COVID-19: A stress test for sustainable development in hospitality?
— 22 experts shared their view
"Covid-19 is climate change on warp speed" (Wagner, Mar.10, 2020). The current pandemic has catastrophic consequences on the hospitality sector. The ways the industry currently deals with the crisis (for example, see: COVID-19 - Survival Guide for the Hospitality Industry) offers a glimpse into the crisis management endeavors in building a business case for disaster and climate resiliency. Climate emergency is not dissimilar to the coronavirus threat, whereby 'both demand early aggressive action to minimize loss" (Cobb, Mar. 12, 2020). However, with hotel companies facing an existential crisis, or large-scale downsizing, what will be left of the sustainability programs and initiatives once this pandemic is overcome? Will we be starting from scratch or is the coronavirus crisis the opportunity to implement a swift change in risk assessment and management facing the climate crisis? What are the key lessons from the coronavirus crisis on how to deal with the climate emergency?
Co-Founder at TUTAKA
Comparing the current Covid-19 crisis to a prospective climate crisis solely on the basis of both being crises does not make sense to me. It is more than obvious that each crisis has its own character, cause, and outcome. It is true that both have a serious impact on the hospitality industry, but, would we call it a crisis otherwise?
However, this crisis reveals and reminds us of certain traits of the hospitality industry and the conditions upon which it thrives.
The hospitality industry has soul. Many souls in fact. According to the UNWTO 2017 Annual Report one in ten jobs worldwide is linked to our sector. When business is down, existences are threatened. Just think of those places, far away from protective financial aid programs, where tourism is the only available income source. It is in hotels, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, at events and festivals where people socialize and connect. Hospitality has people at its heart. And in times of crisis, it is the human spirit that is awakened and puts assets and skills to work for a higher good. There are plentiful examples of remarkable leadership and team efforts for supporting crisis relief these days. People like to do what is right - during a crisis and beyond.
The hospitality industry is vulnerable and highly dependent on a stable, liberal and healthy world community. We cannot take the conditions we depend upon for granted but need to actively create, strengthen and stabilize them. And we should definitely refrain from destroying them ourselves.
As such, my outlook on the impacts of this crisis on further transforming our industry are net positive. People, especially those trained to serve one another, want to be involved in creating good. They are given the opportunities for that through sustainability. Our vulnerability as an industry will never be overcome. But we can do our part in building a more resilient world community, consciously connecting people and cultures with each other and creating awareness for the fragility of ecosystems.