Caribbean hotels may have to scrap conveniences such as buffets and drinks stations and reduce the sitting capacity of à la carte restaurants in order to attract post-COVID-19 guests, suggest two hospitality experts.
Instead, they will have to find creative ways to attend to customers, like serving dinner in secluded areas on the beach, say Emile Gourieux and Rico Louw, senior managers at STR, a Tennessee, USA-based firm that tracks supply and demand data for multiple market sectors, including the global hotel industry.
“We may never return to travel as normal, as we understood it before. Things like buffet breakfast may never be seen again. So there's a lot of things that we need to rethink,” said Gourieux, STR’s hotel sector business development executive in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. “At least at the very beginning of recovery when people are coming back, people are going to be very leery about close contact. So, the hotels that succeed and thrive are going to be the ones that find a way to address that anxiety."
Gourieux suggests that some all-inclusives may want to consider adding more in-room dining options for families, as well as reducing the capacity levels in a la carte restaurants to allow for social distancing.
“A buffet may be totally out of the question in terms of moving forward, as will minibars,” adds Louw, the senior account manager and client liaison at STR.
COVID-19: the Unwanted Visitor
Gourieux and Louw are guests on the latest episode of a podcast series produced by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO), called COVID-19: The Unwanted Visitor, where they address what the Caribbean hospitality sector could look like in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis which has brought tourism to a virtual standstill.
The podcast is available on several platforms, including Anchor and Spotify, as well on the CTO’s Facebook page.
Both senior managers emphasise the enormity of the challenge ahead for the region’s hospitality sector, which recorded occupancy of under six per cent during the week of 12 April, and a fall in revenue of over 80 per cent.
They say it’s difficult to predict when arrivals will return to pre-pandemic levels, noting that based on several factors, including airlift, it could be up to three years before parity is achieved.
The STR experts say the global pandemic will have a serious impact on people’s pockets and the confidence to travel.
“Anytime somebody sneezes or coughs on a plane or in a restaurant, or anywhere near you, everyone is going to get a little nervous,” said Gourieux.
To listen to this episode of the podcast series and hear more of STR’s recommendations for change, please visit https://anchor.fm/onecaribbean.
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