From Pandemic to Endemic
By Giovanni Angelini
Monday, 3rd August 2020

Giovanni Angelini, is a senior and well respected professional within the Hospitality industry world-wide and with a wealth of experiences of over 50 years acquired in 3 Continents, Asia in particular. A former executive and the CEO of the Shangri-La Hotels and ResortsCommon sense for the new reality: What we all want most now is to go back to some semblance of normality, but unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen in the short term.

Many scientists and medical practitioners have stated that the virus will not go away anytime soon, and may become endemic in our communities. Even with a vaccine, or with effective medical treatment, humanity may still be living with this problem for years to come – most likely on a seasonal cycle requiring annual vaccinations. And we must be ready to accept this reality.

Now, and in the future, we all have to play our part. We cannot become complacent. Collectively lowering our guards will only lead to new waves of infections which will make the bad situation worse – and put an even greater strain on our already stretched public health systems.

Common sense tells us that once a vaccine has been found, approved, produced, and distributed, it would take several years for the whole world to be vaccinated. During this time, the virus will only continue to spread.

What does all of this mean for the travel and tourism industry? And what about hotels? How can they survive in a business world turned completely upside down? In short – a long road to recovery lies ahead.

For hotels – an added emphasis on hygiene, cleaning protocols, mitigating costs, and driving enough revenue to reduce operating costs will all continue through 2020. In this challenging climate, most properties will report operating losses for the financial year. While we may see some improvement next year, substantial recovery is not likely to be seen until at least the second half of 2022 or the start of 2023.

Strong and focused leadership is essential to navigating the tough years ahead. On a less negative note, we have to trust that the world is not coming to an end and take some comfort in the fact that ours is a resilient industry. Eventually, we will emerge from this dark period, travel will gradually return, and business will start to grow again.

Social imbalance

The pandemic’s impact on the global economy has been broad and deep, resulting in extremely high levels of unemployment and fostering disillusionment among the workforce. Making matters worse: the outlook is increasingly grim.

Unfortunately, income inequality is widening worldwide, and the pandemic is exacerbating the divide between the haves and the have-nots. In most industries, many low paying jobs have been eliminated, leaving millions of people unemployed. In contrast, those in higher-paid positions have been less affected given, among other things, their ability to work from home with the help of advanced technology.

Cash really is king now, and with many banks and financial institutions providing financing to those who possess assets – enabling them to survive the crisis and acquire distressed assets at bargain prices – we have a scenario where the rich are only getting richer, and the poor are only getting poorer.

Unprecedented times call for unprecedented action

It’s difficult to comprehend the multi-faceted dimensions of the COVID-19 global pandemic and the unprecedented financial damage it has caused to the travel and tourism industry. This pandemic has inexorably shifted the trajectory of most organizations, leading to drastic loss of business, shortage of cash flow/working capital, loss of jobs, deep cost cuttings, the closure of some business/units, forced disposal of assets, and so on.

It’s a testing time for hospitality leaders who are faced with many tough decisions to keep their business activities going during the crisis, and also in preparing for the future. Securing adequate liquidity for the duration of the pandemic is perhaps the biggest challenge faced by all heads of organizations – especially as the road to recovery will be long and bumpy.

What reality will we face after the dust has settled, and what are our priorities/actions now? What must be done to be competitive and survive? Can the present ownership structure finance the business, or is there a need to merge or get new investors and capital?

These are all scary questions, but, unfortunately, this is the reality.

History tells us that crises and disasters have continually set the stage for powerful change, often for the better, and the present pandemic is forcing significant changes in all industries – travel and tourism in particular.

To thrive and survive in this competitive environment, hotel companies must try to define what will be the new normal for their business. A detailed action plan should be drawn up with the goals to improve brand image/position, enhance overall product offering, and, most importantly, gain and retain the trust and confidence of employees, guests and customers.

Accept that trying to predict and prepare for an unpredictable future that lacks precedent is a considerable task. But now is the time for leaders and executives to reorganize their teams, put in place a lean/flat, agile, and efficient structure, and foster a more productive culture by limiting bureaucracy.

Adjust business models and core strategies, redefine strengths and weaknesses, maximize competitive advantage through clearly communicated innovations and digital improvements, and you will be best placed to thrive in the pursuit of sustainable growth.

Where an organization was going before the pandemic no longer matters. Instead, everyone must be clear where their organization needs to be, and where it can and wants to be.

Adjust and readjust over time until there is clarity on what must be achieved. Teamwork, efficiency, alignment and commitment at all levels, and additional training on prevention and safety protocols are simply indispensable.

Tourism as we knew it might not return for a long time. As hospitality professionals, we have to look at how we can bring back the fun-loving industry we all helped to create in the first place.

Also read: (click title to view the article)

  1. Giovanni Angelini Series: Impact of Pandemics At a Corporate Level - Part 1 of 3
  2. Giovanni Angelini Series: Impact of Pandemics At a Corporate Level - Part 2 of 3
  3. Giovanni Angelini Series: Impact of Pandemics At a Corporate Level - Part 3 of 3

Giovanni Angelini
A 50 year veteran of the Hotel-Hospitality-travel industry with a wealth of experience acquired in 4 Continents, Asia in particular. A long term resident of Hong Kong and Retired Chief Executive Officer of Shangri-La International.

A board member of several large corporations and member of many industry related and quality management organisations. Founder of Angelini Hospitality, providing consultancy and advisory work to developers and hotels-travel-tourism organisations.

Recipient of two Honoris Causa (Doctorate) in Business Administration and in Global Business Leadership, four Lifetime Achievement Awards, the 2006 Corporate Hotelier of the World, Maestro del Lavoro (2014) and of several other recognitions and awards.


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