Corona virus (Covid 19) is a respiratory infectious disease that originated from Wuhan in China. It can be spread from human to human through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose or mouth when an infected person sneezes or coughs.

From just a few hundreds of cases in Wuhan, the virus has hit 92% of the countries of the globe within a period of two months with an unbelievable fatality rate. This has forced the WHO to call Covid 19 a pandemic.

Swift reactions to curtail the spread has led to both local and international travel restrictions and lockdowns around the world there by dealing a huge blow on the economies of the world.

The hospitality industry remains one of the worse hit by this pandemic. Hotels, restaurants, clubs, tourism, aviation, theme parks, cinemas, outdoor catering are all affected by the corona virus outbreak. The pandemic has hurt the hospitality business more than the Ebola and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreaks put together. Death toll has hit over 192,000 and still counting. Over 2.5 million cases recorded worldwide and already. The negative impact of the pandemic in the hospitality industry can be valued at over $800 billion as at end of April 2020.

Most of hotel brands around the globe have closed for business. Big hospitality brands like Marriot International which is the biggest and largest hotel chain in the world with over 170,000 employees has furloughed its workforce to be able to cope financially and avoid unnecessary overhead costs coupled with low or no patronage in most cases.

This pandemic may have altered our social lives forever. Handshakes and close face to face communication may be discontinued in future in order to curb the spread or reemergence of the virus which WHO says may be with us for a long time until a vaccine is found.

However, hotels should not see this period as a total loss by waiting for the lockdown or travel bans to get lifted. This period can be maximized to prepare for a revamped business after Covid 19.

Hoteliers can take advantage of the following tips during this lockdown:

Thorough maintenance, repairs and renovation work

Hotel owners can use the period of low or no occupancy to renovate and carry out essential maintenance works in the hotel. The need of having to worry about construction work going on while inconveniencing guests is taken care of.Faulty equipment and facilities can be conveniently repaired or replaced without having to be mindful of constituting nuisance to the guests in‐house.

The kitchen can be well cleaned and the equipment serviced/replaced.

Housekeeping can do thorough deep cleaning of the rooms and public areas with ease.

Security systems upgraded and updated.

Paint job, plumbing, leakages and so many other pending maintenance work can be fixed and

test‐ran before normalcy returns.

Home delivery

A hotel with a good restaurant can choose to do home delivery services. Most homes will have the urge to eat something they cannot prepare at home during this lockdown. Hotels with great kitchen facility and capacity can cash in on this opportunity to keep the hotel functional beforenormalcy is restored. Revenue from F&B cannot be overlooked in this period.With so many hotels downsizing and furloughing, the kitchen staff will be happy to be receiving salaries and benefits rather than stay at home waiting endlessly with no cheque.

Strategize

Hoteliers can draw up plans on how to strategize and restructure for the remaining months of 2020 and ahead. Usually the activities of daily operations in hospitality barely gives room for proper and in‐depth planning. This period can be used to restructure and access business progress so far, make better plans to maximize profit and how to be prepared for such an unforeseen lockdown in future.

Improved healthy practices

Plan to properly fund HSE departments in hotels and restaurants for the continuous provision of hand sanitizers and disinfectants for top hygiene at the workplace. This should be included in the hotel budget continuously to further protect the health of both workers and guests.

RECOVERY AFTER COVID-19

Hoteliers do not need to wait for the end of the pandemic to start planning a recovery. The recovery process starts NOW! According to industry reports, it may take up to 8 months at the most for the hospitality industry to revamp after the pandemic is declared under control by the World Health Organization. As countries around the world are beginning to relax the restrictions internally, every hospitality outfits should be gearing up for a start and paying more attention to safe healthy practices.

Here are some tips on how to get back on track better after the lockdown:

1. Target customers

Have a clear cut customer base target. Most corporate bodies may be slow to bounce back to business considering the health of their workers and observing the turn of events. The young demography may be the most idea after the lockdown. They will be eager to explore their remote environment to see and experience something different after a long stay indoors. Hoteliers can maximize this opportunity by including attractive incentives that tend to catch the millennials’ attention.

2. Affordable pricing system

A recovery process requires affordability in the pricing system. It will be counter‐productive to increase prices in room rates after the lockdown/pandemic to make up for lost revenue. Room rates should be made affordable enough to encourage patronage for the first few periods to allow the economy recover gradually and customer spending power confidence rekindled.

3. Avoid drop in quality of service It will be unprofessional to lower the quality of service in an attempt to save cost. Maintain or better yet improve on what your loyal customers have known you for. Customers will look out for quality of service even more after the lockdown when they spend their hard earned limited money. When they do not get good value for money, they look for alternatives. This will be bad for business as the scramble for the few guests available will be intense and demanding.

4. Incentives

Complimentary early check in and late checkout privileges can help boost occupancy in the recovery period. Guests will appreciate this gesture and will likely most return and even do a little marketing for your hotel.

5. Recommended healthy practices

  • Designated staff to check temperature at the entrance of the hotel.
  • Provide hand sanitizers at different locations in the hotel starting from the main entrance, lobby, elevator landing areas, restrooms etc.
  • Avoid handshakes politely.
  • Avoid speaking to customers and colleagues at a close range.
  • Avoid unnecessarily gathering of staffs for meetings.
  • Explore other means of communicating like Whatsapp group chat, video conference calls, text messaging, emails etc.
  • Wash hands with water and soap at every exchange of items or money with customers or colleagues. Hand sanitizers with alcohol can also suffice.
  • For cleaners, nose masks and hand gloves are essential. Periodic shower during work hours must be adhered to.

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Written by

Ugo Ofordu

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