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?
Associate Professor at Institut Paul Bocuse
COVID-19 will wreak havoc in the hospitality industry, and some operators may have to cut all non-essential operations to survive. Unfortunately, I can see how sustainability initiatives could be categorized in this group, and moralizing this would seem unfair during a battle for survival. On the positive side, there will be survivors in the industry with stronger balance sheets. For them, the question is how customer preferences might change because of the crisis. In the short term, travel will likely decrease and expose excess capacity. The ability to offer the right experience to these fewer travelers will be crucial in attracting them. The question thus becomes whether, in the post- COVID-19 world, ethical and sustainable experiences matter more or less to customers than before. The unprecedented global crisis may well cause some of them to shift from appreciating mostly hedonistic experiences to preferring those that incorporate other-regarding values. This could create a source of competitive advantage for companies that seize the opportunity.