Hotel, Travel, Tourism Industries Persevere Through COVID-19

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Associate Professor Katie Davin, College of Hospitality Management (COHM), shares her insight into how COVID-19 is affecting the hospitality industry and how the industry is responding in turn.

The hospitality industry was as prepared as it could be for COVID-19 after having dealt with 9/11, outbreaks such as SARS and Zika, and countless natural disasters in the past. The difference with this virus is its global reach and rapid growth.

With companies and organizations canceling huge events and travelers canceling trips in reaction to the virus, the hospitality industry has already been hit hard.

Lodging companies and airlines are revising their cancellation policies, sometimes changing them daily as the virus spreads, travel bans take effect, and states of emergency are declared.

Hotel companies are recognizing that they must do their part to stop the spread of the virus. Implementing flexible cancellation policies is the right thing to do in most cases so that people don't take a risky trip just because they can't get their money back. It's also good business in the long term. When times get better (and they will get better), customers will remember which companies were inflexible and which companies had empathy. Being flexible is painful, though; hotel rooms are a perishable product. An empty room tonight cannot be stored or saved and resold later.

Travelers might question why there are differences in the hotel company’s cancellation policies. Why aren't they all just being completely flexible and offering refunds? The answer might be tied to hotel ownership. For example, we all understand that when we book a stay through Airbnb or HomeAway, we are reserving a room or house that is owned by a person. That is why those companies are being cautious and strategic about cancellations and refunds. The fact is that many hotels are also owned by individuals. The owner pays franchise fees to the company to use the company's name and other resources. The Hilton you are staying in is probably not owned by Hilton, and the Marriott where you booked a room is likely not owned by Marriott. The Best Western you love could be owned by an individual and be that person's sole source of income. So, if a hotel is almost empty and the owner must refund all cancellations, they will never make that money back.

If you have a trip booked in March or April and need to cancel your room, check the cancellation policy for your room reservation. If you booked directly through the hotel, the answer will be easy to find. If you booked through a third-party site (like Expedia), it might take you a few more steps to determine if you can cancel without penalty.

As for the interference of COVID-19 on JWU’s students and programs, we have converted our traditional classes to distance-learning classes as seamlessly as possible to minimize our students' stress.

COVID-19 is a short-term disaster that may have some lasting effects, but the hospitality industry will bounce back. It always does.

Stay updated on the most recent COVID-19 news including travel advisories and guidance on protecting yourself, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Find the most updated information about what’s happening at all JWU campuses on the JWU Coronavirus website.