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.



Cruise lines look forward to the day when ships will sail again, but after the pandemic, the voyages will be different. Some experts even agree that COVID-19 might have changed the rules forever.

As of now, there is no set date for the industry to resume activities. At first, most believed that it would last one or two months, but for now, the large companies expect that operations will resume in June, although the decision solely depends on the governments of each country.

Shorter Trips

One of the immediate consequences is that trips will be shorter, mostly because the reopening of ports won’t be the same in all countries. It is likely that some European countries might happen to agree on dates, but while in the Mediterranean ships sail to places such as the Caribbean, ports may remain closed longer.

Companies like Norwegian Cruise Line announced that one of their ships, the Norwegian Sun, will be based in Port Canaveral, Florida for short trips of 3 to 5 days instead of the 12-day cruise along the coast of Canada and Alaska, which was its original route.

Passenger Control

In the No Sail order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prohibiting cruise ship activity in the United States, it was specified that companies should implement new security measures to avoid the spread.

After the pandemic, cruise lines will carry out regular health checks on passengers, although coming up with methods to do it quickly while boarding and disembarking will be a challenge.

It is expected that cleaning and disinfection processes will be more frequent and that there will be hand sanitizer at the entrance of restaurants and bars, as well as attractions and other common areas.

Additionally, cruise lines will perhaps require travelers aged over 70 to show medical exams showing that they are COVID-19 free and in good health for the trip. These exams will also have to comply with the requirements of ports visited in the itinerary before allowing the passenger to disembark.

Several companies announced that there will be regular temperature checks on passengers and staff. Some expect an on-site rapid COVID-19 test for passengers like the one announced by Emirates Airlines, which involves a quick blood test that issues results within 10 minutes.

However, it is one thing to implement this for the 300 to 500 passengers of an airplane, and another to run tests on the 5,000 passengers of a mega cruise ship.

Smaller Ships

If a ship cannot book all of its suites and cabins, cruise lines will switch the vessel for a smaller one. Like Carnival, some of the largest companies expect to leave the biggest ships docked, and sail on those with the least capacity.

The lower demand will force companies to postpone plans such as building new cruise ships, but using the older and more polluting ships is not an option.

This way, the industry could rethink its strategy and, instead of designing mega cruise ships for over 5,000 passengers, opt for vessels with capacity fewer than 1,000.

The End of Buffets?

A study by a travel blog The Point Guy suggests that companies should consider changes for some of the customs on board. One example is the cruise ship buffet: instead of having passengers wait in line and touching kitchenware for self-serve, it will be safer to appoint crew members to serve dishes and drinks.

Self-serve buffets will need more involvement from the crew than before, or maybe the popular custom could be suspended for the first months and replaced by traditional restaurant menus, as several hotels are doing. The only problem lies in the fact that this will represent costs for cruise ships as more personnel will be needed.

Cheaper Tickets

The cruise industry will have to make large investments in the first months after the pandemic. The psychological factor is quite important, so the strategies must involve convincing passengers that going on a cruise is safe.

But words and sanitary displays won’t be enough. Passengers will also need to be lured with cheaper rates: some experts expect that cruise ship tickets may drop between 25% and 30% during the first months of reopening.

Other measures being considered are more flexibility for cancellation policies and making paid services complimentary, such as WiFi, which is an important source of income.

Keeping Distance

One of the challenges on cruise ships will be keeping social distancing. For this, companies such as Dream Cruises and Star Cruises announced in advance that restaurants and theaters won’t be booked completely, so seeing empty seats will be part of that measure.

The same might apply to cruise ship tickets in general, so in the near future cruise ships won’t travel at full capacity, which was the engine behind the business. On the one hand, the industry will recover slowly over the months, and it is expected that it will take a couple of years for it to return to previous performance levels.

Still, cruise lines hope to be on the water as soon as possible, no matter the demand, in an effort to show the public that the industry is strong and prepared for what is ahead.


WTTC Estimates More Than 100 Million Travel Industry Job Losses

On a somber note, World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) research estimated that 100.8 million travel industry jobs could be lost in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

More somber still, the 100.8 million figure increased by more than 30 percent in the last four weeks, according to the WTTC research, which noted that 75 million of those at-risk jobs are in the European Union’s Group of 20 (G20).

The WTTC research also revealed a serious escalation in economic loss to the world economy, rising from $2.1 trillion of gross domestic product (GDP) a month ago to $2.7 trillion today.

The havoc wrecked by the coronavirus has led the loss of more than 1 million jobs a day, WTTC said.

“This is a staggering and deeply worrying change in such a short time,” said WTTC President and CEO Gloria Guevara. “In just the last month alone, our research shows an increase of 25 million in the number of job losses in travel and tourism. The whole cycle of tourism is being wiped out by the pandemic.”

Broken down by region, the research found that potential job losses could reach 63.4 million, with a GDP loss of more $1 billion in Asia; 13 million job losses and a GDP loss of more than 700 billion in Europe; over 7 million job losses and a GDP loss of almost $53 billion in Africa; 14.1 million job losses with a GDP loss of nearly $800 billion in the Americas; 8.2 million job losses with a GDP loss of more than 680 billion in North America; 4.7 million in job losses with a GDP loss of nearly $84 billion in Latin America; $1.2 million in job losses with a GDP loss of upward of $26 billion in the Caribbean; and $2.6 million job losses with a GDP loss of more than $96 million in the Middle East.

“Travel and tourism is the backbone of the global economy,” Guevara said. “Without it, global economies will struggle to recover in any meaningful way and hundreds of millions of people will suffer enormous financial and mental damage for years to come.”


Swiss luxury hotel chain offers special quarantine package

Le Bijou, a luxury hotel chain in Switzerland, is offering a quarantine package to its guests that includes in-room corona virus testing, doctor visits and 24-hour nursing care.

Le Bijou is a part hotel, part serviced apartments company, and operates its luxury accommodation across Switzerland in cities including Zurich, Geneva and Basel. Switzerland, which shares a border with Northern Italy, was impacted early.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, Le Bijou already catered for a very exclusive clientele, playing host to the likes of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Jordan Belfort and even the Saudi Royal Family, charging between £700 to £1,700 per night.

But even the most luxurious hotels have not been immune to the plummeting demand, which has led to the co-founder and CEO of the hotel chain to get creative.

After the disease reached Europe, traditional reservations ceased, but the hotel was getting new requests from people who wanted a luxury place to stay away from the outbreak, avoid hospitals, while still cook their own food and have access to doctors and nursing care.

To meet this new demand, Le Bijou began advertising quarantine-friendly perks to attract guests, including contact-less check-in (to avoid contact between strangers) and medical services in guest’s rooms provided by Double Check, a Swizz private medical clinic.

This five star service does not come cheap, and different packages are available. Coron avirus testing can be bought for around £400. A twice-daily check in from a nurse is £1,500 while the 24/7 nurse service costs £4,000.

The accommodation provides daily food deliveries and personal chef services, but to meet government regulations the management have cut the daily cleaning service to just sanitising the rooms between guests.


More Than a Number: Forging a Path When Millions of Hotel Workers Are Losing Their Jobs

On March 11, the World Health Organization declared the spread of COVID-19 a pandemic—not even three months after the disease was officially reported to the WHO Country Office in China on December 31 of last year. Since then, the world has changed dramatically. More than 200,000 people globally have died from the disease, according to the New York Times, and the U.S. death toll is climbing, nearing 50,000.

COVID-19 has had an overwhelming impact on everyone’s way of life. All over the United States, people are being told to shelter in place, refrain from meeting in groups, practice social distancing, and even start wearing masks when out in public. Businesses have shut down and commerce has slowed significantly. These changes have been deeply felt in many industries, but our industry—hospitality—has been hit harder than most.

Almost overnight, occupancy plummeted. On April 8, STR reported that U.S. occupancy averaged 21.6 percent for the week of March 29 through April 4. This drop in demand has led many hoteliers to either greatly reduce operations at their properties or shutter their hotels entirely for the time being.

This has had a profound impact on the hotel industry’s most important resource—its people. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the hotel industry supported more than 8 million jobs and was facing a massive labor shortage, with some experts saying that there were more than a million vacancies. Now, the industry has gone in the opposite direction.

In response to the outbreak, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) conducted a study with Oxford Economics regarding the impact COVID-19 will have on the hotel industry. That study, which came out in mid-March, estimated that almost 4 million hotel jobs have either been eliminated or will be eliminated in the next few weeks. “I think we all can agree this has been an extraordinarily crippling time for the hospitality industry in particular,” said Rosanna Maietta, AHLA Foundation president and EVP of communications and public relations at AHLA, when she spoke to LODGING in the beginning of April. “In this time, when travel has virtually come to a halt, it’s been heartbreaking to see hotel after hotel close, and hotel workers so recently in high demand now facing reduced hours and furloughs.”

As Maietta noted, for a people-focused industry like hospitality, this reality is absolutely devastating. Furthermore, the situation is evolving so quickly that many hoteliers and their teams don’t even know how they should be responding. Despite the uncertainty, the hotel industry is one of action. On March 17, hotel leaders, including AHLA president and CEO Chip Rogers, met with President Trump, Vice President Pence, and members of the cabinet seeking urgent financial aid for hoteliers. Rogers told journalists after the meeting, “As it continues to be unknown how long this public health situation will last, the coronavirus has already had a more severe impact on our industry than 9/11 and the 2008 recession combined.”

Since the meeting, AHLA and its charitable giving arm, the AHLA Foundation, have moved to make as many resources available to hoteliers as possible. They launched AHLA’s Hospitality for Hope Initiative, which “was created to boost collaboration between the hotel industry and local, state, and federal governments to help employees, communities across the country, and the industry during this unprecedented health crisis.” The AHLA Foundation announced on April 1 that it would be offering free professional development courses for hotel workers through the initiative through the end of April. On April 6, AHLA reported that 15,000 U.S. hotels signed up to participate in Hospitality for Hope, volunteering to provide temporary housing for emergency and healthcare workers. Brands have also taken steps to assist the overtaxed healthcare industry. Hilton, Marriott, and Red Roof have launched programs that offer free stays to frontline healthcare workers.

Major hotel companies, too, are taking steps to provide assistance to hospitality workers who have been laid off or furloughed. Hilton, Wyndham, and IHG have developed tools to connect furloughed employees with temporary jobs.

Some companies have also taken steps to assist franchisees. For example, Best Western is waiving half of its franchisees’ monthly fees and property revenue management fees.

Even with all of these efforts, there’s no doubt that the industry is struggling. Sagar V. Shah, principal at Yatra Capital Group LLC, told LODGING at the beginning of April that he’s not sure how much longer his properties can stay open—his company owns a 135-key Holiday Inn Express & Suites and a 140-key Best Western Plus. “As far as my hotels, they’re open, we’re trying to hang on, but we’re dealing with single-digit occupancy, so fiscally, it might not make sense for me to hold on. I’m going to reevaluate in the next week or two, maybe give it another 30 days,” he said. This is a reality facing many owners and developers.

There’s no doubt that the next weeks and months will be a challenge for the hotel industry, especially with so much changing each and every day. But hospitality is one of the world’s oldest industries, and it’ll be ready to pick itself up and start welcoming guests yet again when this crisis passes.


Accor CEO: We Won’t Be Investing Equity in Our Struggling Hotels

While Europe’s largest hotel operator is struggling amid the global decline in travel, Accor also has $2.7 billion cash on hand. But it won’t use that money to bail out operators struggling through the coronavirus downturn.

Operations at 62 percent of Accor’s global hotel portfolio are suspended due to coronavirus. The French hotel company saw a 17 percent decline in revenue and 25 percent drop in revenue per room, or RevPAR, in the first quarter. March was the weakest month of the quarter, but April and May are expected to be the worst months of the year due to uncertainty in when the global economy will reopen, according to Accor’s first quarter earnings report out on Wednesday.

Accor CEO Sebastian Bazin acknowledged the company has a grim outlook for the year, but the company does not plan to divert from its asset-light shift in recent years to assist struggling operators of any Accor-flagged property.

“While we’re not there yet, we have to foresee some tiny level of owners may not have the means or will to reopen,” Bazin said Wednesday on Accor’s earnings call. “Under absolutely no circumstances would we inject equity in those different owners, permitting them to reopen. We are asset-light and have no plan to go back to asset-heavy.”

The hotel company isn’t looking to get back into widespread property ownership, but Bazin said it has worked with struggling owners in areas like franchise fees in the past. Accor’s financial strength — the company can go “much further than nine months” with its current cash levels, Bazin said — is due in part to shedding real estate and completing an asset-light transformation at the end of 2019.

“We have far sufficient time to cope with what could be nine to 12 months. We’ll have better clarity after summer where we are on the shape and strength of a recovery,” Bazin said. “I can tell you we are not depending on any other sources than from cash we have on the balance sheet.”


Accor still has to account for a weak quarter and uncertain year ahead for global travel. First quarter revenue was down 17 percent to $831 million, and Accor expects a $184 million shortfall in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization — or EBITDA.

“Since we don’t know the shape, the time, the nature of the recovery, everything we plan for is the worst. Every assumption we have made in Accor over the next 12 months is on a very gloomy, pessimistic scenario when it comes to EBITDA and working capital,” Bazin said. “Hopefully it’s going to be better than expected, but no management team should be preparing for blue sky when you simply don’t know how to spell it. I know it’s coming, but we’re preparing for the worst.”

Both Bazin and Accor Deputy CEO and Chief Financial Officer Jean-Jacques Morin said they expected Accor’s financial outlook to improve once the results of cost-savings measures enacted at the end of March materialized in coming months. The EBITDA shortfall estimate does not incorporate the cost savings moves. The company has furloughed staff, shuttered properties, suspended dividends and stock buybacks, reduced executive compensation, and deferred projects.

Morin estimated the company burned through as much as $217 million in cash over the first quarter, with $162 million of the loss coming in March alone.

“One thing we’ve learned is the next week is not the week you had planned for the week before,” Morin said. “It’s a very dynamic way with which we work with operations.”


Accor still added 8,000 hotel rooms to its global portfolio in the first quarter and has a 208,000-room pipeline. Properties in China have begun to reopen, and occupancy at Accor’s upscale Chinese properties has improved into the 20 percent range. The company still expects 3 percent global net supply growth for all of 2020, Bazin said.

A leading source of growth will likely stem from “instant noodles,” a term Bazin said applies to growth from smaller or independent hotels looking to become flag-affiliated. While there is debate on if the downturn in travel will lead to a hotel brand shakeout, analysts and Bazin see it as an opportunity for growth when smaller operators look to tap into a global brand’s increased exposure to whatever level of travel occurs in the recovery.

“There are independent hotels talking to Accor on having Accor put brands on quickly to weather the storm and have access to third-party financing they wouldn’t normally have if Accor wasn’t there,” Bazin said.


Europe’s Hotel Industry Reports Unprecedented Performance Lows for March 2020

Europe hotel occupancy fell 61.6% to 26.3% in March, ADR dipped 8.1% to €96.13 ($104.17) and RevPAR decreased 64.7% to €25.27 ($27.37).

Reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Europe’s hotel industry reported unprecedented performance lows during March 2020, according to data from STR.

Euro constant currency, March 2020 vs. March 2019

• Occupancy: -61.6% to 26.3%
• Average daily rate (ADR): -8.1% to EUR96.13
• Revenue per available room (RevPAR): -64.7% to EUR25.27

The absolute occupancy and RevPAR levels in Europe were the lowest for any month on record.

Local currency, March 2020 vs. March 2019


• Occupancy: -90.8% to 6.2%
• ADR: -22.0% to EUR89.60
• RevPAR: -92.8% to EUR5.52

The absolute occupancy, ADR and RevPAR levels were the lowest for any month in STR’s Italy database. Key markets in the country, Rome and Milan, each reported absolute occupancy below 10.0% at 6.6% and 4.0%, respectively. The country’s downward trend in occupancy began in late February.

United Kingdom

• Occupancy: -50.8% to 36.5%
• ADR: -9% to GBP79.49
• RevPAR: -55.3% to EUR28.99

The absolute occupancy and RevPAR levels were the lowest for any month in STR’s U.K. database. At the market-level, London’s occupancy fell 60.0% to 32.7%.


Hilton, Marriott donate free hotel rooms for medical workers responding to coronavirus crisis

Beginning Monday, Hilton and American Express will donate 1 million hotel rooms for medical professionals working on the coronavirus pandemic response.

The rooms will be available to doctors, nurses, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and other workers through the end of May, according to Hilton.

“They truly are heroes,” Hilton President and CEO Christopher Nassetta said in a statement. “We are honored to extend our Hilton hospitality to them during this difficult time.”

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The American College of Emergency Physicians is one of 10 medical groups the companies are working with to make the rooms available for those who need them.

“Knowing that there is a safe, clean and comfortable hotel room waiting for you at the end of a long shift can make all the difference in the world right now,” said William Jaquis, the group’s president.

Marriott is donating $10 million in hotel stays for doctors and nurses. The company’s efforts are focused on the areas of the country most affected by coronavirus, including New York and Newark, New Jersey; New Orleans; Detroit; Los Angeles; Las Vegas and Washington.

Marriott lets its customers donate their reward points to a variety of coronavirus relief efforts, including World Central Kitchen, Unicef, the American Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.


How Can Tourism Boards Attract Airlines?

Both airlines and airports have access to a lot of data. Whether that’s from their own knowledge base or industry tools, they already know on paper whether a route will work or not. But does that tell the whole story?

We discussed route development at the recent AviaDev Europe conference, and in particular how tourism boards can get involved in the process. Although traditionally conversations about new routes will happen between airlines and airports, more and more we’re now seeing tourism boards becoming involved in order to increase the attractiveness of the destination to airlines.

Moreover, a new airline route ticks so many boxes for a tourism board too, why wouldn’t they want to be involved in developing new routes?

The things tourism boards know that airlines want to know

Airlines know a great deal about routes and connectivity. In fact, by the time an airline comes to meet with an airport, they will almost certainly already be fairly confident that, on paper at least, the route could work. However, they are still likely to be touting for business around a number of airports, so what can tourism boards do to sway their opinion?

As Becca Rowland from MIDAS Aviation said at the event,

“Just because you have a great business case doesn’t mean that you’re going to win it. You’re up against everyone else who are also presenting great business cases. Your case has to be more convincing.”

Traffic potential is a big one. It’s easy enough to look at schedules and gaps to be filled, to pore over reams of hard data. But is this really necessary? Becca says not.

“The airlines that airports are talking to also have all of that data; they have bigger computers, bigger teams, they have more analysis and they are analysing every day. What they don’t have is your local knowledge. That’s the bit that makes your business case different.”

Becca gave some examples of the forms of knowledge that tourism boards will often have at the tips of their fingers that airlines will not have and will find hard to get. Things like local festivals, upcoming conferences, new local hotels opening… all these things serve to strengthen the business case and help an airline make the right decision. She said,

“Don’t underestimate the value of your local knowledge.”

Building the business case

Without a doubt, airlines love numbers, but there’s no point in trying to replicate the numbers that they already have at their disposal. Tourism boards and airports should be working towards presenting those numbers that airlines don’t have access to. Managing Director at AviaDev Europe, Juraj Toth, gave some examples:

  • Catchment area: Any airline can draw a circle around an airport and call it a catchment area, but what they don’t know is how easily connected (or not) that airport is. Local knowledge about MRT links, express highways and other infrastructure can suddenly make that catchment area much more appealing.
  • Economic details: A big population doesn’t always mean a great propensity to travel. Knowing more about the buying power of the people in the catchment, things like income data, age and other demographics, can improve the outlook for potential passenger flow.
  • Industry: Tourism boards should present a list of the biggest companies in the local area, showing their need to travel and their connections to other destinations.

Of course, there’s one part that the tourism board can do far better than anyone else in the room, and that’s to sell the destination. As Juraj said at the event,

“People fly to destinations, not airports”

While I know a few people who would happily fly to Singapore just to spend the day at Changi, I guess we’re in the minority here, and most people do indeed fly to destinations. As the face of the destination, tourism boards have a unique opportunity to really sell the attractions and the benefits of their local area to the airline, which will undoubtedly help to convince that airline that selling tickets on their flights is going to be a breeze.

AviaDev Europe will be taking place again in November 2020. In the meantime, Simple Flying is working with AviaDev again towards AviaDev Africa 2020, the premier forum dedicated to growing connectivity to, from and within the African continent.