As Congress and the White House work on passing a massive stimulus bill that includes provisions that would help the hotel industry, hoteliers must remember this money comes from taxpayers, and they should do what they can to stay in the public’s good graces.
Things are incredibly difficult right now. Hoteliers across the industry thought they had been dealing with uncertainty before, but the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shows us an entirely new level of uncertainty. The situation changes by the day, and it’s almost always a bit worse than the day before.
That’s not to say there aren’t signs of hope. Congress and the White House have been working together, negotiating a $2 trillion stimulus plan that should provide some relief to individual Americans and businesses. The Senate just voted in approval of the bill. Though the details of the stimulus bill are just coming out, we still don’t know what the final version of the bill will look like when it’s signed into law.
The hotel industry will certainly benefit in some form or another from the stimulus bill. Before any company accepts any form of taxpayer-funded government aid, please keep in mind public sentiment toward certain companies and industries.
Many people are still bitter about the bailouts from the last recession. While I think most people understand and have accepted the bailout of the automotive industry because they could see the direct connection to support for the employees building cars and trucks, acceptance was much harder to come by for banks, who many see as responsible for that recession. While I don’t think anyone will blame hotels for what’s going on now, I bring it up just to remind everyone how long this mindset has lasted.
If you’ve looked online, there are a number of people upset with the approach large companies have taken regarding their demand for government assistance after foreseeing revenue dropping in the coming weeks and months. They’re upset because they see hypocrisy in businesses getting more direct assistance than the public at large, but many of them will be laid off or furloughed, missing out on paychecks they need to pay their bills. Yes, the stimulus package is working its way through Congress and we now have the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, but those are relatively new and some parts will take time to implement.
My advice is to learn from mistakes other industries, companies and executives have made so that you don’t become the subject of public ire. Don’t be like:
- the cruise lines, asking for taxpayer assistance while they fly flags of different countries to avoid paying U.S. taxes;
- the airlines, nickel-and-diming passengers with baggage fees, change fees, reasonable-amount-of-legroom fees, etc., and deaf to the public’s complaints about these extra costs being added on while service feels like it’s been taken away;
- Whole Foods, which is only giving employees two weeks of paid leave if they test positive for COVID-19, a task that ranges from difficult to impossible given the shortage of testing kits;
- Amazon, which has the same sick leave policy for its warehouse employees; and
- Jeff Bezos in general, actually, because he’s in charge of both Whole Foods and Amazon and, even though he’s the richest person in the world and even though Amazon is doing incredibly well right now because so many people are ordering things online instead of going to stores, Bezos asked the public to donate to the $25 million Amazon Relief Fund for sick leave for Amazon’s seasonal and contract workers.
There are other examples to provide, but they are easy to find and it makes me both angry and sad to list any more.
The hotel industry is making some really good moves right now. Many hotels are offering discounted or free stays for health care professionals and first responders. Others are opening their doors for people receiving treatment for COVID-19 to help overburdened hospitals. Yes, this can help generate revenue for hotels that might otherwise be closed, but these are great humanitarian efforts that can truly help people in need.
Do what you can to help people in general: your employees, your guests and your communities. People may view any tax-dollar assistance you receive, even if it is a loan that you pay back, as you taking advantage of a system that is unbalanced against them, even if you are not to blame and it allows you to keep people employed and receiving a paycheck. When things return to whatever the new normal will be, don’t be greedy. Continue to be an industry that helps and gives back.
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