For the past few weeks news of the coronavirus has been the talk of destinations all over the world. From a tourism perspective, Tourism Economics, STR’s forecast partner, projects a potential 28 percent drop in visits to the U.S. from China in 2020. Which would equate to a loss of 4.6 million hotel room nights sold and $5.8 billion in visitor spending.
For the Caribbean, according to CEO and Director General of Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association (CHTA), Frank Comito, less than 100,000 Chinese visit the Caribbean each year, and when they do – it is mostly to Cuba, Jamaica, and Bahamas. At this time, according to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the risk in the Caribbean is low due to not having any direct flights from China and as major inbound markets begin entry screening.
Information on the coronavirus outbreak is being updated daily, and while the hospitality and tourism industry cannot completely control the introduction of communicable diseases into their environment, it’s important for the industry to continue to keep abreast of how the outbreak could potentially impact its operation and be prepared to take precautionary measures.
While it’s still too early to know how much of this will be applicable to the current outbreak of coronavirus, there’s no doubt that some general principles still apply.
Precautions & Measures for Hospitality Businesses
The coronavirus — just as the Zika virus, Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), SARS, and other infectious diseases — serves as a reminder for the industry businesses to check their policies and procedures to ensure they meet a high level of care for their employees and visitors to their facilities.
• Have a coordination mechanism in place for impending epidemics on the use of screening, immediate reporting and isolation of infected persons to mitigate the impact of future events. Have a plan for dealing with sick guests.
• Keep employees informed of an outbreak, as the situation is fluid. Connect them with appropriate resources to learn more about the coronavirus. The Caribbean Public Health Agency and the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association websites, for example, often includes up-to-date information regarding the spread of a disease, risk assessment and guidance for travelers.
• Train and educate employees to recognize symptoms and provide definitive procedures for reporting suspected illness.
• Develop a method to determine when to send employees home, as well as procedures for handling the tasks normally done by employees who have become ill. This is a good practice to have in general.
• Reaffirm the business’s established standards for hygiene measures and providing refresher training to staff regarding sanitation, hygiene and food safety. For example:
Perform hand hygiene frequently with soap and water, or a 70% alcohol-based hand rub.
Cover nose and mouth with tissue paper (or in elbow) when sneezing or coughing and discard any used tissue paper into lidded garbage bins after use
Dispose of trash frequently and properly.
Wear clean, washable aprons and caps during food preparation. Clean and wash food thoroughly.
Implement additional procedures to sanitize guest room telephones, keyboards, remote controls, appliance handles, doorknobs, light switches and other surfaces frequently handled.
• Alert guests to take certain simple precautions that can limit their risk.
• Remind employees that circulating misinformation in social media can be very damaging to the country’s tourism industry.
Brooke Meyer is the managing partner of Caymera International, a Caymanian-owned hospitality and tourism consulting and advisory firm. Visit Caymera at www.caymeragroup.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.