Caribbean hotels may have to scrap conveniences, such as buffets and drinks stations, and reduce the sitting capacity of à la carte restaurants in order to attract post-COVID-19 guests, suggest two hospitality experts. Instead, they will have to find creative ways to attend to customers, like serving dinner in secluded areas on the beach, say Emile Gourieux and Rico Louw, senior managers at STR, a Tennessee-based firm that tracks supply and demand data for multiple market sectors, including the global hotel industry.
“We may never return to travel as normal, as we understood it before. Things like buffet breakfast may never be seen again. So, there's a lot of things that we need to rethink,” says Gourieux, STR’s hotel sector business development executive in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. “At least at the very beginning of recovery when people are coming back, people are going to be very leery about close contact. So, the hotels that succeed and thrive are going to be the ones that find a way to address that anxiety.”
Louw, the senior account manager and client liaison at STR, adds that buffets and minibars “may be totally out of the question” moving forward.
Both emphasize the enormity of the challenge ahead for the region’s hospitality sector, which recorded occupancy of under 6 percent during the week of April 12 and a fall in revenue of over 80 percent. They say it’s difficult to predict when arrivals will return to pre-pandemic levels, noting that based on several factors, including airlift, it could be up to three years before parity is achieved.
Gourieux and Louw are guests on the latest episode of a podcast series produced by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), entitled, COVID-19: The Unwanted Visitor, where they addressed what the Caribbean hospitality sector could look like in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis, which has brought tourism to a virtual standstill. The podcast is available on several platforms, including Anchor and Spotify, as well on the CTO’s Facebook page.
To listen, visit https://anchor.fm/onecaribbean.