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Tourism takes action on plastic waste and pollution

Addressing plastic pollution is essential to sustainably restart tourism, preserve destinations and contribute to climate action.

Tourism businesses and destinations are stepping up their commitment to sustainability. Aimed at reducing waste and pollution across the sector, the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative (GTPI) is welcoming 32 new signatories, with every global region represented behind the shared goal.

The Initiative unites the tourism sector behind a common vision to address the root causes of plastic pollution. It enables businesses, governments and other tourism stakeholders to lead by example in the shift towards a circular economy of plastics. Among the 32 new signatories are organizations such as TUI Group, AC Hotels by Marriott, Palladium Hotel Group, Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, Hostelling International, Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association and Visit Valencia. These new additions bring the total number of signatories up to 93 companies and organizations. These include organizations from stages of the tourism value chain, including accommodation providers, tour operators, online platforms, suppliers, waste managers and supporting organizations.

Andreas Vermöhlen, Manager for Sustainability, Circular Economy and Sustainable Development at TUI Group said: “Together we can make important steps towards less unnecessary single-use plastic in the world and shift towards a circular economy.”

Addressing plastic pollution is essential to sustainably restart tourism, preserve destinations and contribute to climate action
To mark the confirmation of the new signatories, UNWTO and the United Nations Environment Programme, in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, held a special panel discussion with the theme Eliminate. Innovate. Circulate. Strategies from the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative. Participants included Accor Group, The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, Palladium Hotel Group, Chumbe Island Coral Park and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance.

Zurab Pololikashvili, UNWTO Secretary-General said: “Addressing plastic pollution is essential to sustainably restart tourism, preserve destinations and contribute to climate action. We are proud to see the number of signatories growing continuously since the launch of the initiative.”

Alongside this, a keynote presentation on “A Life Cycle Approach – Key messages for tourism businesses” further highlighted the aims of the GTPI, with a special focus on innovation and the importance of context-based approaches to ensure plastics are circulated back into the economy rather than thrown away after use.


France fines Google €1.1 million for ‘misleading’ consumers with its hotel rankings

France has fined Google €1.1 million for allegedly “misleading” consumers with their rankings of hotels and other tourist accommodations.

A 2019 investigation by the French consumer watchdog and finance ministry found the tech giant was guilty of “misleading commercial practice”.

Google Ireland and Google France have agreed to pay the fine as part of a settlement, after approval from the Paris public prosecutor, the ministry said.

Both organisations have since altered their practices, it added in a statement.

France’s Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF) had launched a probe into Google in September 2019 after complaints from hotels.

Businesses had argued that the display of around 7,500 hotels on Google’s search engine was unfair, compared to the official classification issued by Atout France, the country’s Tourism Development Agency.

The watchdog found that Google had replaced the Atout France ranking with their own criteria, but had used an identical system of 1 to 5 “stars”, which was “highly confusing” for customers.

“This practice was particularly damaging for consumers, who were misled about the level of service they could expect when booking accommodation,” the authority stated.

“It was also detrimental to hoteliers whose establishments were wrongly presented as being lower than in the official Atout France classification.”

Since September 2019, Google has “corrected their practices” and reverted to the official classification issued by Atout France.

“We have now settled with the DGCCRF and made the necessary changes to only reflect the official French star rating for hotels on Google Maps and Search,” a company spokesperson told Euronews.

Google stated that their previous classification of hotels used a variety of sources, including Atout France, as well as feedback from hoteliers and other party sources.

The settlement with the DGCCRF does not affect users’ ability to rate and review hotels on Google.

In December, Google was also fined €35 million by France’s online data privacy watchdog for allegedly breaching rules on cookies.

The National Commission for Informatics and Liberties (CNIL) said both Google and Amazon had automatically placed advertising trackers on users’ computers without asking for consent.


Tourist Numbers Down 83% but Confidence Slowly Rising

International tourist arrivals were down 83% in the first quarter of 2021 as widespread travel restrictions remained in place. However, the UNWTO Confidence Index shows signs of a slow uptick in confidence.

Between January and March 2021 destinations around the world welcomed 180 million fewer international arrivals compared to the first quarter of last year. Asia and the Pacific continued to suffer the lowest levels of activity with a 94% drop in international arrivals over the three-month period. Europe recorded the second largest decline with -83%, followed by Africa (-81%), the Middle East (-78%) and the Americas (-71%). This all follows on from the 73% fall in worldwide international tourist arrivals recorded in 2020, making it the worst year on record for the sector. 

Lack of coordination harms #RestartTourism

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili comments: “There is significant pent-up demand and we see confidence slowly returning. Vaccinations will be key for recovery, but we must improve coordination and communication while making testing easier and more affordable if we want to see a rebound for the summer season in the northern hemisphere.”

Vaccinations will be key for recovery, but we must improve coordination and communication while making testing easier and more affordable if we want to see a rebound for the summer season in the northern hemisphere.

The latest survey of the UNWTO Panel of Tourism Experts shows prospects for the May-August period improving slightly. Alongside this, the pace of the vaccination rollout in some key source markets as well as policies to restart tourism safely, most notably the EU Digital Green Certificate, have boosted hopes for a rebound in some of these markets.

Overall, 60% expect a rebound in international tourism only in 2022, up from 50% in the January 2021 survey. The remaining 40% see a potential rebound in 2021, though this is down slightly from the percentage in January. Nearly half of the experts do not see a return to 2019 international tourism levels before 2024 or later, while the percentage of respondents indicating a return to pre-pandemic levels in 2023 has somewhat decreased (37%), when compared to the January survey.

Tourism experts point to the continued imposition of travel restrictions and the lack of coordination in travel and health protocols as the main obstacle to the sector’s rebound.

The Impact of COVID on Tourism cuts global exports by 4%

The UNWTO World Tourism Barometer also shows the economic toll of the pandemic. International tourism receipts in 2020 declined by 64% in real terms (local currencies, constant prices), equivalent to a drop of over US$ 900 billion, cutting the overall worldwide exports value by over 4% in 2020. The total loss in export revenues from international tourism (including passenger transport) amounts to nearly US$ 1.1 trillion. Asia and the Pacific (-70% in real terms) and the Middle East (-69%) saw the largest drops in receipts.


Redefine Your Revenue Management Strategy

‘We started the year in 2020 and ended it in 2030’

Advertorial by Kevin Duncan, Senior Director, Strategic Commercial Initiatives at The Rainmaker Group, a Cendyn company

This quote from Inspired Capital co-founder Alexa von Tobel perfectly encapsulates the realities of the hospitality industry today. Trends have accelerated and we seem to have jumped ahead a decade, with transformative change happening seemingly overnight.

So, what is next for revenue management? We have an exciting opportunity to hit the reset button and rethink systems while demand is constrained. As we look ahead to the post-pandemic landscape, now is the time to build a revenue management discipline that maximizes revenue during both good times and bad.

Data delivers forever

As data-driven marketers and revenue managers, we have long been converts to the power of data. That’s not to undervalue professional instinct; it’s just that data, when collected accurately and interpreted correctly, does not lie. Data is necessary to determine performance and provide both comparative and key metrics that help decision-making.

This year, the complexities of COVID have leveled the playing field. We are all starting with a blank slate – and not just as historical data is concerned. We are navigating a whole new world, which requires a clear data-driven approach that mines every piece of data held by your organization for relevant insights. Travelers processes and ways of doing business have changed. What travelers deem important for travel today, may not be what it was pre-COVID, therefore the data that marketers and revenue management once considered valuable, may not be as useful as it once was.

One thing is for certain: those that analyze their data the most effectively – and act the most decisively – will be ahead of the rest.

Data-driven creativity is the secret sauce

Data is not necessarily the savior, and in some instances, data has even taken a backseat to creativity. Understanding the right data and utilizing it along with balancing creativity in marketing, will provide hoteliers the edge to perform at their greatest potential.

There is a need to relentlessly experiment and try new things. Conducting A/B testing and becoming a master at it is a must-have skill for revenue managers. Offers that may have performed well in the past, may not provide the same performance today. Therefore, put it all on the table – offers, promotions, segmentation, ancillaries, upsells, packages, room types, amenities – conduct experiments and evaluate the results. Today, it is really all about the survival of the most creative!

Micro-trends: future of forecasting

While it may be true that forecasting is forever changed – after all, you can’t always rely on long-term historical data to predict future performance – it is still incredibly useful. You just have to be faster! Rapid forecasting adjusts in real-time to microtrends, such as new pockets of demand.

Within your forecasting, it is important to keep a keen eye on projections at both the property and market levels. As we have experienced the global impact of COVID and how it influences travel patterns, you will want to have broader insight of global demand patterns in perspective as well.

As the situation is constantly evolving, you will need a system or the ability to re-forecast and adjust to shifting demand and bright spots quickly. Constant calibration of your revenue management system is necessary to quickly identify change and capitalize on new segments of demand.

Micro-trends: new rules of segmentation

Simple segmentation no longer works because demand has shifted so much. You must go micro: narrow in on the microtrends and microsegments that are the bright spots of demand.

Matching ancillaries, upsells and bundles to each segment opens the door of possibilities. When such level of granularity exists, you will be able to more easily identify microsegments and channels that can drive revenue. There is also the opportunity to leverage AI/machine learning to further segment your audiences automatically and intelligently.

Convergence reigns

The other major trend accelerated by COVID is the convergence of sales, distribution, marketing, and revenue management functions. This was already happening before the pandemic but the dramatic drop in business has eliminated positions and put more emphasis on doing more with less.

Time is a commodity for all. If strategy teams are spending extensive time gathering and merging data, they are missing the opportunity to analyze and be strategic. Automated revenue management tools can handle the data crunching so that you can better allocate your time and work on the soft skills that strengthen your teams: collaboration, communication, creativity.

Data-driven revenue management requires both the right data inputs and the right tools to analyze and act on that data. The revenue manager of 2021 will need to be an adaptable systems manager and a clever analytical thinker willing to take calculated risks. By fully harnessing the power of creativity and convergence, hotels will be able to compete in a year of unknowns. Revenue managers will need to move fast, stay flexible, be nimble, and lean into both automation and creativity.

How Does the Cruise Industry Begin to Attract New Customers?

When cruising does restart, die-hard fans will be first in line to board. But – for an industry that has long depended on new customers to fuel its growth – will those who have never cruised before be willing to embark?

Or will months of headlines about quarantines, positive onboard tests, and sensationalism about “floating petri dishes” scare off newbies?

Michelle Fee, CEO and founder of Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative, said first-timers won’t be the primary focus when cruising initially resumes.

“With the early signs of pent-up demand, and the fact that most ships will be sailing at a reduced capacity, first-time cruisers are not going to be the focal point – the obvious choice will be past passengers,” Fee said. “They know how safe it is to travel on a ship and will have the confidence to board, fully knowing that the cruise lines have taken extraordinary precautions. I will say, our 2021-2022 cruise business has a solid foundation, so it doesn’t look like we’re going to have a hard time filling ships again, once this pandemic is behind us.”

First-timers will start booking again once life returns to normal, she predicted.

“Once things settle down, and finally get back to more normal, a first-time cruiser will be just as attracted, if not more, than they were before,” Fee wrote in an email. “With all the new protocols and changes, ships will be even more attractive than even before the pandemic. From seamless embarkations, new crowd-less muster drills, sanitation at its highest and more – the rumours, myths and negative perceptions will all be proven wrong and go away.”

“Travel advisors will need to focus on inspirational marketing along with presenting the health and safety protocols that the cruise industry is rolling out,” said Drew Daly, senior vice president and general manager of Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc. “Advisors should become experts in the measures being taken as all consumers want to be informed as to what protocols are being implemented in all aspects of the vacation experience – including flights, pre- and post-cruise hotels, tours and onboard.”

Fee and Daly also said relaxed cancellation policies will reassure new-to-cruise clients.

“Yes, this has definitely helped our advisors close sales, so as long as there is the fear of contracting the virus, vacation companies should extend their flexible cancellation policies,” Fee said.

Daly agrees: “I do think more flexible cancellation policies will allow consumers the peace of mind they need when planning their cruise vacations in the short and long term.”

Both said a campaign, perhaps led by the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), is necessary to spread the word about safety measures.

“The industry absolutely has some damage control to do and needs to get the good word out about the stringent protocols the cruise lines will be following to keep cruising as safe as possible. We have been publicly speaking out and advocating for the CDC to back off of the cruise industry as it is negatively impacting consumer confidence in cruising and travelling in general,” Fee said. “Cruise Planners’ loyal customer base is already driving future travel sales. To reach new-to-cruise, we need the public perception to be safe to help our beloved industry to fully recover and rebuild. At Cruise Planners, we have not stopped our proactive marketing efforts, but have pivoted to a more supportive, educational and informative approach. One thing that has been wildly successful is our new Where2Next virtual series” for travel advisors’ clients.

Concluded Daly: “Yes, the safety and health protocols that will be implemented definitely need to be promoted heavily to consumers. Cruise lines, CLIA and travel agencies all need to collectively be talking about the measures and sharing what it looks like onboard. Consumers will want to see what life is like onboard and envision how their experience will unfold.”


Europe’s Recovery From the Last Recession

Major economies in Europe, including the U.K. and those in the Eurozone, recently confirmed what we already suspected. Economies across the continent have entered an economic recession because of the impact of COVID-19—an impact that has been devastating for the hospitality industry.

The short-term effects of the COVID-19 recession are evident as hotel demand across Europe was down 55.3% for the August year-to-date period. However, even with negative projections in place, the depth of the long-term impact remains in question.

To help develop answers, we look back at a lesser crisis, which may point to how hotel markets will recover in the coming years. The 2007-08 global financial crisis (GFC), caused by the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble, impacted financial institutions globally and led to the subprime mortgage crisis, European debt crisis and the Great Recession. During the Great Recession, the global economy witnessed its steepest declines since the Great Depression.

For this analysis, we indexed revenue per available room (RevPAR) to 2007 for various key markets across Europe. This can be used to understand how markets were impacted in the short-term during the crisis, in the aftermath of the crisis and even further in the long-term to understand when markets recovered.

So how did hotel markets around Europe react?

London weathered the storm

London showed strong fundamentals and proved to be resilient. In fact, RevPAR increased in 2008 before dipping slightly in 2009 but did not look back from there with strong year-over-year growth through 2019.

Hotel demand in the U.K. capital is currently at an all-time low as the market suffers due to a reliance on international travel, which is nearly non-existent due to restrictions and lockdown measures. However, once international travel does return, we can perhaps expect a quicker long-term recovery in London as the city has proven it can weather a storm.

German markets dipped but recovered quickly

While other countries in Europe were being pulled further into crisis, Germany benefitted from its economic strength even during the crisis as well as being a mostly domestic market, which allowed hotel performance to recover quicker than others in Europe.

Economically, Germany remains a powerhouse in Europe, and its large domestic market has helped in boosting demand relative to other countries in Europe during this COVID period, so some optimism in a recovery can be taken regarding German markets.

Markets in weaker economies were more impacted

By 2009, hotels in Madrid and Dublin were among the most impacted. In the latter part of 2009, Spain and Ireland went through a debt crisis lasting several years leading to subdued economic growth in both countries as well as an increase in unemployment in Spain.

RevPAR in Madrid stagnated in the subsequent years following the GFC, and five years on from the crisis in 2012, RevPAR was almost 30% lower than pre-crisis levels. As the capital of Spain, Madrid sees substantial demand coming in the domestic corporate and leisure segment. A strong run of six consecutive years of RevPAR growth began in 2014 as Madrid benefitted from an increase in international arrivals and from hosting high-profile events, including the Champions League Final and COP 25 in 2019.

Madrid has stronger fundamentals and is more diversified than it was back in 2008, however, it will need to rely on a return of these lucrative segments to recover to pre-COVID levels.

RevPAR in Dublin five years on from the crisis in 2012 was just over 20% lower than it was pre-GFC as Ireland battled with suppressed economic growth domestically. Suppressed economic growth around the world impacted Dublin also as it is a market reliant on visitors from overseas.

RevPAR increased for eight years consecutively from 2011 through to 2018 as Dublin benefitted from substantial increases in international arrivals around the world, from the U.S. in particular, as well as close to no supply growth.

Future supply growth is expected to rise substantially as Dublin boasts a large pipeline of projects to enter the market. How Dublin responds to a current lack of demand as well as absorbing this new supply will be telling of its recovery. Dublin remains an attractive market for international visitors, and with plenty of new hotel offerings, it may recover from this current crisis quicker than it did during the GFC.


COVID-19 is a different crisis than what hotels faced during the GFC, as restrictions on travel and lockdown measures are severely impacting hotel demand. The GFC impacted performance, at a lesser rate, but key markets across Europe all eventually recovered. Some recovered faster than others due to a stronger economy or being domestic markets.

For markets to begin recovery, the threat of COVID-19 needs to be significantly mitigated. Once that happens, and destinations can begin to welcome to travellers to their hotels, we will see recoveries at different paces

Pandemic doesn’t dampen long-term hope in Israel

The pandemic has heavily hit the Israeli tourism sector, but the country’s hotels are likely to recover sooner than those in other countries of the Middle East.

TEL AVIV—The Israeli hotel industry was set for fast growth in the coming years on the back of record-breaking tourist flow in 2019, and sources believe the pandemic has slowed, but not stopped, that success story.

Israel hosted a record number of tourists in 2019, with around 4.55 million people visiting the country, compared to 4.1 million visitors in 2018 and 3.6 million in 2017, said the Israeli Tourism Ministry. Before the spread of COVID-19, that organization predicted an estimated 5 million foreign arrivals were due to come in 2020.

The pandemic has turned the tables, and some hoteliers are very stark in their analyses.

“The effect is worse than all the wars and operations Israel had gone through during the previous 15 years, combined,” said Avi Zak, managing partner of Drisco Hotel Tel Aviv.

“We went from nearly 100% occupancy to 0% in three to four days between 11 to 15 March and until the beginning of June this year. The overall occupancy of 2020 will be 30% to 50% lower than projected before the COVID-19 crisis.”

Tali Tenenbaum, VP of marketing at the Israel Hotel Association, said hoteliers have taken a massive hit.

“The hotel industry is the first to be hit and the last to recover,” she said. “The injury to the industry is fatal. Only about 63% of hotels have reopened since May 2020. In cities based on foreign tourism such as Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Nazareth and Tiberius, the situation is even more difficult.”

Some managers preferred not to open their hotels, while others adjusted pricing.

“We have adjusted the rates and product to the local Israeli market, and since opening, we maintain a high level of occupancy at relatively affordable rates,” Zak said.

The demand environment remains week, said Estelle Hock, sales analyst lead and guest relations manager at Israeli-owned Atlas Hotels, which has 16 hotels in the country.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the hotels in Israel were closed for several months at the beginning of the pandemic. Many are still closed as non-Israelis tourists are not allowed to visit Israel,” she said.

Between January and July 2020, average occupancy in Tel Aviv amounted to 34.5%, down 55% year over year, according to data from STR, the parent company of Hotel News Now.

For the same period, the city’s average daily rate fell 29.9% to 672.50 ($194.69) Israel new shekel, and revenue per available room fell 68.5% to 231.70 ($67.08) new shekel.

Weighing the advantages
On 16 August, the Israeli government approved a bailout package for hotels at the cost of 300 million Israeli new shekels ($88 million), to be distributed in the form of grants.

Eligibility for those grants and amounts paid to each hotel is determined on each hotel’s slump in revenue compared with corresponding periods in previous years, the tourism ministry said.

Simon Hulten, the senior associate at business advisory HVS London, sees government interventions in Israeli as vital.

“The bailout package, including the cancellation of city tax, a furlough scheme which runs until June 2021, as well as grants to assist with running costs until next June, (is), as far as I know, more extensive than many other countries in Europe and will without a doubt be a key pillar to frame and assist existing hotels to stay afloat,” he said.

He said many countries and markets with less reliance on international demand and air travel had experienced stronger recoveries during the summer and would probably continue to do so going forward. That includes Israel, with more than 50% of its overnight demand deriving from domestic tourism, a percentage higher than many other countries in the Mediterranean region.

Sources said the bailout package will help hoteliers to make it through. Hulten said he anticipates the hotel industry would achieve pre-crisis performance around 2024.

The bailout package may be altered the longer the battle against COVID-19 lasts, said Tenenbaum, who added the pandemic appears to be a marathon, rather than a rally.

She said that when the dedicated grant was formulated in June, it was intended to help pay hotels’ fixed expenses on the assumption that towards the end of the year, inbound tourism would have recovered.

“No one imagined that the crisis would continue to hit us during 2021, and hotels will be closed again, so the support, which we hope will be received soon, does not compensate for the long period,” Tenenbaum said, who added the industry needed to further lobby government.

Some hoteliers, though, are not counting on much state aid.

“The bailout package is something we are not looking at or looking for. We work harder now to pay all our debts and be able to provide our employees with as many jobs as possible. If we got something, I would be highly surprised. I assume that we will see some kind of improvement in one year and return to 2019 numbers in 2022,” the Drisco Hotel Tel Aviv’s Zak said.

Tenenbaum said despite the pandemic’s effect on investment attractiveness, in the last month new hotels have launched.

She said Israeli hoteliers are very skilled at dealing with crises and unprecedented challenges.

“Israel’s hoteliers have an exceptional experience on how to thrive in periods of uncertainty, perhaps more than any other country, and have demonstrated the value of being agile and successful in challenging environments,” she said.

“Although this crisis is unprecedented, this mindset and the ability to adapt to new circumstances are definitely in Israel’s favor when looking at potential recovery curves,” Hulten added.


Reopening Costa Rica: Hotel Recovery in the New Normal

Supported by a WTTC Safe Travel Stamp, Costa Rica’s borders have slowly re-opened to international tourism. We chat to hotel operators on the ground about the fresh protocols, and the path to recovery.— Costa Rica Tourism Board

As the Covid-19 health crisis continues to impact the world, the question of how to re-open borders to international visitors remains the pressing focus for the global tourism sector.

While many nations are still facing lockdowns and restrictions, some have begun to re-open their borders following successful quarantine periods.

Together with its Latin American neighbors, Costa Rica was forced to temporarily close its borders back in March this year.

As a trending international destination – increasingly popular for its vibrant culture, tropical Pacific and Caribbean coastlines, and innovative approach to sustainable tourism – Costa Rica’s local industry felt the lockdown acutely, not least of all its hotel operators.

Thankfully, supported by a range of new health and safety protocols, Costa Rica is slowly welcoming back its international visitors. The nation recently received a World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) Safe Travel Stamp, which covers over 16 new industry-wide safety protocols.

In July, Tourism Minister Gustavo Segura Sancho announced a phased re-opening to international air traffic, with flights initially from the EU, UK and Canada permitted to return as of August 1.

On August 19, this list was expanded to include Oceania (Australia and New Zealand), South America (Uruguay), and Asia (citizens and residents of Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, and the People’s Republic of China).

As of September 1, residents of nine US states – Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington D.C. –  were permitted to enter Costa Rica. On September 15, residents of three more states – Colorado, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania – will be added to the list.

Travelers to Costa Rica are also now able to arrive on international health insurance policies (as well as two local options), provided they cover sufficiently for Covid-19. Encouraging news for travelers, and a promising sign of things to come for the local industry.


And though an impending arrival of English, European and Canadian visitors this month and beyond marks a promising addition, hotel operators are viewing the August 1 lift as the first of many ‘baby steps’ towards pre-Covid occupancy levels.

“Right now, national tourism is rising rapidly,” says Montserrat Quesada, Marketing Coordinator at Costa Rica’s El Mangroove Hotel on Panama Beach.

“On the other hand, international tourism will probably take longer, since there is still lots of uncertainty.”

According to General Manager of The Intercontinental Hotel Costa Rica, Ricardo Menendez, the prompt >re-opening of key flight corridors in the region – particularly with the U.S. – is the next vital step for the industry’s resurgence.

Costa Rica saw 3.14 million visitors in 2019, with 53 percent coming from the U.S.

“For demand to reactivate it’s important that the borders with the United States and Latin America are opened, since they are our main markets,” says Menendez.

“These have been very challenging months,” he adds, “with a new reality.”


In this new reality safety comes first. Hotel health and safety protocols have become central to re-building the industry, keeping guests healthy and safe while bolstering consumer confidence.

Hotels like El Mangroove and The Intercontinental continue to work energetically alongside the government, Costa Rica Tourism Board and Ministry of Health on every mandated rule and regulation in preparation for the foreign visitors to come.

“During the past few months, while the hotel was closed, our team worked rigorously to implement all safety protocols, make all necessary changes, and train staff to be ready to welcome guests back,” says Quesada.

“We’ve implemented measures such as temperature checks at check in, luggage disinfection, sanitizing stations throughout the properties, social distancing measures at restaurants and event spaces, and deep cleaning of every room.”

Investing in technology and supplies to guarantee the wellbeing of its future guests, The Intercontinental has installed thermographic cameras for taking temperature, alcohol dispensers in all areas including entrances, restaurants, lounges and elevators, and implemented thorough staff training sessions, supported by the Cleveland Clinic and Ecolab.

Along with mandated facemask usage, and clear social distancing signage, both operators see this raft of measures as something that’ll likely exist for the long haul.

Meanwhile, local airports are doing their part to maintain vigilance against the spread, with San José’s Juan Santamaría International (SJO) and Liberia’s Daniel Oduber (LIR) airports, continuing to follow strict safety and cleaning protocols.


The fresh industry protocols mark a significant shift for the sector, all underscored and according to a recent paper by Costa Rica Tourism and the Ministry of Health.

As well as general guest regulation, the protocols highlight specific rules for venues, PCOs, vendors and suppliers as well as hotels with meeting spaces – while events can happen again as per the pre-Covid era, enhanced procedures will be in place to ensure the safety of attending guests, including a range of social distancing measures for venue seating configurations and all banquet-style sit-down setups.

Trade fairs will again be able to take place, but with a format allowing for one person at a time, by appointment, and a maximum of two exhibitors at each booth.

While it’s great news that conferences and meetings will again be welcome back at Costa Rica’s hotels, there’s a good chance this transition back from ‘virtual to tangible’ is going to eventuate over an extended period, with Zoom-style formats likely to last the distance, regardless of loosened Covid regulations.

Quesada agrees: “We think that virtual and hybrid events will keep standing out for large meetings, adding that ‘measures such as deep cleaning, sanitizing and disinfection procedures and the use of personal protection equipment will be kept in the long run.’”

In the event that guests or staff are exposed to the virus – or suspected to have been exposed during their stay at the hotel – they’ll be required to undergo a medical assessment through, and comply with the broader directives of the Costa Rican Ministry of Health.


Though it might still be closed to vital markets, the August 1 re-opening can only be seen as a promising step in the right direction.

“We hope to see an increase in international travel towards the end of the year, and hopefully a reactivation on the groups and incentives business for the second half of 2021,” says Quesada.

“U.S. travelers have always been one of our top visitors, so in a post-Covid environment we expect to see them traveling to Costa Rica, hopefully as much as before Covid,” adds Menendez.

As for the travelers’ end, visitors permitted to enter Costa Rica will need to provide a negative PCR test upon arrival, as well as a completed online Health Pass. In a fluid situation, against a shifting backdrop, Costa Rica is leading the way to recovery in the post-pandemic world: a template for others in the region to follow.

“We are striving to ensure guest safety and tranquility,” says Quesada, “and we are thrilled to see guests coming back.”


France: A less pessimistic outlook for 2020 thanks to the summer season but caution for the end of the year

After a disastrous start of the year marked by the worst recession since the WWII, the French economy’s 2020 growth outlook has now slightly improved. The upturn in economic activity since May has been stronger than expected and it continued during the summer vacations.

The U.S On Travel 'Red List' Of 16 Countries Issued By France

The beginning of this normalization has been observed through macroeconomic aggregates such as household consumption of goods, but also through sectoral data, particularly those relating to the hotel and restaurant industry. In this context, high-frequency indicators in our possession suggest that France should record the strongest growth in its history in the third quarter. Moreover, the rebound is likely to be stronger than in many of our European neighbors. Although this phenomenon is partly the result of an arithmetic mechanism, it also reflects a greater resilience in the tourism sector during this summer. However, it should also be noted that the pace of normalization slowed in August.Moreover, we believe that we are now entering a pivotal period where the risks of stagnation or even a downturn in economic activity are numerous, and, therefore, there is a need for caution for the end of the year.


The Covid-19 crisis has paralyzed economic activity in France, so that after a 0.2% fall in quarterly GDP in Q4 2019, the negative spiral intensified with a contraction of 5.9% in Q1 2020 and 13.8% in Q2, the worst sequence ever recorded.

Quarterly evolution of French GDP


Some sectors have been harder hit, specifically in industry, those producing mobility equipment – such as aeronautics and automobiles. Within services, all sectors of the tourism ecosystem have been hardly hit – particularly transport, restaurants and accommodation, whose activity has historically evolved in strong correlation with overall economic activity.




Faced with this unprecedented shock, the public authorities intervened massively and chose to protect household purchasing power as a priority. In this respect, a study3 published by the OFCE showed that, over the eight weeks of lockdown, “households and individual entrepreneurs (as well as the voluntary sector) suffered a loss of income of 14 billion euros4”. Nevertheless, this loss of household income was more than compensated by a drop in spending leading to a significant savings surplus (+75 billion euros as of July 5). In a context where the health situation has improved (lower number of hospitalizations and deaths, increase in tests, access to masks, etc.), a normalization of activity was achieved from May onwards. The Bank of France5’s economic survey, published on September 14, also underlined that, for the month of August, the loss of GDP over a typical week of activity was 5% compared to the pre-crisis level (compared to -27% in April).



As in many developed countries, the normalization in activity levels, faster than initially expected, is mainly due to the rebound in household consumption of goods. In France, the latest figures from INSEE6 showed that in July 2020, “household consumption spending on goods increased slightly (+0.5% in volume compared to June) after a strong increase in May and June (+35.5% and +10.3% respectively)”. In this context, in July, household spending on goods almost returned to the level of November 2019.



This phenomenon has been encouraged by the aforementioned accumulation of a savings surplus, by a catch-up effect that adds up to state aid intended to stimulate demand (particularly in the automobile sector7), and a desire to profit fully from the summer season, which was also reflected in tourism-related spending. France was able to benefit above all from the resilience of its domestic market, including with regards to its tourism industry. This facilitated its rebound relative to its neighbors, particularly those in Southern Europe (whose exports and tourism depend heavily on Northern European countries), but also those in Northern Europe (which are generally more internationally oriented). In July and August, France therefore took the lead in Europe in terms of the recovery of tourist numbers.




Economic activity continued to grow in August, but the pace of growth has slowed compared to previous months, as shown by the monthly composite index developed by Markit9, which reached 51.610 in August, a three-month low. Regarding the services sector, the report noted that “underlying data indicated that a rebound in the Hotel & Restaurants sub-sector was partially offset by declines in other areas, including Post & Telecommunications and Renting & Business Activities.”

Even when households were taking summer breaks, particularly in areas where resort tourism is important, the momentum slowed sharply during August.



It even reversed at the end of the month, in response to renewed concern about the sanitary situation (particularly with the Bouches-du-Rhône and Paris regions becoming a “red zone”) and the sluggish demand observed by companies in many services’ sectors. At the same time, in the manufacturing sector, the Markit index fell back below the 50 threshold, indicating a contraction.

In this respect, we can assume that activity in the automotive sector has stagnated due to the decline in new car registrations. According to the Committee of French Automobile Manufacturers (CCFA), in August11 the French market for new passenger cars fell by 19.8% in gross terms compared to August 2019. This decline is partly due to unfavorable base effects (solid basis for comparison in August 2019) but also reflects a backlash after the excellent figures in July, boosted by the end of the “cash for clunkers” scheme.

Even though the overall rebound in activity lost momentum in August, the positive base effect accumulated since the end of the second quarter still implies that French growth will spring back very strongly in the third quarter. More specifically, its rate of growth will be the highest ever recorded, and probably well above the average for the euro zone. In this context, the government should revise upwards its growth forecast for 2020, currently set at -11%. A figure close to the Bloomberg consensus (i.e. around -10%) seems appropriate to consider the potential turbulences that could occur in Q4.




As illustrated by the decline in tourist activity since mid-August, we are entering a pivotal period where businesses will have to take the lead. This observation is equally valid for the hotel industry, where 65% of the annual turnover is generated during the week (Monday to Thursday), mainly by business customers, and for which September usually marks a peak in activity. This reality is reinforced by the recent evolution of the sanitary context, as France and some of its key territories are once again subject to restrictions (such as a fourteen-day mandatory isolation upon return) imposed by various European countries, such as the United Kingdom, Belgium or Germany. It should also be pointed out that national measures, which could go as far as a localized lockdown, would likely penalize activity very significantly. The risk would be greater if two of the regions that are currently most affected by the virus, namely PACA and Ile de France, were to be subject to restrictions.

Indeed, these regions account for more than 35% of national GDP and for more than half of the turnover of the hotel and restaurant industry. At the same time, even if the government decided to implement an ambitious €100 billion recovery plan, its new effects are not expected to be felt until 2021, which raises fears of a period of uncertainty for the end of the year. At the same time, numerous bankruptcies are already expected for the month of October. As Les Echos12 pointed out, “since August 24, companies that cannot pay their invoices have 45 days to declare themselves in suspension of payments at the Commercial Court”, which should result in a rise in business failures starting in October. This phenomenon could then weigh on household morale and put a brake on consumption.

Finally, on a geopolitical level, the environment will be particularly unfavorable. Indeed, the latest negotiations between Europe and the United Kingdom suggest that the “Hard Brexit” scenario remains credible. On the other side of the Atlantic, the uncertainties surrounding the November 3 elections will increase, especially since various scenarios synonymous with instability of the international trade system cannot be ruled out. These factors, combined with a lack of visibility on the post-Covid recovery, could lead companies to delay their investments and hiring decisions, thus amplifying the phenomenon of stagnation or even relapse. The economy, as well, will have to fight against the risk of a second wave.


UNWTO Highlights Potential Of Domestic Tourism To Help Drive Economic Recovery In Destinations Worldwide

As restrictions on travel begin to ease globally, destinations around the world are focusing on growing domestic tourism, with many offering incentives to encourage people to explore their own countries. According to the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), with domestic tourism set to return faster than international travel, this represents an opportunity for both developed and developing countries to recover from the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recognizing the importance of domestic tourism, the United Nations specialized agency has released the third of its Tourism and COVID-19 Briefing Notes, -Understanding Domestic Tourism and Seizing its Opportunities.- UNWTO data shows that in 2018, around 9 billion domestic tourism trips were made worldwide – six times the number of international tourist arrivals (1.4 billion in 2018). The publication identifies ways in which destinations around the world are taking proactive steps to grow domestic tourism, from offering bonus holidays for workers to providing vouchers and other incentives to people travelling in their own countries.

Domestic tourism to drive recovery

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said: “UNWTO expects domestic tourism to return faster and stronger than international travel. Given the size of domestic tourism, this will help many destinations recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic, while at the same time safeguarding jobs, protecting livelihoods and allowing the social benefits tourism offers to also return.”

The briefing note also shows that, in most destinations, domestic tourism generates higher revenues than international tourism. In OECD nations, domestic tourism accounts for 75% of total tourism expenditure, while in the European Union, domestic tourism expenditure is 1.8 times higher than inbound tourism expenditure. Globally, the largest domestic tourism markets in terms of expenditure are the United States with nearly US$ 1 trillion, Germany with US$ 249 billion, Japan US$ 201 billion, the United Kingdom with US$ 154 billion and Mexico with US$ 139 billion.

Initiatives to boost domestic tourism

Given the value of domestic tourism and current trends, increasing numbers of countries are taking steps to grow their markets, UNWTO reports. This new Briefing Note provides case studies of initiatives designed to stimulate domestic demand. These include initiatives focused on marketing and promotion as well as financial incentives. Examples of countries taking targeted steps to boost domestic tourist numbers include:

  • In Italy, the Bonus Vacanze initiative offers families with incomes of up to EUR 40,000 contributions of up to EUR 500 to spend in domestic tourism accommodation.
  • Malaysia allocated US$113 million worth of travel discount vouchers as well as personal tax relief of up to US$227 for expenditure related to domestic tourism.
  • Costa Rica moved all holidays of 2020 and 2021 to Mondays for Costa Ricans to enjoy long weekends to travel domestically and to extend their stays.
  • France launched the campaign #CetÉtéJeVisiteLaFrance (‘This Summer, I visit France’) highlighting the diversity of destinations across the country.
  • Argentina announced the creation of an Observatory for Domestic Tourism to provide a better profile of Argentine tourists.
  • Thailand will subsidize 5 million nights of hotel accommodation at 40% of normal room rates for up to five nights.