Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably aware of the health crisis unfolding all over the world. Originating from the wet markets of Wuhan in China, the COVID-19 outbreak has caused disruptions in almost every part of people’s lives.
One of the first industries to take a hit was the travel industry, which includes airlines, hotels, home-share platforms, and other tourist businesses. Travel companies need to set an example through the way they choose to behave in these times.
The Real Deal: Statistics on Travel
Multiple kinds of travel businesses are seeing a sharp decline in their revenue. For example, online travel agencies saw a 20.5 percent decline at the beginning of March, which is probably just the start. The same study reported that airline sales were down 16.5 percent around the same time. Now, with global travel all but halting, airlines are in a lot of hot water.
Vacation rental and home-share platforms are also seeing a decline in bookings. According to AirDNA, bookings in Beijing are down by a whopping 96%, with Shanghai down by 71%, Seoul by 46% and Rome, Tokyo, and Milan following with declines of 41%, 29%, and 29% respectively.
How Are Businesses Coping?
Almost all travel businesses are following safety recommendations by the WHO and other health organizations. Safety recommendations include sanitizing surfaces, providing kits to passengers, and working in collaboration with local governments to screen travelers. However, there is a darker side to these measures.
Due to the sudden drop in expenditure on travel, there have been mass layoffs in the hospitality and travel industry. One thousand two hundred airport workers in the New York City Area alone have been laid off, with individual airlines slowly figuring out their plans to retain or fire employees. Hotel and resort chains are also firing staff, such as Marriot, who predicts having to furlough tens of thousands in hotel workers.
The Question of Ethics
The current employment and income crisis are tangled with the health crisis. Businesses have a responsibility to their workers, which is a tough task at the moment. There need to be parameters set for how to treat human resources during this time. While it’s harder for more extensive business networks to do so, companies with a more flexible business plan can work around the problem for now.
For example, home-share networks can absorb the host fees and allow customers their refunds up to June or July, by when we’ll probably have a clearer picture of how this pandemic is going to be handled.
A good example of similar company policy is Gaybnb who does not charge their hosts listing fees, thus allowing them to take in the refund costs themselves, without burdening their hosts. Gaybnb is a home-share network that provides LGBTQ-friendly bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals. Check their website for more information.