Hotels are places normally associated with pleasure, relaxation and luxury – weddings, parties, holidays – or more mundane activities like business trips and conferences. They are omnipresent and ordinary, but when circumstances are extraordinary, as they are in the middle of the current COVID-19 crisis, hotels have to adapt quickly to new and unexpected realities.

As the current crisis gradually closes down the tourist industry in many parts of the world, empty hotels are being redeployed as accommodation for key medical staff, as quarantine centres or as field hospitals. No longer places for leisure, business, enjoyment and indulgence, they have become instead vital components in the infrastructure of crisis management.

It is, of course, well documented that in crises, such as wars, hotels can play an important role.

They can be militarised (as strategic assets), as some of Beirut’s grandest – the St Georges, the Phoenicia, the Hilton and the Holiday Inn – were during the “Battle of the Hotels” in Beirut in 1975.

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