At the end of December of 2019, a new coronavirus known as COVID-19 was identified causing major impacts across the globe. This global pandemic not only had a negative impact on the economy and other industries, but also greatly affected the hospitality and tourism sector due to stringent traveling restrictions. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the number of international tourist arrivals declined world-wide by 73 percent in 2020.
Prior to the pandemic, according to International Monetary Fund (IMF), the hospitality and tourism industry had become one of the most important sectors in the world economy, generating 10 percent of global GDP and more than 320 million jobs worldwide. However, the pandemic put 100 million jobs at risk in hotels, restaurants, transportation and more. In the hotel industry, for example, 9 out of 10 hotels have implemented layoffs. And according to the National Restaurant Association, 110,000 restaurants in the U.S. have closed, causing 400,000 jobs to be lost. These impacts were even greater in tourism-dependent regions such as the Caribbean. One of the main reasons the hospitality and tourism industry experienced these losses, is its heavy focus on providing contact-intensive services.
Because the hospitality and tourism industry is based on providing intangible products such as services and experiences that require human contact, the pandemic caused travelers to prioritize safety and cleanliness. In response, the industry changed their method of providing such services by focusing on several aspects, one of which is increased attention to cleanliness. Because travelers seek safety and hygiene, hotels for example, now emphasize their sanitizing protocols and use them as marketing tools so travelers will feel safe when staying with them. In addition, because travelers expect minimum human contact, the industry has implemented low-contact methods such as using more kiosks and providing contactless payment options. As for restaurants, there has been a massive increase in the desire for food delivery and takeout since the pandemic. Therefore, restaurants created additional or special takeout and delivery menus, as well as developed meal kits of their menus so customers can enjoy their favorite food without going to the restaurant.
COVID-19 has changed the hospitality and tourism industry greatly. To meet consumer demand, the hospitality and tourism industry needs to adjust methods of operating their businesses. Because of the pandemic, a new industry standard has been introduced. It is important for future hospitality and tourism leaders to understand the current trends of consumer behavior and critically think about ways to provide services and experiences in the new pandemic and post-pandemic era.
By: Daegeun (Dan) Kim, M.S., CHIA, assistant professor, EKU Global Hospitality and Tourism Department
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