Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. The travel & tourism sector is in the middle of a catastrophe and we need immediate steps and fast to stop the free fall. While the sector waits for the rescue packages, subsidies, tax breaks and emergency loans, how about racking our brains as a community to conjure up temporary respite options or out of the box solutions to numb the pain from the costs of cancellation and closures?
Even as businesses across the industry suffer, some are stepping up to offer help and even more might be called on to support the national effort. Hotel assets like many other in the sector are often underutilized, have large head counts and huge overheads. Just as clothes, furniture and many other assets are upcycled into new items, how can hospitality assets – both people and places be repurposed in the short term?
Hotels as make shift hospitals
Many hotel chains have gone on record to state they could turn the assets/properties into temporary hospitals if the government needs additional bed space during the coronavirus outbreak. This is not a new concept. During the World War II, militaries around the world needed housing and multiple temporary hospitals were set up for the wounded. Hospitals were set up in hotels, schools, homes, town halls to large and small private houses. Some of the most suitable ones were hotels which were established as hospitals. We now even have cruise ships in UK that have offered them as floating hospitals to help deal with the coronavirus crisis.
Heath care workers have never been in more demand. A vaccine is still some time away and, in the meantime, and retired medics and nursing staff are being asked to go back to work to deal with the current rate of contagion. During the war when the make shift hospitals needed to supplement workers, it was often the local women who volunteered. In this instance, it is the hospitality and tourism talent could be repurposed and retrained to do fulfil these tasks. It is normal for housekeeping staff to move to work in front office or vice versa, a lateral transfer to any other department and there is no reason why armed with competence, compassion and exceptional people skills the hospitality or aviation staff can’t move into a more clinical support role, such as healthcare assistant or support worker.
Care homes for the elderly
Our battle is so unexpected that there are no provisions made for the elderly, and they will likely be needing care and support in such numbers that without it they will suffer the most. Hotels and hospitality facilities can offer the compassionate surroundings much needed for the elderly and it is also proven that the elderly are more likely to recover with fewer complications if they were cared for in places which feel like private places as against hospitals. Hotels or long stay suites would make a great make-shift accommodation for the elderly needing care as hospitals and old age homes can’t cope with the numbers.
Beauty with a purpose
LVMH is producing sanitising hand gel instead of the luxury scents it does normally at three of its perfume and cosmetics sites for distribution to French hospitals fighting the country’s coronavirus outbreak. This is especially relevant in a strained hospital system with a severe shortage of hand gels. Similarly, beer company BrewDog has started making alcohol hand gel at its distillery in Scotland as well as Absolut is turning their hands to making hand gel to help people stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic. The generous acts deserve full points for patriotism but in the minds of the consumer scores just as high on compassion and company values.
The ideas above may raise more questions than answers. Some might be not viable operationally others not feasible financially. The question if governments will finance or support these transformations remains unanswered. We also don’t know if the able and healthy talent in hospitality will risk a cross over to what can only be ascribed as unknown territory and how will that transition and training be funded.
However, what we do know is that the COVID crisis is an urgent, global problem that has put countries, governments and businesses on war footing. What we also know is that we are clearly unprepared for the carnage. Hence, as an industry and as a society we need to move towards a philosophy of support and service where all the good of the head, heart and hands needs to come together and show itself. This also means a need for more collaboration and generosity to open source solutions for our shared problems. This is just a start, keep the list growing and bring forth your innovative ideas and share generously. Never have we needed it more!