Society is adhering to a new normal in the wake of COVID-19. Social distancing, wearing a face mask, and a heightened sense of cleaning form part of this. Industries, including hotels, are adapting their functionality for the protection of their employees and customers.
International travel has temporarily come to a halt as some countries have closed their borders and governments have discouraged travel. But in recent weeks Europe has opened air bridges permitting passengers to arrive from certain countries without quarantine in a bid to not miss out on the lucrative summer tourism trade.
In 2019 tourism accounted for approximately 20 percent of the Thai economy. Closing the Kingdom’s borders has had a significant impact on many tourism associated businesses and livelihoods as noted by Mr.Atakawee Choosang, Head of Capital Market at CBRE Hotels Thailand. Many hotels have had little choice than to close their doors as keeping them open is unprofitable despite the increased appetite for domestic travel.
Many hotels are taking steps during their closure to improve safety precautions and to provide guests with trust that the hotel is virus-free. Choosang believes that this is a positive development for the industry identifying the already changes in hotel-dining.
He states, “Guests are now more conscious about social distancing and virus infection from food-on-display. It is possible that for the hotel F&B segment, less emphasis will be placed on all-you-can-eat buffets in favour of á-la-carte, set menu, and chef table courses. If done well and creatively, this could result in decreased food waste and higher quality food.”
Thailand has proved to handle the COVID-19 pandemic exceptionally well, an accolade the tourism sector can advantage from. Focus has also turned to medical tourism, and the government is mulling opening the borders for medical tourists. Hotels can capitalise on this sector working with travel agencies and hospitals to generate business to help the hotel sector on the road to recovery.
Another part of the new normal adopted by hotels is to facilitate touchless operations to minimise the transfer of germs. This might completely alter the hotel dynamic as identified by Choosang.
“However full-scale touchless technology, digital keys, digital check-in, and potentially ultraviolet and other unobtrusive virus-killing technologies could become the norm at branded and upscale to luxury hotels. The adoption of phone booths for individual calls should become more prevalent, however, it is to be seen if a reversion away from a communal approach to hotel design will be embraced since the community aspect is very much part of ‘lifestyle’ hotels which has become popular over the past several years.”
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