Will Thanksgiving See Short-Term Gains But Long-Term Losses for Hospitality?

Travelers are sick and tired of staying put. My mother, who has been so careful over the last eight months to wear a mask during her small outings and confine herself to the house and yard, announced this weekend that she wanted to travel down to Southern California over Thanksgiving to see family. She feels like she has done her part to flatten the curve and if she limits her exposure to the travel days and is careful when she gets there, she’ll be ok. I imagine this same conversation is happening in households all across America.

In fact, on October 13th, the Atlantic published an article that began, “One of American culture’s most cherished traditions is for a mix of young and old people from different households to sit close together and share food in a poorly ventilated space without masks on for an extended period of time. It’s called Thanksgiving.” The article discusses how many Americans may be endangering their health (and the curve) by traveling this November. 

Thanksgiving could be the event that drives an explosion of the virus across all states. The weather is cold, bringing people inside. People from different households will be sitting at the table together for hours, without masks. Food is served family style and appetizers sit on plates for hours in the living room while people shout at the game on the television. It’s a virus’s dream scenario.

The experts are rightfully concerned. Andrew Noymer, a public-health professor at UC Irvine is quoted in the article as saying, “Thanksgiving makes me nervous. The actual three and a half hours you spend inside the [plane] is not what I worry about … but bringing people together in the [airport] gate area worries me. But even just driving 45 minutes to someone’s house and sitting around the table at Thanksgiving with people who you don’t normally mix with is worrying too.”

How can hoteliers do their part to keep the country safe during this risky time?

  1. Ensure your pre-stay emails let your guests know what they can expect when they arrive. Include your Covid-19 policies (and outlet closures) so their expectations are set in advance.
  2. Maintain strict social distancing measures inside the hotel’s public areas.
  3. Be extra vigilant about disinfecting surfaces that people touch and provide easy access to hand sanitizer.
  4. Encourage your guests to limit housekeeping visits and staff interaction.
  5. Encourage self-parking versus valet service.

While no hotelier wants to limit service like this, many experts fear that we will see a huge spike in cases in mid-December as a result of Thanksgiving travel. So a short-term gain for the travel industry in late November might mean long term losses as businesses are forced to shut down again during their most profitable season.  

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