Almost one year into the Covid-19 pandemic, the new vaccines have finally shown a light at the end of the tunnel, nevertheless, it has also presented a new reality that the vaccine is made in two doses and only after 3 weeks sufficient antibodies are generated. And this is the part that has not been researched and it is the data collected after vaccination that will probably show for how long the protection of the vaccine will last.
With all us of heavily impacted by the pandemic fatigue, the new virus variants (strains) which were first discovered in the U.K. and South Africa brought up another variable which is a much faster spread of the virus and potential vulnerabilities of the vaccines which were conceived before such strains appeared. Pharmaceutical companies were quick to respond that their vaccines also cover such new strains.
For months, media has been inundated with ”clusters” and so called ‘super-spreader’ events – large gatherings such as street demonstrations, events, parties etc. – being made public the fact that in many cases or situations authorities would be limited in their interventions, including handing out large fines etc However, since the beginning of the year, authorities in some countries where second or third lockdown measures are not showing to be effective, are resorting to ‘storm testing’.
This is exactly what happened in the posh Swiss ski destination of St Moritz where over 3000 people were tested in one day, surfacing even infections with the new virus variant (strain). Authorities would issue immediate press releases naming hotels and informing that measures such as the full closure of certain hotels to be quarantined were among the power measures implemented.
Press releases would be lax in terms of details, i.e the number of cases and how many were hotel staff and how many were actual guest – in-house guests or outside guests at dining venues. By the time the hotels would be in a position to react and outline for instance that they have re-enforced the Covid-19 safety and hygiene measures, a negative ‘panic stamp’ would be placed on the destination itself – some even rushing to say that the situation would be the same in other resorts.
In St Moritz, the luxury hotels which were placed at the centre of the panic took fast measures, such as extending the time between guests checking into the same accommodation or pledging to vaccinate the entire staff within a short time interval. One such prestigious luxury hotels in St Moritz is now demanding all hotel guests to show a negative PCR Covid-19 test on arrival, taken in the country of origin no later than 24 hours. Other measures include restricting all access to hotel facilities for in-house guests, shutting doors to all non residing guests.
In September, authorities in Austria started naming specific hotels and restaurants where infected staff or guests would be identified, without realising the huge perils of creating a panic negative perception of the entire destination. Several luxury hotels in Vienna were named on certain occasion but as the country continued to impose more and more strict rules and measures, the destination becoming off-limit to foreign travellers, mainly with a 2 week quarantine when entering the country.
Once again, this is the time for the hospitality industry to pay even more attention to how they communicate the Covid-19 safety & hygiene measures, beyond the sanitation procedures and certifications. Guest expect first-hand information. Hotels should consider introducing more screening for guests even before they arrive, sending each guest detailed information about Covid-19 measures, including forms they may have to fill online and acknowledge. Increased security and surveillance is a must, so that the hotels are able to track interaction of guests – for example if they invite someone from outside to the hotel.
Prestigious luxury hotels will most likely be the target for such ‘storm testing’ and that is why they should not be caught off-guard especially when it comes to authorities potentially naming them publicly. This is the time to also check the legal aspects of such exposure and making sure that there is a fair approach. Otherwise, we may end up with black, white, red or green ”listings” of hotels, not to mention the incredibly fast negative damage such ‘reveals’ could have on the entire destination – damages which would be exceptionally difficult to fix.
Hotels should consider suggesting not only taking a private transfer from the airport in a sanitised car or spending as much time as possible in the hotel, but also advising on crowded areas guests should avoid when outside the hotel. Similarly, hotels should encourage guests who wish to do sightseeing to be able to use a hotel arranged car and private options, without sharing any means of transportation such as tour buses. Hotels should also be bold in warning guests to avoid public transportation especially underground / metro.
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