The Global Pandemic has consumed every aspect of our life and has highlighted how we are all part of a global community, says Michael Dominguez, president and CEO, Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI). Recommend reached out to him for his insights on how he feels the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic will change travel. Here is what he had to say.
Andrea Doyle (AD): When will travel come back, and what will the new normal look like?
Michael Dominguez (MD): I wish people would quit talking about the new normal and understand we’re going to have a short-term need, and a long-term need. Think about it; there is a new normal every month when you look at your world and how it changes. The government and the CDC are essential to the next steps.
The most important thing in this whole process is we are going to have to get the testing ramped up even further. The U.S. is testing more than anybody in the world, by the way.
Andrea, if you have not seen what Google and Apple are doing together, you should really report on that because that is kind of a game-changer. For two competitors to partner together, they’re telling you they have a real idea on how to fix this. And how it would work is this, let’s say, you and I were together and had a conversation. We’re able to exchange an encrypted key that basically exchanges with our phones, and it’s only going to live in our phones for 14 days. I go home, I’m feeling sick so I go and get tested, and it comes back that I have COVID-19. I’m able to hit one button and everybody that has that key that I’ve come in contact with over the last 14 days will be notified that they too should be tested.
I also think hotels are going to have to do a better job of explaining what they do because everybody’s talking about cleaning standards. We’re talking to companies right now about UV light technology that will help clean surfaces to the point that you know that you have been protected. I think you’re going to have Purell stations much more visible and found more often, and people are going to be more diligent about washing their hands.
(AD): How will the physical attributes of travel change?
(MD): There’s going to be some sense of social distancing. There will be people who will not shake hands. And you’ve heard Dr. Fauci say, we should probably quit shaking hands period.
We have to understand that the coronavirus will be around for a while, and it’ll be around through different cycles. Eventually, it will be like having a cold. Psychologically, when we get a vaccine, people will be much more apt to be fully normal until there’s another outbreak. If you remember, we had SARS in ’03, H1N1 in ’09, and now this. But I also think we have a playbook now. In the future, I can assure you the world will probably stop travel from wherever an outbreak is immediately.
(AD): In the short term, do you think travel will be more regional?
(MD): I think, yes, because I think the country is going to open that way. But I think it’s important to put some context around it. Some of that will be regional because that is how we’re opening up, not because there’s an intention to be regional.
I do think international traffic will start to pick up again later in the year. I also think people will stay home a little bit more and I think part of that will be patriotic as well as they’re trying to support their own economy as everybody’s trying to get their footing back under them.
(AD): What does the future hold?
(MD): As a community, we’ll get out of this together. I’m not trying to be Pollyanna; I’m also not trying to be Eeyore. How do you balance this and put it somewhere in the middle? We have a lot of serious problems, but we’ve been through dramatic demand shocks in the past, 9-11, ’08 and now. And what we’ve learned with every one of them, we do have another side to this. We will come out the other side. It’s just in the short term, it’s going to be very, very clunky as we start to get going again, but at some point, we’ll begin to get our footing under us.
We are not built as human beings to be socially distant. We’re just not. And you hear that from everybody. You know what cracks me up, I’ve been using Zoom for some time for our conference calls. All of a sudden, everybody’s on video, because everybody wants to see each other.
I do think that if there’s any positive that I can tell you out of all this, I think we are going to appreciate the ability to connect in a humanistic way more than we ever have at any time in history. I don’t think you fully appreciate something until it’s been taken away from you.
(AD): Anything else you could tell me about how COVID has impacted travel?
(MD): Hotels are known to be open 24/7 and never close. And to know you have 60% to 70% of all properties in the US closed, I never thought I would see that, but it also, I think, reminds everybody how it’s all connected.
I don’t believe that this is the end of the world; I do believe the world will come back. And what it looks like, we’re going to all learn and figure out together.
For more on what the future of travel will look like, visit #AmazingDaysAhead.