A Return to Normalcy for the Hospitality Industry
It’s been over one full year since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a global pandemic. Since then, we’ve seen lightning-fast development of multiple vaccines that are currently making their way into arms around the globe, promising an end to our collective nightmare. For the Hospitality industry, decimated by the pandemic, there are welcomed signs of hope for the return of business. Hotels and event venues around the world are reporting a sharp uptick in inquiries, RFPs, and actual bookings. Airlines are processing an influx of new reservations and calling back flight crews from furlough to handle the anticipated summer travelers.
Yet, even as we stand on the cusp of a return to normalcy, there are still significant issues to address regarding just how and when the traveling public can move forward in ways that are safe, fair, and inclusive.
But like everything COVID related, the return to normalcy will be complicated.
The Equity Problem: Vaccine Access
Due to a variety of factors, COVID has negatively impacted some communities more than others. Numbers published by the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies show that underserved populations and poorer communities have suffered disproportionately worse outcomes from COVID than more prosperous demographics. Now, these same people are finding extra barriers when it comes to vaccine access.
The idea of Vaccine Passports, or other proof of vaccination, has been bandied about for months as a possible solution towards accelerating the return to open travel; and the idea is not unprecedented. In the U.S., students are required to show proof of vaccination before enrolling in school and travelers to certain geographic regions of the world are required to receive vaccinations prior to traveling.
In practice, early access to vaccination confers a tremendous advantage in business. Compare the prospects of two salespeople; one who has received a COVID-19 vaccination and the other has not. Salesperson A can confidently meet with clients and prospects and participate in business and social activities that will boost their sales efforts while Salesperson B is still “Zooming” their way through virtual sales call, hoping to establish a real connection.
The process of vaccinating an entire population will take time, of course. However, we must concurrently work to address the problem of equitable vaccine distribution which is crucial to a shared, and fair, recovery.
Which brings us to, ‘The Ethics Problem.”
The Ethics Problem: Privacy Schmivacy
For some, it isn’t about a shot in the arm; it’s a call to arms. Even before COVID, vaccines were under attack from a small, but pernicious corps of anti-vaxxers, fueled by misinformation on social media. Their efforts, coupled with the rabid, divisive politicization of the COVID crisis, has made a difficult situation exponentially worse.
Ultimately, a return to business as usual will require a level of personal inquiry and transparency that stretches the bounds of privacy. Your vaccination status might cause some to draw potentially prejudicial inferences with regards to your age, medical conditions, political affiliation and more. Therefore, when and with whom this information is shared is far important than it may seem at first glance.
Counterbalancing the individual’s right to privacy is the collective right to informed consent. If, for example, your company is holding a sales conference, can you assume that appropriate due diligence has been done to ensure your safety? How much are you willing to personally disclose to your employer? What assumptions can you make about the safety of interacting with your fellow attendees and event staff?
Prior to the resumption of unrestricted business travel and in-person meetings, leadership in corporations, associations and other groups must do everything within their power to ensure attendees have access to honest and transparent risk assessment in ways that safeguard the privacy of all involved.
Which brings us to …” The Etiquette Problem.”
The Etiquette Problem: “Pardon me, but ???”
For a business sector that literally conveys, “Welcome!” in their very name, the Hospitality industry has an enormous task ahead in order to restore the public’s trust in our ability to safely meet face-to-face. Hotels and public venues have done extensive work to create and communicate COVID mitigation procedures that instill confidence in the ability to safely gather there. Meetings & Events professionals have studied local regulations and best practices to make sure they are implementing all necessary precautions. But, ultimately, it’s not just a matter of playing defense. Hotels need to take more proactive steps to ensure the safety of guests and attendees.
Prior to boarding a plane, we willingly submit to a slew of intrusive questions and a partial strip search for the sake of secure travel. Large venues often require metal detectors and bag searches prior to admittance to major events. But for hotels, the depth of inquiry often goes no further than an awkward, “one bed or two?” Hotels have the opportunity to “play offense” by implementing procedures such as asking vaccination status at Check In, assertively enforcing social distancing rules, and adding COVID compliance requirements to their group contracts.
Vindow’s Commitment to Safe Recovery
At Vindow, we believe that data informs better decisions. That’s why our cloud-based sourcing software uses Artificial Intelligence to analyze millions of data points from online reviews, hotel websites and more, so that procurement professionals can make the most informed choice when selecting a venue for their groups. Our proprietary Vindow Score distills data along multiple criteria into a single numerical score that is both meaningful and relevant. We also support drill down functionality so that you can see the actual comments and data that the Vindow score is based upon.
The path forward is riddled with metaphorical landmines, and even the most intrepid travel and hospitality professional will continue to face daunting and evolving challenges in the days ahead. We here at Vindow stand with our colleagues in our commitment to a quick, safe, equitable return to business travel, meetings and events.