Finding the best way to reopen a hotel and resort, reorganize services and effectively deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is currently a major concern for stakeholders, including decision-makers, all over the world. It is still difficult to evaluate how travelling is affected, which activities can restart after the lockdowns and what the terms and conditions of the 'next day' will be.

As policies and guidelines are rapidly changing, causing confusion and uncertainty in several industries, hospitality professionals must assess several factors to be able to navigate tourism markets.        

Any post-COVID strategy must be based on the careful consideration of opportunities and risks. The public health risk is definitely one of latter, but it is, of course, not the only issue potentially influencing people's lives: recession, unemployment, psychological disorders, social fear, isolation and market instability are all serious risks to tackle.

Needless to say, dramatic changes in the overall market environment enormously affect the hospitality sector. The implementation of new hygienic protocols, health screening procedures and emergency plans for suspected Covid-19 cases as well as the strict use of personal protective equipment by the staff and social distancing precautions all create a superficial image of a hotel operating under special conditions in an impaired environment.

The only way to adjust to the current needs of customers is to focus on guest safety, train industry professionals, and introduce proper hygienic measures and protective practices. These steps may strengthen trust, a vital prerequisite for the sector's viability. Operators must also keep in mind that it is essential to protect the authenticity of the ‘hotel experience’ amidst the crisis.  

Humans are born to roam and they remain travellers by nature despite the current overthrow due to the Covid-19 crisis. This is why hotels and resorts must remain places for relaxation, recreation and socializing. They should never be transformed into hospitals, but do need to secure appropriate medical services that are able to respond to particular emergency situations.

On a destination or regional level, emergency plans should ensure the availability of reference centers for the treatment of sick people, safe transfer options to health care providers, tracing procedures for identified Covid-19 cases, and allowing timely quarantine and repatriation proceedings. The perceived reliability of a destination is now a matter of how its healthcare services are organized and how they are connected to local tourism services.

Destinations obviously rely on governments and national authorities to take action against Covid-19.  Transferring liability from the state or the individual to hoteliers in a pandemic crisis is absurd and could bring side effects that would enormously harm the sustainability of the hospitality sector. This could be devastating for countries with tourism playing a major role in their economy.  

Destination brands must be now focused on combining responsible tourism policies with health care coverage. 'Healthy at destination' is the message operators should send to guests, no matter if they are members of sensitive customer groups that need special service or guests simply requiring more attention and detailed information on how they are protected during their stays.

About the author:  Angela Katsapi, Director-Certified Assessor 

Angela Katsapi is an international assessor in healthcare and medical tourism accreditation and serves as business development manager at Temos International.

  

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