Global View: Industry Relief Much-Needed, Hotel Innovations and Increasing Travel Sentiment

Washington DC National Capitol Building
Photo by Getty/lucky-photographer

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives this week unveiled a revised $2.2 trillion HEROES Act. Like the CARES Act, it would offer a $1,200 stimulus check, $600 extra in unemployment, support for small businesses, funding for airline industry workers and more.

Notably, the HEROES Act also includes the Restaurant Act, a $120 billion relief program for independent restaurants, food services and bars. The original House-proposed stimulus was over $3 trillion compared to the Senate’s $1 trillion Heals Act, resulting in a stalemate for months. Now, however, Bar & Restaurant director of conference content and industry relations Jeremiah Batucan reports that, with the latest reduction in total cost, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is confident the bill may be able to move forward. Support would include covering payroll, rent, utilities, supplies, and personal protection equipment (PPE).

Across the pond, the British Beer & Pub Association, UKHospitality and the British Institute of Innkeeping have reported that almost a quarter (23 percent) of their members think their businesses will fail by the end of the year without further government support.

Kate Nicholls, CEO, UKHospitality, told Hospitality Insights’ editor-in-chief Katherine Doggrell: “We need comprehensive financial support so that those businesses that survive the winter can begin to rebuild next year, starting with a package of measures to support short time working. The VAT cut for hospitality must be extended through 2021, as must the business rates holiday. We also need the government to step in now and help to deal with the rent debt that has built up over months of enforced lockdown.”

As for the U.S. hotel industry, the American Hotel & Lodging Association and several travel-related organizations renewed calls for further congressional support to the sector, bringing in both state tourism representatives and business owners from each state to put a human face on the crisis. During a press briefing, AHLA president and CEO Chip Rogers acknowledged the PPP has been “very valuable to our industry and many small businesses around the country,” but emphasized that the measures were only meant to last for 10 weeks.

U.S. Yet to Turn a Positive Month

Jena Fox, associate editor, Hotel Management looked at the latest data from HotStats, which found the U.S. is now the only region that has yet to turn a positive month of profit since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Meanwhile, China is showing a true “V”-shaped recovery in profit, having matched December 2019 GOPPAR in August. “It's encouraging to see most regions getting back to positive profitability—albeit small compared to pre-COVID levels,” said David Eisen, HotStats’ director of hotel intelligence and customer solutions and the author of the report. “Obviously, this pandemic has been a global travesty, but if there is one silver lining for the hotel industry, it's that it could result in hoteliers operating more efficient hotels by paying more attention to expenses than they may have otherwise done when times were good.”

COVID Forcing Hotel Innovation

Hotel Management also hosted the second day of the second part of its Hotel Optimization online conference. The “Being Direct About Distribution” panel examined the ever-evolving relationship between hotels and online travel agencies. During the panel, Biran Patel, chairman of co-sponsor AAHOA, noted a “rate race” among hotels as they compete for bookings, and said that markets now matter more than a hotel’s flag when it comes to rates. London-based direct booking platform Triptease chief tease Charlie Osmond noted a significant uptick in mobile bookings. “People are being more last-minute,” he said, “so perhaps [they’re] more prepared to book on mobile. But I also think it's just one of those shifts we've seen in so many parts of our lives. COVID has forced us to jump forward three or four years in innovation and the way we behave as individuals.” And Frank Reeves, CEO of hotel booking engine provider Avvio, said hotel websites can provide greater peace of mind than OTAs can offer, especially as guests look for details on how their experience will be as safe as possible.

Consumers Are Ready to Travel

If the pandemic suddenly ended tomorrow, nearly half of consumers (46 percent) said their first large, discretionary purchase would be a trip. The American Society of Travel Advisor’s “2020 Back to Normal Barometer,” as reported by Travel Agent associate editor Matt Turner, also indicates that not only are travelers thinking about travel, they’re actively traveling: Half of the respondents (50 percent) have traveled in the past 12 months.

Along the same lines, MMGY Global has found that perceptions of safety for domestic travel, transportation, lodging and even business travel are at their highest since the start of the pandemic. International travel sentiment, the "Travel Intentions Pulse Survey" found, still remains low—as does cruise travel. In related cruise news, the White House blocked an extension of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's No Sail Order” through February; instead, it will be extended from September 30 to October 31. This means cruise lines could resume sailing in the United States as soon as November 1.

Quote of the Week

Several luxury hotel properties in the California Bay Area, including Meadowood Napa Valley and Calistoga Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection, have been badly damaged by the Glass Fire. The Michelin-starred Restaurant at Meadowood was entirely lost during the fire. 

Christopher Kostow, the executive chef of The Restaurant at Meadowood, said: “We are all torn apart. A Eulogy is deserved, and will be given in due time... for now, I want to thank all of the TRAMily that have ever graced this magical space—and all of the guests over the years who have enjoyed the efforts of these multitudes. What an honor it has been. Martina and I wish our broader, Napa community safety and courage during this devastating time."