalty programs, and marketing budgets.

The global hotel company grew its room count by 3 percent during the last recession from independent operators converting to a Wyndham-flagged brand, according to a Tuesday investor presentation.

“We have a long-proven track record of growing net rooms through lodging cycle downturns by igniting our conversion engine, which is fueled through the strength and flexibility of our value proposition,” Wyndham Chief Financial Officer Michelle Allen said on Wyndham’s first quarter earnings call.

Wyndham, which owns brands like Days Inn and La Quinta, expects conversion rates to remain slow in the near-term but accelerate as soon as travel begins to return. The hospitality company has initially earmarked $30 million for development opportunities but that figure could increase, Allen added.

There are more than 15,000 independent economy and mid-scale hotels in the U.S., Wyndham CEO Geoff Ballotti said. The company’s franchise and sales teams have been restructured to increase Wyndham’s conversion coverage by approximately three times current rates. Wyndham’s new construction salespeople have also been redeployed to convert independent economy and mid-scale hotels to Wyndham flags.

Wyndham’s strategy comes as analysts predict travelers will return with a heightened focus on safety and cleanliness. Branded hotels that offer a better sense of familiarity or increased display of cleaning standards will likely be in a better position than independent properties. If the anticipated travel trend pans out, independent hoteliers will likely migrate toward flag affiliation.

“Converting independent hotels to our brand has always been a consistent part of Wyndham’s growth through up and down cycles,” Ballotti said.


There are still choppy waters to overcome before Wyndham can fully chase opportunities.

First quarter revenue was down 12 percent to $410 million. Wyndham’s adjusted net income, at $47 million, for the first quarter was down 8 percent. Revenue per room or RevPAR, the hotel industry’s key performance metric, was down 23 percent.

The second quarter will most likely perform even worse. Preliminary April results show RevPAR at Wyndham’s U.S. properties down 66 percent, Allen said. U.S. occupancy was at its lowest point the week of April 11, averaging 22 percent but showing slight improvements in following weeks. Occupancy in China, where roughly 200 of Wyndham’s 1,200-hotel portfolio remains closed, is running in the 20 percent range, up from single-digit lows.

The company last quarter generated more than $250 million in cash savings, of which Allen expects $100 million will be permanent savings. That stems from about 440 eliminated staff positions and reductions in facilities and other discretionary expenses like spending on vendors.

About 5,900, or 94 percent, of Wyndham’s U.S. hotels remain open. The majority of the hotels need an occupancy rate around 30 percent for owners to continue to make debt service obligations, Ballotti said. But government assistance like a Paycheck Protection Program loan lowers that breakeven number considerably.

More than 95 percent of Wyndham’s franchisees have applied for a PPP or Economic Injury Disaster Loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, Ballotti added. Nearly 80 percent have been approved for one or both.


Wyndham’s biggest selling point to independent hoteliers during conversion talks will be how most of its portfolio is positioned.

More than 90 percent of Wyndham’s hotels is in the select-service sector, which is less labor intensive and operates at a higher profit margin than full-service hotels. A typical Wyndham-flagged property requires less than a dozen full-time staff members, and staff levels are “highly scalable to demand,” Ballotti said. Nearly 90 percent of the Wyndham portfolio is in drive-to locations, which travel industry analysts and executives expect to be the first sector to recover from the coronavirus crisis.

“Our customer profile in the U.S. is about 70 percent leisure and 90 percent drive-to,” Ballotti said. “While the impact of Covid-19 continues to evolve, as this pandemic abates in the U.S., our franchisees should be the first to benefit.


Battered global tourism industry makes reopening plans

Six months ago, the global tourism industry was celebrating a record year for travel. Now, it’s decimated and facing a recovery that could take years.

Tourism Economics, a data and consulting firm, predicts global travel demand won’t resume its normal pace until 2023.

When tourists do finally return, they will face a changed landscape that incorporates social distancing and other measures to calm residual fears over COVID-19, the disease that has so far killed more than 244,000 people worldwide and infected millions more.

“It takes time to shake fear from the hearts of people, not to mention the economy,” said Mahmoud Hadhoud, founder of Egypt Knight Tours, who doesn’t expect foreign tourists to start trickling back into Egypt until September.ADVERTISEMENT

Last week, Hilton, Marriott and Airbnb all announced enhanced cleaning procedures worldwide to ease travelers’ minds. In Egypt, Hadhoud is removing cruises and hot air balloon rides from his packages and replacing them with tours of Egypt’s vast western deserts, where travelers can keep their distance from one another.

At Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida, multiple teams are working on scenarios, including putting more space between riders on roller coasters, said John Sprouls, the resort’s chief administrative officer, at a recent virtual event for tourism officials.

Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox said his company may sanitize dice between users, put fewer seats at blackjack tables and idle slot machines between players at its casinos in Las Vegas, Boston and Macau.

Gary Thulander, managing director of Chatham Bars Inn, a 106-year-old resort on Cape Cod, said the resort is planning many changes when it reopens this summer, including checking in guests via cell phones, letting them opt out of room service and lengthening dining hours so fewer guests will be eating at the same time.

The road to recovery will be long and hard for the tourism industry. The United Nations World Tourism Organization predicts global tourist arrivals — or visits from tourists who come to their destinations and stay at least one night — will fall 30% this year from the record 1.5 billion in 2019. Airlines have grounded nearly two-thirds of their planes as passengers vanish. Cruise ships are docked; some won’t sail again until November.

Millions of people who depend on tourism are laid off or furloughed. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 8 million tourism-related workers are jobless right now, or about one-third of total U.S. unemployment, said Roger Dow, the president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.ADVERTISEMENT

Alexandre de Juniac, CEO of the International Air Transport Association, the leading airline trade group, said carriers need to fill at least 70% of seats to break even on most flights. If they’re required to block or remove many seats, they will either stop flying or raise prices 50%, he said.

That will delay recovery for places like Israel, which sees almost all of its tourists arrive by air. Diklah Cohen Sheinfeld, chief of staff of the Israeli Tourism Ministry’s director general’s office, said the tourism industry — which employs 250,000 Israelis — was the first to be impacted and will likely be the last to recover.

“There are no tourists and no entry to the country for tourists. The gates are totally closed,” she said.

In some places, governments are stepping in to help the sector. Serge Cachan, president of the Astotel hotel chain in Paris, closed his 17 properties in March and expects to lose 70% of his business this year. But the French government will help the chain get through it, he said. The government is paying around 80% of furloughed hotel workers’ salaries.

Many destinations anticipate travelers’ behavior will change in the virus’s wake. Pornthip Hirunkate, vice president of the Association of Thai Travel Agents, thinks more people will come in small groups or seek personalized tours.

Ander Fuentes, who works as a tour guide in Spain’s Granada province, thinks travelers will shift away from crowded beaches to the quieter interior mountains.

“It could be an opportunity to develop a new kind of tourism, which is going to be good for Spain, because in the last 10 years, the tourism boom has been in quantity but not in quality,” Fuentes said. He hopes tourism there picks back up by mid-August.

But not everyone is comfortable with reopening. Marco Michielli, who owns the 67-room San Marco Hotel in Bibione, a beach resort east of Venice, Italy, said many hoteliers worry their businesses will be ruined if the virus spreads on their properties. Some would rather reopen next year than serve guests this summer with desk staff and bartenders wearing masks.

’’If we have rules approved by the ministry, some hotel owners would be convinced to start to open. But if the hotel must look like a COVID ward, many will refuse to open to guests,” he said.

Others say they need reassurance from science — not just tourist sites — before they travel.

Ema Barnes visited a dozen countries last year, including Serbia, Vietnam and Chile. This year, she had planned trips to Jordan and South Korea.

But right now, Barnes is working remotely in a tiny town in her native New Zealand. Airports near her are closed, so she’s not sure when she’ll get back to New York, where she works in publishing.

Barnes said she needs some peace of mind — a COVID-19 vaccine, or testing to make sure she isn’t a carrier — before she resumes her travels.

“I don’t think my desire to travel and explore other places is worth my risking the health of people in those places,” Barnes said.

Others remain optimistic. Dedy Sulistiyanto, the owner of a tour and adventure provider in Bali, Indonesia, has been promoting his business on social media while it’s closed. He has received so many positive responses that he thinks tourism will resume quickly when restrictions are lifted. Most of his clients are domestic tourists from Indonesia.

“There are so many people out there very eager to do traveling,” Sulistiyanto said.


Hospitality Financial Leadership – What Will the Post Pandemic Hotel World Look Like?

Having been around awhile I have seen the changes that have come as a result of major global events. The starkest example is our pre- and post-911 world. It showed us that the idea of getting on an airplane means we need to prove we do not have any threatening objects with us, like guns, knives and explosives and we need to prove we are who we say we are. We even must prove we’re not a threat and that we’re on the right security list.

Talk about a big change in the way we travel – not to mention the changes in technology and investment.

I think the other side of this pandemic is going to see some profound changes in the traveling world and the hotel business. In this piece, I am going to get my crystal ball out and make some predictions:

  1. Prove you are healthy. Right now, it seems that testing and determining who has had the virus, who has the antibodies, who has a fever, etc., is the path forward to re-opening our world. Will we need to be tested before we travel? Will we need to prove we have had the vaccine or antibodies before we get on a plane in the future? How will hotels receive guests? Will we all need proof we are healthy before we can interact with one another? I can see that this would be a possibility. What will that mean for hotels, restaurants and bars?
  2. Cleanliness scores. In the past two decades, we have seen the social media phenonium of service scores and customer ranking of our hotel world that has had a major impact on how we are perceived by the public. I think going forward that the same applies to our cleanliness. The brand and hotels that have the highest cleanliness scores will be in higher demand by the public. I see a boom in the way this information is collected and used.
  3. Cleaning methods. How we clean our rooms and facilities now is probably not what will work going forward. The public and our governments will demand higher and more transparent cleaning standards. The idea that the same cloth can be used to clean several surfaces in one room sends a chill down my back. Our industry must do better, and perceptions need to change. The brand and hotels with cleaner facilities win.
  4. Room certifications. Our guests will be demanding clean rooms. We need to come up with a way to guarantee that our rooms are germ-free. I recently saw a video where a hospital room was being sanitized by a UV robot. Will our rooms need the same level of sanitation and evidence of the same? Will customers expect this and will our facilities with such abilities be able to charge a premium?
  5. Healthy employees. We are already hearing that employers will need to ensure their employees are healthy before they are allowed back at work. Does this mean each day before we allow our staff to come inside our buildings that we need to screen them? How will we do this efficiently and what will it cost? Let’s face it, our biggest liability going forward might be what we currently hold as our biggest asset. Our people all go home each day to their unique environments and then they come back to our guests. How will we ensure they are germ-free?
  6. Touchless everything, like check-ins and guest room doors. Anything we can do to remove the need to touch surfaces like elevators, tv remotes, thermostats, etc. will be welcome enhancements that are going to separate the men from the boys when it comes to clients choosing where to stay.
  7. GOPPAR index. The focus will shift from REVPAR index to GOPPAR index. Owners will demand greater transparency and the only way this can be delivered is by comparing the performance of your hotel to a competitive set. Higher REVPAR must translate into higher profits. Right now, these comparisons are possible but, as an industry, we do not embrace this process. The future will demand more transparency and the hotels and brands that get in front of this will be rewarded. Read more about that here. We need a new champ.
  8. Financial leadership. Our business has always been about providing great service, having engaged colleagues and generating profit. The first one has always been visible, great service. Since the dawn of time that has been our mantra. Colleague engagement was a more recent phenomenon that our industry embraced in the last three-four decades. The future belongs to the hotels and brands that drive financial leadership skills into all areas of the operation. Having leaders that know how to manage their payroll and expenses and flex those against business levels will be paramount to success. Being the brand that develops its managers financially and creates great financial leadership bench strength will be rewarded handsomely.

I know I do not have a real crystal ball – just my limited view of our world. But one thing is for sure, this is our wake-up call and things are going to change BIG TIME.

Who will be ready to rise to the challenge – who leads the way?
I hope we can come together as an industry and meet these challenges.