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Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Update 25/03/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

 What We Can Learn From The SARS Outbreak

Coronavirus or COVID-19 shares many similarities with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Like coronavirus, SARS also originated and spread across the Asia-Pacific region, causing chaos and turmoil wherever it was encountered. In 2003 it caused a massive disruption to tourism and hospitality in the region, not dissimilar to what we’re seeing today.

The virus was contained after 4 months, but it took 18 months for the region to stabilise, and that includes the hospitality industry. Although it took less than a year for that to bounce back. Even after this, pockets of SARS would pop up again here and there. But when it did it was met with swift and effective resistance.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 was not contained as quickly as SARS and authorities (and governments) all over the world have been criticised for not acting swiftly or decisively enough. This means the timescales above are no longer comparable on a global scale, but they could be when applied to individual regions.

Some locations may be affected differently or more heavily than others. But the first signs of recovery are appearing in China where the virus originated. Countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia were also quick to act and have seen less of an impact than other nations.

What Does This Mean For Businesses?

For businesses such as hoteliers and restaurant owners, how soon life returns to normal will be directly tied to wherever you’re based and how hard your region has been hit. By this time many businesses in the hospitality sector will have implemented their contingency plans, but our advice is to prepare for the future rather than wallowing in the present.

As we’ve said before on this blog, in time, life will return to normal. From a business point of view, it’s just as vital to be ready for that as it is to take precautions now. Use this time to take stock and re-evaluate your budgets, plans and marketing strategies. Train staff while times are quiet and gear your marketing around anticipation of normality.

We know from SARS that these viruses do not last forever, and your customers will be missing their favourite hotels and restaurants. Tap into this and remember scarcity creates value. Keep your social media channels active, showing people what they are missing. When normality returns, your customers will indeed be champing at the bit to spend money. Plant the seeds for this now.

Update 24/03/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

UK Population Told to Stay Home

The UK Government has introduced strict new measures to combat the spread of the virus, which require all people in non-essential roles to stay at home.

The new measures state that people may only leave their home to exercise once a day, to travel to and from work when absolutely necessary, to shop for essential items and to fulfil any medical care needs. The police have been given the power to enforce these rules through the use of fines and dispersal of gatherings.

Businesses selling non-essential goods have been told to shut, and gatherings in public of more than two people who do not live together will be prohibited.

The businesses which are not required to close include:

  • Restaurants, Cafes and Work Canteens for Delivery and Take-Away services
  • Supermarkets and Premises Selling Food (including Market Stalls)
  • Health Shops (such as Pharmacies)
  • Petrol Stations, Garages and Car Rental Businesses
  • Laundrettes and Dry Cleaners
  • Pet Shops
  • Corner Shops, Newsagents and Post Offices
  • Banks

Under current direction, Hotels, Hostels, Campsites and Caravan Parks must also close unless key workers need to stay there, or if people staying there are unable to return to their own primary places of residence.

Restaurant Closures

Another week another round of coronavirus news relating to the hospitality industry. Although this week the news seems a little brighter for our sector. As we’ve also reported in Virtual Solutions Hospitality Highlights, restaurant chains like McDonald’s, Nando’s and others have now completely shut their doors in an effort to help contain coronavirus. McDonald’s had previously stated they would keep their drive-thrus open, but these have also now been closed too.

Social Distancing Measures

The government is now considering measures to enforce social distancing after many UK residents ignored the concerns over the sunny Mother’s Day weekend. Bars and restaurants may now need to close as a legal requirement where previously it had been made by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a suggestion. We will keep you updated as this changes

Support for The Hospitality Industry

Last week we reported that the UK government had committed to providing £330 billion in aid to the Hospitality Industry. But it’s now been reported that they will cover 80% of workers’ salaries, which will be welcome news to any workers who have been sent home due to their places of employment needing to close.

As the government considers stricter social distancing measures it seems likely that more and more restaurants will close, meaning this money will be needed by more people. It could be suggested that the government’s aid (to both businesses and workers) may have influenced decisions to close. Company’s may not have wanted to do this previously, at least not until the government confirmed what the aid will look like.

Aid has also come from other sources too. Hospitality Action for example have confirmed they will be offering a grant of £250 to affected families. So those who qualify for the governments scheme may also be eligible for this. Finally, the Co-op retail group have also started a recruitment drive focused on affected job seekers. So those who may have lost their hospitality jobs will be prioritised in an effort to find them new work. This should help at least 5000 people.

Update 23/03/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Restaurant Closures

Another week another round of coronavirus news relating to the hospitality industry. Although this week the news seems a little brighter for our sector. As we’ve also reported in Virtual Solutions Hospitality Highlights, restaurant chains like McDonald’s, Nando’s and others have now completely shut their doors in an effort to help contain coronavirus. McDonald’s had previously stated they would keep their drive-thrus open, but these have also now been closed too.

Social Distancing Measures

The government is now considering measures to enforce social distancing after many UK residents ignored the concerns over the sunny Mother’s Day weekend. Bars and restaurants may now need to close as a legal requirement where previously it had been made by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as a suggestion. We will keep you updated as this changes

Support for The Hospitality Industry

Last week we reported that the UK government had committed to providing £330 billion in aid to the Hospitality Industry. But it’s now been reported that they will cover 80% of workers’ salaries, which will be welcome news to any workers who have been sent home due to their places of employment needing to close.

As the government considers stricter social distancing measures it seems likely that more and more restaurants will close, meaning this money will be needed by more people. It could be suggested that the government’s aid (to both businesses and workers) may have influenced decisions to close. Company’s may not have wanted to do this previously, at least not until the government confirmed what the aid will look like.

Aid has also come from other sources too. Hospitality Action for example have confirmed they will be offering a grant of £250 to affected families. So those who qualify for the governments scheme may also be eligible for this. Finally, the Co-op retail group have also started a recruitment drive focused on affected job seekers. So those who may have lost their hospitality jobs will be prioritised in an effort to find them new work. This should help at least 5000 people.

Update 19/03/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Since starting this blog over a week ago the UK and many other countries around the world have gone into lockdown, locally, nationally and internationally. The pandemic has already affected over 2000 people directly and countless more indirectly. The blows to the hospitality sector sadly keep coming, but as our recent blog post stated, this blip won’t last forever.

With that in mind here are a few ideas to help protect your business during coronavirus lockdown:

Reassure Any Customers You Meet

Chances are you’ll still need to interact with customers at some point. Take the take to reassure them about the situation in general and your own measures for containing the virus. This is what they’ll want to hear. Also take advantage of your social media channels to do the same thing.

Treat Customers Like Royalty

If a customer has come to visit you during lockdown then that’s a testament to how highly they regard you. Don’t give them reasons to doubt. They’ve taken a risk coming out, reward them for it. Business may be slow at the moment so make sure every customer gets plenty of focus and care.

Upsell!

Not only should you upsell to try and increase your profits during this tough time, but your customers may not be able to go out as often as they’d like during this pandemic. They may want to let loose a little and push the boat out. They may be willing to spend a little more than normal. It may help them feel better and stay positive.

Take Advantage of Takeaway Meals

Are you a restaurant that needs to close its doors? You may not have a choice but that doesn’t mean you need to close your kitchen. Offer a takeaway service while people are on lockdown. Shopping for food is more difficult at the moment, some shelves are bare, and people may not feel safe walking around supermarkets anyway. Provide customers with somewhere they can go to order food as a takeaway, even if it’s not something you usually offer.

Remind Customers about Gift Vouchers

There’s a movement online presently encouraging people to buy vouchers to support their favourite restaurants during this crisis. This will help restaurants earn money while allowing them to use their resources at a later date. You can benefit from this too as well as supporting the industry.

Here are some other helpful tips:

  1. Try to arrange a payment holiday on any loan or tax payments.
  2. Ask your landlord or building manager if there’s any leeway.
  3. Adjust your arrangements with suppliers.
  4. Claim all subsidies or benefits you may be entitled to.
  5. See if staff can take their holiday time now.
  6. Make adjustments to your opening hours.
  7. Reduce the items on your menu.
  8. Postpone any expansive projects you may have had planned until the virus has passed.

Update 18/03/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

UK Hospitality Industry Faces “Thousands of Closures”

The news comes in response to the lack of footfall and bookings throughout the UK hospitality industry, forcing hotels and restaurants to close. Or at least function on minimal capacity. This has forced some businesses to make tough decisions such as send staff home to save money.

In response to the crisis that the virus has wrought on the hospitality sector, the UK government has pledged £330 billion in aid. Although this may not be enough to stem the damage to some smaller companies or compensate workers who are unable to earn a living.

Dubai Government Close all Bars and Restaurants

The Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing in Dubai issued a statement about the restriction saying, “ In line with Dubai Government precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of its residents and visitors; Dubai Tourism notifies all bars, pubs and lounges to close with immediate effect from today (Monday 16 march 2020) till the end of March.”

They have confirmed that restaurants will still be able to provide takeaways for their customers, allowing them to continue to stay open and earn money.

European Union Ban All ‘None Essential Travel’ For 30 Days

In an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus the EU has issued a travel ban for 30 days. Asking travellers to limit their movements to essential travel only. A representative said

“The less travel, the more we can contain the virus. Temporary restriction on non-essential travel to the European Union. These travel restrictions should be in place for an initial period of 30 days which can be prolonged as necessary.”

Are There Lessons Hotels Can Learn from China’s Coronavirus Response?

China and the rest of the Far East were hit first by coronavirus, in fact it stuck quickly and hard before many nations in that region were able to formulate a plan of action. Just like everywhere else in the world, their hospitality industry suffered a slump in bookings alongside widespread cancellations.

But there has been light at the end of the tunnel. While the rest of the world ‘batters down the hatches’ in preparation the pandemic’s impact, China and the Far East are already starting their road to recovery. The hospitality industry is slowly showing signs of life which is encouraging for the rest of the world.

If this region (which was arguably hit the hardest) can begin to recover in such a short space of time after containing the virus, then it means we all can. After all, coronavirus is a blip. There will soon come a day when it’s a distant memory

Update 17/03/2020 – Coronavirus Briefing for the Hospitality Industry

Government warns UK to avoid pubs and public spaces

In a controversial press conference that took place on the 16th March 2020 regarding coronavirus, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised the public to avoid pubs, restaurants and other public places in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

While the government believes this will be an effective way to stop people catching and spreading coronavirus it could be potentially damaging to the hospitality industry. Restaurants, pubs and hotels rely on footfall and reservations to make a profit. If this stops abruptly then it could have major ramifications for those of us who work in the industry.

The government has promised a £12 billion relief package to support the industry. But has advised this money will be provided when the virus “is contained”. While this would indeed ease the pressure on businesses when given, a promise of help at a later date does little to reassure businesses that are struggling today.

Marketing Tips for Hospitality Sector

As self-isolation becomes the norm across the UK, businesses in the hospitality sector will be feeling the pinch more than ever. Here are some tips to help as the footfall starts to decline:

Reassess Your Demographics

When using modern digital marketing methods such as PPC and social media, businesses are able to control who our target audience is. Use this control now. Are you spending budget on appealing to international customers during a travel ban? If so, then why not allocate this budget to domestic customers instead?

Do you attract business customers holding conferences? Remember, many companies are encouraging their staff to work from home. This also may be wasted budget. Could it be put to better use elsewhere? When life returns to normal (and it will) then by all means target each of these types of travellers again, but in the here and now it’s important to get your priorities in order.

Send the Right Messages

Language is always a very important tool in marketing, but during a health crisis it becomes even more important. Last week KFC needed to pause their ‘Finger Lickin’’ campaign amid accusations of insensitivity, despite that slogan being associated with the company for decades.

Audit your own messages. Does something need updating or pausing until after this pandemic has passed? Your choice of words is powerful so focus your messaging on the things that are most important to people at this time. Words like clean, isolated, staycation, remote, flexible cancellation are popular at the moment. Utilise them, such a simple change in strategy may help keep the lights on for a few weeks.

Also be sure to update your channels with the answers to questions different customers may have. Create blog content explaining certain policies and tips in detail. Do customers keep asking you about a particular scenario? Then do what you can to assuage this fear, then anticipate what questions will come next and repeat this process. Look at this very blog as an example.

Be Flexible

Your customer’s concerns are very real. We’re living in an uncertain time and customers are likely to be acting more erratically and whimsically than before. Remember to be patient with them, more so than normal. Try to understand they may be worried about money or the welfare of a loved one. See what you can to make life easier for them, even if it means going without in the short-term. They will remember your kindness.

This situation will blow over but be proactive until it does. Put your customers first when you can but also remember to make sensible decisions when it comes to health. There is a highly contagious virus doing the rounds. Your business may seemingly have come to a temporary standstill, but there’s no reason to let that impact your digital marketing strategy.

Grubhub Suspends Restaurant Fees

In response to the coronavirus outbreak, takeaway platform Grubhub has announced it is temporarily suspending its fee collection in an effort to help restaurants stay profitable. The amount that Grubhub is owed from restaurants stands at over $100 million. While the move is only temporary the company hopes by doing this, they will take some of the financial pressure off restaurants during the global pandemic.

Grubhub also relies on restaurants for their own trade, and damage to the industry is also potentially worrying for them too. If a restaurant was to go out of business this could mean the loss of a client for them. Matt Maloney, Grubhub founder and CEO said, “They (the restaurants) have been amazing long-term partners for us, and we wanted to help them in their time of need. Our business is their business, so this was an easy decision for us to make.”

Saudi Arabia Closes All Restaurants

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has ordered all cafes and restaurants in the country to be closed until further notice. The order is designed to stop the spread of coronavirus by preventing unnecessary public gatherings

Update 16th March 2020 – Getting Ready for Recovery

Those representing the tourism industry in Australia have said their country (and by extension the rest of the world) need to “be ready for recovery”. They have stressed that coronavirus is indeed a blip, and once contained and treated, will be remembered as such.

Tourism Australia host an annual conference called ‘Destination Australia’ where threats and trends to the industry are discussed in detail. Taking place today, the 12th March 2020, coronavirus dominated proceedings.

But the conference ended on a hopeful note with the suggestion that the world’s travel and tourism will “bounce back” once the virus is no-more. It’s expected that the industry “will recover as sharply as it fell” as travellers rearrange their trips and make up for lost time.

At Virtual Solutions we also subscribe to this view. The most difficult part for those of us in the hospitality industry will be to endure the crisis as it happens. But we will come out of it intact. Coronavirus will not hold us back forever.

Further Advice

But while the virus is still prevalent and becomes more so, here are some more tips to help your business get through the pandemic from a financial point of view:

Reorganise Your Expenses

You’ve likely already done your budget for the coming few weeks, but coronavirus may have changed some aspects. Go over your costs again to see what savings can be made. It may surprise you. On the other hand, coronavirus may totally pass you by, but either way be prepared.

Review Your Staffing Levels

Labour is always a business’s biggest expense and it’s likely to be the thing that’s affected the most by coronavirus. This is something all hotels need to be prepared for. Any rotas that were done before this crisis need to be examined. Where can savings be made and what’s the safest way to move forward?

Be Ready for Negative Flow

Hopefully coronavirus won’t impact you, but if it does be prepared to deal with the effects of negative flow. Has your hotel ever faced this before? What would you do if your revenue halved? Consider each eventuality, it could happen, and even if it’s temporary it will still cause concern. What’s your crisis plan?

Reassess Your Vendors

Now may be the perfect time to reassess your arrangements with third party suppliers. Do you still need them all? What may be wasted or something you can put on hiatus? At the very least it may be time to renegotiate your contracts. They may be feeling the squeeze too, so getting a favourable deal may be within reach.

Upcoming Training

A health crisis can put a hotel’s training needs in perspective. It may be worth cancelling anything that doesn’t either deliver a prioritised ROI or benefit the present situation. Once this crisis is over then normal service can resume.

Update 10/03/2020 – Government Support for the Hospitality Industry

Businesses in the hospitality sector have called on the UK government to lend them further support during the coronavirus crisis following a slump in sales. Cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester have all reported a dip in “casual custom” since the virus became international news and many businesses believe there is more the government can do to support them during this challenging period.

As the virus spreads, and the misinformation regarding it does too, businesses that work in the hospitality industry are likely to continue to feel the pinch for some time to come. This could be disastrous to many, especially to those who may have been relying on this quarter to stay profitable, and or even in business at all.

It’s believed that assistance could come in the form of a VAT or general tax break. Or landlords could be compensated to allow businesses a break from their ground and site rent.

However, the government have confirmed they have anticipated such a request but will not be considering how they can support businesses until the UK has moved out of the “containment phase”. This means the priority is to stop the spread of coronavirus first, then the damage can be assessed and resolved accordingly.

While the government’s response is unlikely to reassure those who are opening empty tills or suffering from a lack of bookings, it is at least something. While it may not help in the short-term, any bailouts or financial support to businesses later may be the difference between remaining solvent or not. Let’s just hope it’s enough.

Update 09/03/2020 – Panic and Misinformation

As discussed earlier in this blog, we will be keeping up to date with and changes and updates regarding coronavirus as this situation unfolds. We will be adding to this blog with breaking news, changes and anything else that we feel is relevant. As reported by various outlets all over the world, there has been a noticeable slump in restaurant bookings. Sadly, it appears that things may be about to get worse before they get better, as panic, and in some cases hysteria sets in.

Although we at Virtual Solutions base our opinions on the advice of experts and therefore, we believe that this virus, and the impact from it, are temporary problems. The hospitality industry will recover and 2020 will not be defined by the coronavirus. After all, despite being highly contagious, the virus has so far only been shown to be potentially fatal to those of advanced age and those who suffer with pre-existing health conditions. Namely conditions that effect the respiratory system. Meaning to many of us, it would simply result in a nasty chest infection and flu at the worst. For the healthiest amongst us, it may simply be a mild inconvenience.

We are convinced that this issue is indeed not as dire as some areas of the media would have us believe. In the UK this week there has been a reported shortage of toilet paper and cleansing hand gel, despite the symptoms of coronavirus not actually resulting in anything that would call for an abundance of loo roll! It’s a virus that effects our chests and breathing, not our digestive tract or stomach. It’s also been confirmed that frequent use of warm water and soap is far more effective than hand gel. Yet the misinformation has continued to be spread faster than the virus itself.

The beer brand Corona have confirmed their sales have slumped completely, giving them the worst quarter in over a decade, as people associate the beer with the virus. Despite the beer being nothing to do with coronavirus, the fact that the beer is called ‘Corona’ has seemingly been enough to deter people from buying it. Unfortunately, this is the level of misinformation those who work in the hospitality industry will need to put up with until this crisis passes. Many ordinary people get their information from sensationalised tabloid newspapers or word of mouth. Historically, neither have a reliable source of information for health concerns.

We may be best referring those we interact with to more credible sources, in an effort to counter the misinformation, and this includes our customers. It’s frustrating, and it may not help at all, but as hospitality business owners it may be all we can do. And any control or influence we have, should be used to spread the facts about coronavirus, rather than continue to circulate the myths.

What Else can Hotels Do?

While doing our best to curtail the false information and panic surrounding coronavirus is one thing, we may only be able to influence those who already follow our social media channels or visit our establishments regularly. We can only do so much to fight back against it though. But we can control how WE respond as business owners.

Here are Virtual Solutions tips on what else hotel owners can do while this situation is ongoing:

Don’t Buy into the Hysteria

Stick to the facts, don’t panic buy certain items, engage in misinformation (either verbally or from a PR standpoint). But do stay aware of the news and latest updates.

Don’t Do Anything to Suggest there’s a Problem with your Hotel

For example, don’t offer broad discounts in an effort to attract guests. Keep it ‘business as usual’ for the most part. Coronavirus may be something that comes and goes without any impact on you or anyone you know. If you start slashing your prices, people will ask why. It’s more likely to deter potential customers during a time of panic than attract them.

Continue Marketing (Do Not Cut Your Budget)

Again, keep it business as usual. If you decide to cut down on your marketing during this period because “people aren’t going to book during this crisis” then it may well become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your competitors will reap the rewards, especially those who do continue to market themselves in the face of coronavirus. Remain competitive and don’t become complacent.

Maintain Standards and Service

If you do decide to make tactical savings, only do so when your bookings take a noticeable slump. Remember, they may not! But if they do, only make savings to areas that won’t impact standards and service levels. We don’t want customers to notice. Maintain the same level of quality you would at any other time.

Practice Good Hygiene

As we said earlier in the blog, this is now more important then ever. Hotel owners and managers should be more alert and hygiene focused than ever before. Your customers will also be in a heightened state regarding health and safety too. Give them reasons to relax at your hotel instead of reasons to panic.

As a company that operates within the Hospitality and Restaurant Industries, and one which has a considerable following, Virtual Solutions as a company feel it’s important for us to address the current global situation that is coronavirus.

The purpose of this post (and any subsequent updates we upload) is to inform those in the industry as to the facts about the virus. While nobody at Virtual Solutions claims to have any medical experience or qualifications in this arena, we will be drawing from official sources. Anything we post here must and will be a demonstrable fact, sourced from legitimate and trustworthy channels.

As this virus is now dominating the media, we feel it’s now important to acknowledge it in a sensible and cautious way. Then as a community we can track the scope and impact of coronavirus and share up-to-date information on how best to avoid it, treat it and halt any further spread.

We want to share this information from the perspective of a hotel (what does this mean for you) and aim to provide hoteliers with the best advice we can. As well as any changes or developments as this global situation unfolds. We fully expect coronavirus to have an impact on our industry, as it will on so many others, but we hope to seek out and disseminate information that lessens this impact.

We will also update this article and bank of data as more relevant details and updates emerge

What is Coronavirus?

 COVID-19 is an illness that can present like flu but also affects the lungs and airways. The illness originated in China but has spread to other countries since it’s discovery. While the illness should not be taken lightly by anyone due to it being potentially fatal, the majority of fatalities have consisted of those who are elderly or have had pre-existing medical conditions. Especially conditions that affect the respiratory system. That being said the virus is highly contagious, but treatable.

How to Recognise Coronavirus

The symptoms of coronavirus include:

  • Persistent cough
  • High temperature (running a fever)
  • Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)
  • General flu-like symptoms

Showing any of these symptoms do not necessarily mean an individual (i.e. guest or member of staff) has the coronavirus. The symptoms are similar to other illnesses that share traits with flu or even the common cold. But should all symptoms be shown together then medical advice should be sought.

The above information has been sourced from the NHS website and can be viewed here.

Crisis Management – For Hotels

The hospitality industry has already felt the ramifications of coronavirus, bookings and travel in general have stuttered since the virus became international news. Supply chains have also been disrupted.

Naturally the health of your guests and staff is paramount, but legal concerns also need consideration. Remember; your business could be liable if a guest contracts coronavirus on your premises, or if you were responsible in some way.

While health and safety should always be something a hotel treats as a priority, during times like this additional vigilance is needed. Not doing so could have dire consequences for that organisation, should a guest decide to take legal action.

In regard to crisis management please find our advice below:

Prioritise safety under any circumstances – This is what needs to come first, over everything else. For many hotels coronavirus won’t be a concern, it’s something you simply need to be aware of. Hopefully it will pass us by as the contagion winds down. But if not then safety needs to become paramount over profit. If this isn’t the case, then short-term damage could become long-term damage. It’s not worth the risk.

 Adapt and repurpose – If you are affected by the virus in any way and have put safety first, you may be feeling helpless and concerned about your business during this crisis. Even if the worst happens i.e. you’ve had to close for a period of time, or if bookings slump as a result of the virus, there’s always something productive you can do. Take the opportunity to do a deep clean or come up with some fresh marketing strategies. Your hotel will outlast the coronavirus.

Keep communications open and honest – If the virus impacts your hotel in any way make sure to communicate openly and honestly with your guests. Don’t try to sweep issues under the carpet. This is especially true during times like this. If your hotel is affected by the virus, and there is a present danger to your guests, then don’t try to contain it in secrecy. Be transparent and help your guests steer clear of the virus. Do this immediately to reduce the risk of contagion. Not doing so could lead to disaster.

How to Keep Customers Informed and Healthy

 Of course, what to do with customers depends on where your hotel is and the proximity to affected areas. If coronavirus breaks out in your hotel then the first thing you need to do is seek advice from medical services.

They may advise you to send guests home or affected guests and non-affected guests may need to commit to self-isolation for their protection and the protection of others. Read more about this here.

What to Do with Staff

You cannot completely control what staff do on your premises, but you always have a degree of influence. Your staff are just as keen to avoid the risks of coronavirus as you are and will naturally heed any advice that keeps them safer at work.

Take Precautions

Employees arriving home from working in potentially infected area should visit the doctor before they return to work. This of course is to make sure they are free of the virus and will not bring it into your hotel.

Be Proactive

 Hopefully this will not be necessary, but create a crisis plan in case your business is affected. Map out the possible scenarios and how you can resolve each. Look at some of the stories in the news, how would you respond if that was your hotel? How could you lessen the blow? Act now.

Stress Regular Hygiene

This may sound obvious, but during this time hoteliers need to make hygiene an obsession. Coronavirus is incredibly contagious, but good hygiene can and does prevent it spreading. This virus doesn’t need to be an inevitability, it can be kept from the door by taking the most basic of precautions.

Absence

If an employee contacts coronavirus then they will need to remain at home until they are fully recovered. While staff being out of action is frustrating for any business, it beats having the virus in and around the hotel. Usual sick pay guidelines should take effect here, but of course this varies depending on the individual employees’ contract.

Below are some guidelines to help hotel owners understand more about which staff can work during this time:

Hotel staff cannot work in hotels if they:

  • Have left (excluding airport transfers) mainland China, Iran, northern Italy or the Republic of Korea in the last 14 days (they must self-isolate for 14 days from their departure). For more information, please see information on self-isolation
  • Have been in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus in the last 14 days (they must isolate themselves for 14 days after the date of last contact with the confirmed case).

If you develop symptoms within 14 days of being anywhere in a country or area of concern, or within 14 days of contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, you should seek medical advice immediately

Bookings

Unfortunately, coronavirus is expected to cause significant disruption to the hospitality industry. Events, reservations and plans will be changed if not outright cancelled. People will be less willing to travel, especially to locations where the virus has been reported. While this is frustrating for many hotels and other businesses it may be a blessing in disguise. These factors may help get a handle on the virus and stop it spreading. The sooner it is contained and treated (in all the places it’s gained a foothold) then the sooner normal business can resume.

Some encouraging news comes from Tim Hentschel, who is the CEO of Hotel Planner, who has described coronavirus as simply a “blip” and he is encouraging investors to take advantage of the resulting consolidation in the travel industry. Once the virus has been contained and treated the industry may bounce back as a result of new and opportunistic investment.

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