World Panel
Viewpoint 2 April 2020

COVID-19: A stress test for sustainable development in hospitality?

Sustainability in Hospitality

— 22 experts shared their view

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This viewpoint was created by
Willy Legrand, Professor of Hospitality Management at the IUBH International University
Simon Martin
Head of Development Hospitality-Catering at IECD

Certainly, the Covid-19's crisis is larger than previous ones and became global rapidly. But at the hotel and tourism level, nationally or regionally, other crises of a similar type (SARS) or with comparable impacts economically (military coup in Thailand in 2014) were observed in the not too distant past.

At the time, they were considered major and the industry (as much as governments concerned) were very worried. We could think it would have been a wake-up call for doing risk prevention of all sorts, including on matters linked to “sustainability”. Instead the focus was mostly on recuperating from the crisis's negative financial impacts as quickly as possible, to pursue an even faster development.

To the risk of sounding cynical, I have the impression that history will repeat, and that sustainability will not be the focus during the crisis and in its aftermath's.

Nevertheless, we will not be starting from scratch. Processes are there, working groups will resume. And the people taking charge of the “reconstruction” will be the solution. Some of the new generations of hoteliers are already in the industry and they expect change. They will be leading it soon… and maybe earlier than expected. A wave of unfortunate dismissals is already ongoing throughout hotels and replacements will be made when recovering from the crisis. Many of these will be done with younger leaders who have strong beliefs and ideas to implement regarding sustainability.

Others will have shut down businesses, leaving shares on the market to be taken with entrepreneurs who will be eager to start with values to make the hospitality world better.

Also, the proof that “work from home” is functional will be remembered, certainly driving companies to see the economical advantage of it … and reducing daily commutes and long haul flights.

Lastly, several countries have shown, when the constraints are high, an ability to react fast and to implement the necessary measure. Its people are showing creativity and resilience. Climate change and its impacts are there too, it is only a matter of realising/proving that it is urgent.

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity…

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