While acknowledging that a full recovery is quite a ways off, a number of industry executives pointed to the development of a vaccine, the return of group business and a shift in media messaging as the primary obstacles to a bounce back.
Speaking during the “ALIS 6 X 8: Recovery Top Of Mind, Episode 2,” the executives were asked what they saw as key indicators to a full recovery being underway. Several participants, including Monty Bennett, Chairman and CEO, Ashford, Inc.. pointed to science and medicine.
“I think it’s going to be the development of a reliable vaccine. Once that happens I think that all concerns are thrown off and we will be off to the races. We’ll recover for a while, but until that happens I don’t think we’ll experience a full recovery,” said Bennett.
Greg Friedman, managing principal & CEO, Peachtree Hotel Group, also touted the importance of a vaccine, as well as a more positive media message. “The reality is we really need the media to buy in and really tell everyone that it’s safe to travel. That’s going to be a huge signal for me. I think we need a vaccine, a therapeutic or some herd immunity or something that gives data to prove to the media that it is safe to travel. Although COVID-19 is a very serious virus, at least show data that it’s not threatening enough to stop travel,” he said.
Cecil Staton, president and CEO, AAHOA, reinforced both points. “Obviously, we’re all interested in a vaccine and additional advances in healthcare for this pandemic, but on the other hand I want to say that a great signal will be when everyone gets off this incredible negativity that we’ve heard and we can focus once again on the virtues of travel and that pent-up demand that’s out there. So I’m looking forward to a time when we get up and the headline is not COVID-19 and the pandemic, but it’s about how great this country is, how great our world is, and how travel is so important to so many people and we can get back at it,” he said.
Meanwhile, a couple of panelists, including Amanda Hite, president, STR, emphasized the importance of group business in helping ensure a turnaround. “It’s group business. We need international travel also, but we definitely think the way the hotel industry works hotels we need that base of group business booked in the hotels to be able to really start to drive the revenue and we need that to come back,” said Hite.
Gilda Perez-Alvarado, CEO, Americas, Jones Lang LaSalle, agreed. “I think it’s the moment corporate travel comes back and I would add another variable to that and it’s that capital spending exceeds 2019 levels. We’re confident its going to come back and we’re obviously waiting for science and a vaccine to come in. We’re all keeping busy, we’re doing a lot of listening, a lot of watching and sharing all the information that we have with our clients right now,” she noted.
Keith Barr, CEO, IHG, pointed to easing the restrictions as being key. “When you don’t have quarantines from getting on a plane from state to state or country to country,” he said.