The hotel industry needs group demand and events to come back, but that business can only hurt hoteliers if they’re not prepared to safely host them.
The overall drop in demand has hurt hoteliers, particularly those who depend on large and small group business and events.
While it’s understandable hoteliers want to see that demand (and subsequent revenue) pick up the pace on its return to normal levels, there are plenty of reasons to argue that faster is not necessarily better.
Recent headlines show how large gatherings make it easier for COVID-19 to spread. CNN reported that a biotech conference with 200 attendees in February was a source of early infections across the country. A study found 20,000 COVID-19 cases that are possibly linked to that biotech conference.
Now, this was early in the pandemic before many in the U.S. were aware of its presence stateside and all the risks associated with it. That it spread so easily and quickly isn’t surprising, and it should serve as a reminder how infectious this coronavirus can be.
For a more recent example, the Portland Press Herald reports a wedding reception held at an inn and campgrounds in Millinocket, Maine, in early August is tied to 60 cases of COVID-19, including one death. It has also tied to outbreaks at the York County Jail and at a nursing home. Of the 60 cases, 38 are people who did not attend the wedding. In fact, the person who died from this outbreak was in close contact with a person who was there.
The jail’s numbers are not included in the 60, but one of the jail’s employees was at the wedding. The article states that while there are 18 cases of COVID-19 at the jail, it’s unclear how many are connected to the wedding.
The inn received a citation for hosting the 65-person reception in violation of the 50-person limit for indoor gatherings under the governor’s executive order, the article states. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention is still investigating the reception, but it found several people there were not wearing masks, a requirement of the executive order for indoor public places except when people are eating or drinking.
A hotel that hosts an event without following the proper cleaning protocols is asking for trouble. You would think, given that we are now several months into a pandemic that everyone wants to end as soon as possible, that anyone involved in taking care of guests and events would follow the procedures to keep themselves, guests and everyone who comes into contact with them safe.
But in Australia, health authorities tracked 99% of recent infections in and around Melbourne to two hotels housing COVID-19 patients while they quarantined, The Wall Street Journal reports. A government investigation found “inadequate training, inconsistent use of masks and poor record-keeping.” All of this from two hotels that were intentionally taking in coronavirus patients.
I’m not saying that every event or large group a hotel hosts is going to cause an outbreak of COVID-19. What I am saying is that every hotel that does take in this business before any kind of medical breakthrough, and even after, needs the entire on-property team and corporate support to act like it could. Because they can. That is literally the situation right now.
Any hotel team handling a large group of guests for whatever reason needs to be 100% ready to do the job and do it right. Yes, this is business, but it’s also about your guests’ and employees’ health and the general public’s health at large. I know you’re hurting for business, but as demand creeps back, don’t rush it if your team isn’t fully prepared and able to take it on. Yes, you need the revenue, but it would be worse if your hotel was the origin of a new outbreak that puts peoples’ lives at danger and leads to another even longer lockdown.
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