While others in the private sector are busy donating masks, groceries and a large amount of money to help cushion the COVID-19 blow, the hospitality industry's charity efforts have been taking a different tack: keeping their staff safe.
HotelIntel.co had the privilege to interview the General Manager Rocco Bova of the Chablé Yucatán Hotel in Mexico. Employing over 250 people, he noted the seriousness of the situation. Given the nature of hospitality industry work which involves frequent direct contact with customers from various places, Chablé Yucatan recognizes the risks its employees face each day. So much so that they've asked that employees who fall into a higher risk of infection category, to remain at home, while their salaries are kept at 100%.
Of course, just like most hotels, Chablé Yucatan has taken a big hit when it comes to guest numbers. Regardless, protecting its employees and making sure they are properly fed is still the hotel's top priority. As of now, around 20% of its staff are still physically working at the hotel, to make sure its facilities are kept clean and ready to operate when the COVID-19 lockdown era has passed. The rest of its employees are working from home.
Rocco Bova is positive that once the pandemic is under control, the luxury sector - smaller and boutique properties in particular, will rebound faster than the hospitality industry in general. He believes that travelers will avoid crowded resorts and hotels. Chablé Yucatan will take all precautions to sanitize its property before opening and it will increase the frequency of cleaning services and sanitization of its hotel to make sure its staff and the guests are well protected.
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"Perhaps amenities will need to change too, including PPE items. Some are even talking about providing gloves, face masks and alcohol based gel to guests at check out to protect them when traveling back home. And of course, we will be providing PPE to staff wherever necessary during working hours" suggests Bova.
Thailand's The Siam Hotel is doing similar things. It made a difficult decision to suspend all operations, starting April 1st, 2020. This was to ensure the safety of its staff and guests; the hotel hopes to welcome customers back once it is confident that it can provide its usual excellent service levels in a safe and comfortable environment.
As of this moment, the Siam has not lost any of its staff. General Manager Nick Downing proudly says "we have to do what we can to support our own people before those outside our walls." Furthermore, the hotel is supporting staff who are taking up online trading as an alternative source of income. It created an internal Facebook group where team members can promote whatever they are selling, so that the members can survive during the trying time, while staying at home.
What these two hotels are doing is essentially a service to society. How so? Keeping the hotels closed, and having most of their employees remain at home reduces the risk of COVID-19 exposure. The hotels are minimizing the contact its members and the society have. Of course, this wouldn't have been possible to execute if the hotels could not provide salaries to its staff, as they would then be seeking out other jobs, hence not social distancing at all.
Sadly, not all hotels have the financial means to keep their staff home. This is where the government has to intervene. Take Australia for example. The Australian government is providing hotels support through its JobKeeper Payment program. The sole purpose of the program is to keep hospitality workers employed and prevent them from being displaced. It supports the WHO's suggestion of social distancing. The Hong Kong government is also looking after hotel staff. It is providing cash subsidies to hotels, making sure that they can survive in this difficult situation.