Global View: Hospitality, Travel Cautiously Optimistic for 2021

The New Year has seemingly brought a new wave of optimism for the hospitality and travel industries.

In the United States, the optimism seems to be especially renewed as it swore in Joseph R. Biden Jr. as its 46 president on Wednesday, along with Kamala Harris as vice president. Recently, as reported by Luxury Travel Advisor, Biden proposed a $1.9 trillion relief package targeted at combating the COVID-19 virus directly and economic relief in the form of new grant programs, enhanced unemployment benefits and direct checks to Americans. “We welcome and wholeheartedly support the provisions of [President Biden]’s COVID-19 relief proposal that will help spur the travel industry’s recovery and provide support to ASTA members, employees and independent contractors," said Eben Peck, EVP, advocacy for the American Society of Travel Advisors.

It was a sentiment echoed by U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow, who said in a separate statement: “Accelerating the distribution of vaccines is the key to getting travel back to normal, and we applaud [President Biden]’s emphasis on a robust federal leadership role to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible. Further, we are encouraged by the measures to provide additional grants and loans to small businesses in the hardest-hit industries, which include travel.”

Hotels Helping Hospitals

To help bolster the vaccination distribution, the American Hotel & Lodging Association offered its 50,000 hotels across all states to serve as vaccine administration sites, Travel Agent reports.

Similarly, as hospitals and care facilities continue to struggle with capacity due to the current wave of COVID-19 in the U.K., a group of hoteliers are working with the government and National Health Service (NHS) trusts to accommodate patients in safely adapted hotels. Jonathan Maxwell, founder of the Process C-19 initiative told Hospitality Insights that Process C-19 “was founded by leaders from hospitality, medicine and infrastructure to work with hotels to help increase capacity in the NHS. We believe that hotels can act as a crucial pressure value for hospitals, serving to help with discharge, rehabilitation and even outpatients.”

What the Experts Expect for 2021

Elsewhere, Hotel Management kicked off the year by attending a webinar of industry insiders. HVS and The Lodging Conference took the popular “View from the Top" panel online, focusing on hospitality insights and strategies for 2021. Leaders from a range of hospitality companies gathered to look back over lessons learned from 2020 and to discuss how they can hang on until travel makes a full comeback. While the mood was largely optimistic, there was still some caution from the leaders, who largely agreed that 2021 would likely be a “transition year” for the hospitality industry.

Hotel Management also examined Integra Realty Resources’ "Viewpoint 2021" publication, which suggests market watchers are optimistic about a midyear economic turnaround that will have a positive impact across the commercial real estate market—including hospitality. The report suggested a swift return to 2019’s economy would be unlikely, with real gross domestic product still $670 billion off the pre-COVID peak. A return to the previous real GDP peak is projected for the first quarter of 2022 at the earliest or second quarter 2023 at the latest. Full jobs recovery, meanwhile, probably will not happen until September 2024, at best, and October 2026, at worst.

How F&B Survived 2020

As for bars and restaurants, 2020 was one of the worst years ever. Texas alone has lost over 10,000 venues since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and operators are struggling to navigate the ever-changing regulations. Bar & Restaurant spoke to three successful Austinites as part of its Evolve virtual series about how they’ve managed to survive the last year, and keep their doors open amidst all the uncertainty. Among those were: staying involved with the community; embracing social media as a marketing tool; and selling branded merchandise.

Quote of the Week

Merilee Karr, chair of the U.K. Short Term Accommodation Association and CEO of UnderTheDoormat, wrote for Hospitality Insights: "Potentially one of the most lasting impacts COVID will have on our industry is that it has jolted a change in attitudes from consumers about their accommodation requirements. There has been a noticeable change in perceptions. ‘Homes’ are now seen as a much safer option than other types of accommodation. And this is going to have significant implications for investors in the hospitality sector and further afield."