Relief to franchisees, but is it enough?
While hotel chains have taken steps to support their franchisees during the coronavirus pandemic, some franchisees — struggling to keep staff on their payrolls and cover debt service payments — say efforts from parent companies aren’t enough. The relief has varied across brands, from slashed fixed fees to deferrals of certain payments. For instance, an IHG representative said in a statement that the company has been working with owners since the beginning of the crisis. IHG, which has cut corporate costs by US$150 million, said it relaxed its brand standards in several areas like housekeeping, along with deferring investments and delayed renovations, which allows owners to have more cash on hand for payroll and other costs.
2020 Hunter Hotel investment conference canceled
The conference, initially scheduled to take place on March 18–20, was originally postponed due to the outbreak of COVID-19 and the concern over the safety and health of attendees. After much deliberation, The Hunter conference organizers have decided to cancel the 2020 conference.
Saudi Arabia quarantines thousands in hotels
Saudi Arabia has quarantined thousands of people in hotels, some in luxury suites, to combat COVID-19, throwing a temporary lifeline to an industry struggling just months after tourist visas were launched. Faced with nearly 4,500 novel coronavirus infections — the highest in the Gulf — the petro-state has halted air travel, locked down cities and imposed nationwide curfews in a crisis that has dealt a major blow to the tourism sector. In the midst of this crisis, however, the government is spending millions of dollars to quarantine thousands of overseas travelers and those exposed to infected people in otherwise empty hotels around the kingdom.
Copacabana Palace closes amid pandemic
Rio de Janeiro’s iconic Copacabana Palace hotel is closing Friday for the first time in nearly a century due to the coronavirus pandemic. The hotel’s owner, Belmond, issued a statement saying the temporary closure after 96 years in business is due in part to efforts to curtail the spread of COVID-19. Copacabana Palace is adjacent to Copacabana Beach, which remains closed because of the virus outbreak. Though Rio’s state governor has imposed restrictions on gatherings and business operations, hotels have not been ordered to close.
Many Balearic Islands hotels won’t open this year
More than half of hotels across Spain’s Balearic Islands have decided not to open this year due to issues presented by the coronavirus crisis, according to the Balearic Hotel Association (ACH), which represents hoteliers in Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera. The ACH revealed that over 50% of hoteliers will likely delay opening until 2021. However, they believe this percentage will increase in the following weeks depending on how the pandemic evolves in the country as well as globally.
Taj employees test positive for coronavirus
At least six employees at Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Palace and Taj Mahal Towers hotel in south Mumbai’s Colaba have tested positive for coronavirus, a doctor attached to a private hospital said Saturday. Indian Hotels Co. (IHC), which runs the Taj Hotel chain, confirmed that some of its employees have tested positive for the virus but did not specify how many. The company has been hosting doctors and health workers at its hotels in the city.
‘The lower classes cannot bear unemployment’
Hotels in Egypt should be gradually operated and opened again, says businessman and Orascom Development Egypt (ORHD) Chairman Samih Sawiris, noting that precautionary measures should still be taken. Sawiris expected Egyptian tourism to return to its strength again during October and November 2020, advising that hotels should be opened gradually, and not to wait until the end of the summer to start that process. “The lower classes cannot bear unemployment,” he said.
TUI and HostelWorld suspend dividends
As banks worldwide cancel dividend payments, more travel-related companies are following suit to keep cash flow circulating in a move for survival. Both European travel giant TUI and hostel-focused online booking platform HostelWorld are some of the latest travel intermediaries to suspend dividend payments. This is a phenomenon happening industry wide, with major players across hotels, airlines and technology providers following suit, says data and analytics company GlobalData. TUI recently secured a US$2 billion bridging loan, offered by the German development bank KFW. This action, alongside the suspension of dividends and an existing credit of US$1.9 billion, puts the company in a stronger position to withstand the impact of COVID-19. Management at HostelWorld announced a financial hit of around US$5.4 million due to COVID-19-related challenges. This was shortly followed by the cancellation of the final dividend payment to maintain cash flow within the business; with around US$21.8 million in cash reserves.
Colombian occupancy drops to 3.9%
As the COVID-19 pandemic in Colombia has worsened, the country’s daily hotel occupancy decreased to as low as 3.9% on March 29, according to preliminary data from STR. Daily occupancy in the country was as high as 77.8% on February 19, but a sharp downward trend began as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases grew and the government declared a state of emergency on March 17, the data showed. At the market level, significant downward movement in Bogotá began on March 17 as the government implemented measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. In year-over-year comparisons, Bogotá reached its steepest occupancy decline on March 31 (-94.0%).
Hotelier podcast series
In wake of the COVID-19 crisis, Bangkok-based branding agency Quo is publishing a series of podcasts with leading hoteliers. This week Quo talked to The Indian Hotel Co. CEO Puneet Chhatwal about the work the company is doing within local communities during the COVID-19 crisis, including providing meals to migrant workers, as well as housing to doctors and nurses so they don’t have to travel long distances after 14- to 16-hour shifts.
Hilton Hawaiian Village to temporarily close
One of the Honolulu’s largest hotels will temporarily close due to the coronavirus pandemic. Representatives for the Hilton Hawaiian Village have said the property will shut down starting April 13 for an indefinite period. Officials for the union representing many Waikiki hotel workers say there are roughly 1,700 unionized employees at the resort, more than at any other hotel that employs union members.
Best Western support for front-line workers
Best Western Hotels & Resorts has launched a support package designed to aid front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The package includes a discounted rate at participating BWHR-branded hotels, a loyalty offering for essential workers, and expanded donation offerings supporting COVID-19 relief efforts.