Barriers to a reboot of the hotel, travel and tourism industry grow daily. Why? Perhaps the industry cannot gain traction because industry leaders refuse to acknowledge the core issues that concern consumers. They struggle with how to move beyond COVID-19.
Pricing is not an incentive: The airlines offer rock-bottom prices and yet there is no rush to make a reservation. Photos of beautiful (and empty) hotels fill my inbox and LinkedIn space. But still, the hotels remain empty. Disney reopens and rather than flooded with reservation requests, social media mocks the attempt to show happy visitors.
Why are these traditional marketing techniques failing? Because the magical thinking of corporate executives in the hotel, travel and tourism industry keeps them locked in to “what was” and they are unable to find the doorway to “what is.” They continue to believe that people will leave the safety and security of their homes and venture into the “unknown” because of attractive dancing housekeepers opening the gates to a hotel, while cruise ship executives proudly announce they are eliminating the buffet.
The CEOs of major corporations believe that by hiring high-priced medical doctors and scientists, scheduling meetings in executive suites, and congratulating each other on their personal achievements, consumers will line up and eagerly hand over their credit cards to be first in line for a reservation. Multiple sectors of the industry continue to toss millions of dollars into public relations and advertising campaigns that may have been effective in 2018 and 2019 but fall flat in 2020.
Ladies and gentlemen, please note, the road to success is not on the road you are on. According to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, “The pandemic is still accelerating. The total number of cases has doubled in the last six weeks.” Industry leaders have got to get a grip onto the new reality and face the future because COVID-19 and the devastation it has created, will hover over us for years to come.
COVID-19. Not Leaving
Even when the virus diminishes its hunger for new bodies to explore and more borders to cross, the virus will still be among us. If not COVID-19 – than another virus or bacteria strain will find its way into our borderless universe and attempt to create havoc and mayhem. What is the industry going to do to diminish the power of diseases to access staff and guests and ultimately create an industry that is able to stabilize – regardless of adversity?
Although there are mixed opinions on where the virus originated, and multiple views on how it spreads, what almost everyone agrees upon is that it is shared on a real, immediate and personal level. COVID-19 is airborne and moves rapidly from one person to nearby friends, families, and strangers and, with the help of poorly functioning or inadequate HVAC systems (think hotels, airlines, cruise ships) the virus spreads across and through entire rooms and suites. The “floating” molecules we just shared (through speech, singing, yelling, yawning and coughing), will also land on surfaces (counter tops, window treatments, bed linens, luggage and box tops). There is scientific evidence to prove that COVID-19 remains alive and well for hours and days on surfaces.
Realistic Strategies: Anti-Microbial Fabrics and Materials
Now is the perfect time for industry partners to end the period of magical thinking and embrace the technology that has brought us new antimicrobial fabrics and building materials so that every interior space with guest/staff access (i.e., hotels, cruise ships, restaurants, attractions, theme parks, museums, public transportation) and staffers are engaged in preventing the spread and/or killing the virus.
Fashion vs COVID-19
Fashion and science may not appear to be the perfect pairings; however, many designers, engineers, and scientists disagree. Beneath the glamour and finery of brand name designers, the fashion industry is constantly going through change thanks to technology. From 3-D printed clothing and accessories, to mathematically crafted garments developed for women postmastectomy, the design industry has used science to develop clothing for the future. The pandemic has pushed innovation across multiple sectors and anti-viral fabrics can neutralize the virus and have captured the fashion industry’s imagination.
HeiQ, a Swiss textile innovator, combines silver antimicrobial and vesicle technology that targets the fatty chromosomes surrounding the viruses and when they touch the fabric, destroys the virus within a few minutes. The Albini Group (think Kerig, Armani, Ermengildo, Zegna and Prada) invested in the new antiviral textiles and designs clothing with the same look and feel of its other luxury materials. The CEO, Fabio Tamburini, stated, “The fact that my travel suit is not just good for avoiding wrinkles, but also protects me from viruses…this is a very nice-to-have feature.” Albini is the first major luxury fashion group to enter this zone, with Grado in India and Sonovia in Israel among the firms marketing similar treatments for clothing.
Donear (India) has developed an anti-viral fabric that is 99.99 percent effective against COVID-19. The company uses Neo Tech technology, providing a shield against bacteria and viruses based on HeiQVibroblock NPJO3 and is among the first textile technology to be proven and certified effective against SARS CoV2. The product kills the viruses and microbes within minutes, drastically reducing the risk of contamination. It has been tested and certified by world-renowned labs including ISO 18184 rapid best. The technology is used on poly-viscose and worsted fabric where a virus usually remains for 2 days; however, this treatment kills it within minutes with no side effects and is environmentally friendly. The product is available via Grado, OCM and Donear brands.
The Copper Company, a small enterprise supported by Chile’s state copper miner Codelco, works on research and development of smart fabrics including nanotechnology to reduce infections, to protect against accidental splashes of fluids with luminescent properties to make the person more visible and to reduce safety risks, as well as thermally insulated and mosquito-repellent fabrics.
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