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Hospitality under COVID-19: An insight from behind the scenes

A reflection on the continued effects of COVID-19 on the hospitality and tourism industry in Europe.

With six months of the world plunged into a pandemic, we approach the end of 2020 in retrospect. Many of the changes that occurred in our society happened within a blink of an eye. As each month passed, governments and scientists collaborated to see what implementations were necessary to prevent a collapsed healthcare system. This meant sacrificing our sense of “normalcy”, and many suffered. One area that experienced and continues to experience a large loss in the hospitality industry. With each country closing its borders and turning “red”, tourists hibernated at home and hotels and many restaurants laid empty.

As summer had approached, a sense of hope waved over European countries whose economies relied heavily on tourism. The increased temperatures possibly meant reopening the borders, a chance to travel again, and an influx of tourism.

“I had heaps of travel plans this year, but it was all cancelled. […] Eventually there was a chance to travel to Switzerland this summer and because it was a safe plan, it made me feel good that it was basically corona-proof. It was really refreshing to have at least one trip and get out of where I was at home and explore a bit.” – Clemens Niekler, a German student.

Public health concerns persisted, however, and European tourism could not be expected to return to its former glory. In 2018 Italy welcomed 60 million foreign tourists. However, Florence’s Centre for Tourism Studies (CTS) saw a drop of 56 million overnight stays, rendering the industry 3.2 billion euros less in 2020. In Spain, the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica found that as a result of COVID-19, there was a 61% drop in hotel stays in March alone, with 5.3 million less overnight stays. Similar numbers were found in other southern European countries.

“We used to be open since March, fully booked since mid-April. This year is just depressing. We welcomed our first guests on the 11th of July. We also used to do all these fun activities – barbecues, karaoke nights, poolside parties. Now it is just me sitting and sipping coffee.” – Petros, family hotel manager, Corfu, Greece.

Even with the EU public aid, tourism recovery may not be in the cards any time soon. Without an effective and available vaccine, restrictions on tourism will continue. As many hospitality settings, including hotels, restaurants, and cruises are potential hubs for transmission, the industry finds itself in a dire need to modify and reinvent the guest experience.

At GGV we have challenged the notion that all of these changes need to be detrimental for guests and hospitality businesses. With a group of over 300 architecture and design students from all over the world, we have worked on new solutions for hotels and restaurants. The competition, titled Rethinking Hospitality: Common Spaces for Uncommon Times, allowed us and a panel of professional judges to choose the best 10 ideas that we are going to be sharing with you in the coming days. We believe that, although the world will not be the same as it was, some projects designed by students can give hotel owners and managers hope that their industry can actually emerge better.

You can read more about the competition here: https://www.good-goes-viral.com/rethinking-hospitality

Starting from Monday, September 21st, we are going to be updating this article to include posts about individual projects below.

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