Tuesday 26 May, 2020

Caribbean hotels told to swap buffets with secluded dining post COVID

Photo of hotel beachfront in Ocho Rios, Jamaica

Photo of hotel beachfront in Ocho Rios, Jamaica

The tourism industry is one of the worst-hit sectors by the novel coronavirus with hospitality experts advising Caribbean hotels that measures must be swiftly taken to mitigate the financial shortfall.

This could translate to conveniences such as buffets and drink stations being scrapped as well as the reduction in capacity for à la carte restaurants in order to attract guests post-COVID-19.

So said Emile Gourieux and Rico Louw, senior managers at STR, a Tennessee, USA-based firm that tracks supply and demand data for multiple market sectors, including the global hotel industry.

The duo said hoteliers will be forced to find creative ways to attend to customers like serving dinner in secluded areas on the beach. 

Gourieux, STR’s hotel sector business development executive in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean said: “We may never return to travel as normal, as we understood it before. Things like buffet breakfast may never be seen again. So there's a lot of things that we need to rethink." 

He added: “At least at the very beginning of recovery when people are coming back, people are going to be very leery about close contact. So, the hotels that succeed and thrive are going to be the ones that find a way to address that anxiety. So more in-room dining option for families, a lot of all-inclusives have different dining options where you have the buffet, that’s going to be tough. Even ala carte, they’re going to have to cut capacity by half to allow that [social]distancing. So where hotels can add value in comfort and confidence that’s going to be a plus. Offering a special dinner on a beach where you secluded and comfortable, that’s going to be a plus.”

Louw, the senior account manager and client liaison at STR, echoed the sentiment. He said a buffet may be totally out of the question in terms of moving forward, so will minibars. 

Gourieux and Louw were guests on the latest episode of a podcast series produced by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) entitled COVID-19: The Unwanted Visitor, where they addressed what the Caribbean hospitality sector could look like in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis which has brought tourism to a virtual standstill.

The podcast is available on several platforms including Anchor and Spotify as well on the CTO’s Facebook page.

Both senior managers emphasise the enormity of the challenge ahead for the region’s hospitality sector, which recorded occupancy of under six percent during the week of April 12 and a fall in revenue of over 80 percent.

They say it’s difficult to predict when arrivals will return to pre-pandemic levels noting that based on several factors, including airlift, it could be up to three years before parity is achieved.  

The STR experts say the global pandemic will have a serious impact on people’s pockets and the confidence to travel.

Gourieux said: “anytime somebody sneezes or coughs on a plane or in a restaurant, or anywhere near you, everyone is going to get a little nervous."

To listen to this episode of the podcast series and hear more of STR’s recommendations for change, visit https://anchor.fm/onecaribbean.

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