Global View: Mandated Masks, Hotel Growth and Restaurants Reopen

Restaurants throughout the country are eager to re-open their dining rooms, despite growing concern from customers and staff that it's not safe to do so. (States are reopening restaurant dining rooms across the country, but they face backlash from operators and patrons alike)

Last week, New York City announced plans to resume indoor dining at 25% capacity. Restaurant dining rooms have been closed since December due to a holiday-related spike in coronavirus cases. As Covid-19 numbers across the country fall, New York City’s lessening of restrictions could inspire other cities to do the same.  But the news was met with mixed reviews. Restaurant owners say it is not enough, and want to open at 50% capacity. Faced with harsh winter weather, they’re unable to survive on outdoor dining and take-out orders. But many patrons and hospitality workers feel it’s still too dangerous.

The move highlights a moral quagmire that plagues venues across the country. While indoor dining could bring necessary revenue to struggling restaurants, it also puts their staff – many of whom work without benefits for $2.13 an hour – at a higher risk of infection. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo initially resisted calls to prioritize service industry workers for the Covid-19 vaccine, but later reversed his decision. New York State restaurant workers are now eligible for the vaccine, pending availability – a move that may influence other states throughout the country.

Masks Now Mandated for Travel

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an Order on January 29 requiring the wearing of masks (over the mouth and nose) by travelers to prevent spread of COVID-19, as reported by Travel Agent. Conveyance operators must also require all persons onboard to wear masks when boarding, disembarking and for the duration of travel. Additionally, operators of transportation hubs must require all persons to wear a mask when entering or on the premises of a transportation hub. This order must be followed by all passengers on public conveyances (including, airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, ride-shares and more) traveling into, within or out of the United States.

The CDC is also mulling whether to make it mandatory to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to board domestic flights in the U.S. In a letter to the White House’s COVID-19 Recovery Team Coordinator, a coalition of 20-plus travel industry groups pushed back against the idea, according to Luxury Travel Advisor. “Given the strong scientific evidence that the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard an aircraft is very low, we believe that a testing requirement for domestic air travel is unwarranted,” the letter read. “Further, public health and economic data indicate that this policy would disproportionately prevent low-income travelers and rural Americans in small communities from travel.”

Hotels Look Towards Growth in 2021

Hotel Management, with parent company Questex Hospitality Group and AAHOA, presented the third Hotel Optimization virtual event—four panels of industry insiders discussing the present and future of the industry, and sharing advice for moving forward. The panelists examined the range of ways large and small hospitality companies are adjusting to the changes the pandemic has wrought, from reconsidering loans to adopting new technologies to need to mitigate risk to opportunities for growth. All four of the panels—and panels from the first two Hotel Optimizations—can be viewed on demand.

According to Hospitality Insights’ Patrick Whyte, the future is bright for hotels, with a slew of Asia-Pacific openings slated for 2021. Marriott International expects to open around 100 properties in the area, with a strong focus on China. InterContinental Hotels Group is opening Voco Melbourne Central later this year, in addition to launching their Even hotels brand in Shenzhen. Accor will open key properties throughout the region, including Sofitels in Seoul, Hangzhou and Adelaide, and Radisson Hotel Group has announced they want to triple their portfolio across the region.

The majority of these openings were planned pre-pandemic, but the region’s successful navigation of the public health emergency has made the rollouts much easier. According to the authors of Colliers’ 2021 Global Investor Outlook, “The new year finds much of the APAC region already firmly in recovery mode, with the Chinese economy picking up rapidly and countries like Australia and Singapore proving largely successful in their efforts to contain the pandemic and benefitting from robust support measures by governments and policymakers.”

Quote of the Week

News broke this week that Marriott International Inc Chief Executive Arne Sorenson will be stepping back to focus on his health. Mr. Sorenson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2019, and the entire Questex family wishes him well on his recovery.

Now more than ever, his Thanksgiving words ring true, “Even in these difficult days as we grapple with a global pandemic, we can find reasons for some optimism and gratitude. On my list: I am grateful that 2020 will be coming to a close and that promising developments on vaccines for COVID-19 bode for a better 2021.”

We wish him a better 2021 and look forward to seeing him resume his full-time schedule soon.