How quickly do we forget the sheer hassle of Covid-19 protection in the UK?
Facemasks have disappeared, the NHS Covid App remain untouched on our phones and when’s the last time you took an Antigen test to enter an event. However, not everywhere in the world has recovered to the same pace as the UK, where triple vaccination and a mild, but dominant Omicron variant, have reduced the impact of Covid to little more than a bad cold.
The fear has gone and with it a lot of our tolerance for any Anti-Covid measures.
Visiting Barbados on holiday this week, it was clear that most UK holidaymakers simply did not comply with local laws requiring masks to be always worn in public spaces. The general attitude appeared to be “We are on holiday, and this is bullshit”.
How quickly we forget our own lockdown measures and caution to protect the vulnerable in our society. Barbados continues to have shortages in Vaccine supply and suffered from a lot of misinformation about vaccine safety, which led to only 53% of the population being vaccinated.
Like many destinations, tourism is the lifeblood of the economy and lockdown hit pockets hard in Barbados, making the welcoming back of tourists essential. This has left the country facing a tricky balancing act between public safety and removing enough restrictions to attract tourists from the USA and UK where all restrictions have been lifted.
Ironically, I think the requirements to wear masks will put UK customers off travelling to a destination more than the extra costs of outbound lateral flow tests, although the fear of being randomly tested at entry and forced to stay in a quarantined hotel for the duration of your stay definitely creates some booking fear.
Could we see future booking patterns being influenced indirectly by a country’s vaccination status?
Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding yes, as we are bound to see new Covid-19 variants develop this coming Winter, forcing greater restrictions is destinations with more exposed populations.
Barbados as a destination retains its ultra-laid back and friendly vibe, which combined with beautiful beaches and sunny skies make it both a favourite winter and summer sun destination. However, like most destinations, it is struggling to deliver previous standards after the Covid disruption.
We stayed at the 4-star Boutique “House Hotel”, which recently became part of the Elegant Resorts Group. The hotel had excellent historic review scores when it has been a Bed and Breakfast hotel situated next to the world-famous Daphne’s Restaurant. However, during Covid Daphne’s shut down and the hotel even though it did not have its own kitchens turned into an “All Inclusive” hotel, using the facilities of nearby group hotels to add a range of food options to the simple buffy focused food served on site.
This concept may eventually work, however, while the hotel continues not to have a front desk but relies on “Ambassadors” i.e staff multi trained to serve all roles, things can go horribly wrong. In our case, it was being turned away from other group hotels because restaurant bookings had failed to be made or laundry disappearing for days. This combined with some truly inedible food being served up during our first two nights, lead to a complete “toys out of the pram” meeting with the management team.
Fortunately, the House has experienced top management able to accept the situation and put in place a recovery plan that got the holiday back on track, which when combined with their friendly staff created a great overall experience, which saved the brand’s credibility.
For me, it just shows how hard our industry will have to work as we come out of Covid to meet the expectation that the prices we are used to charging generate.
Which hotels will reduce their prices, because they have brand new chefs or service teams not used to serving in 4/5-star hotels? Will discounts be given for rooms that have not seen a lick of paint during the Covid-19 shutdowns?
With the industry desperate for recovery cash, the answer is clearly no. This means the expectation gap this summer is likely to be bigger than ever and with reviews/social media easily accessible on all holiday phones, we are likely to see hard built reputations destroyed during this first recovery season.
As they say, it is not just preventing errors, but how they are recovered that really impacts a hotel’s band, so a big thank you for a great holiday to the House’s staff and Elegant Hotels team.