According to Robyn Christie, consultant to the travel and hospitality industry and advisor to Agility Hospitality, although businesses may find the initial adjustment to the new government requirements difficult, the hospitality industry has shown a strong commitment to the necessary changes to make their services as safe as possible for all concerned.
Fierce competition and new social norms are likely to change the face of hospitality like hotels, guesthouses and restaurants. The business value of maintaining the trust of patrons and employees alike has never been more significant than it is now in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Many hospitality enterprises that have survived lockdown so far now need to have a long, hard look at their operating models to make sure their businesses remain sustainable with the new requirements for prevention of Covid-19,’ said Christie. ‘We have seen some truly inspiring innovations from certain restaurants recently in response to this new era of Covid-19 consciousness. From cuisine-on-the-go and humorous social distancing reminders to more fundamental shifts in the type of service being provided, the local hospitality industry is rising to the present challenge with determination and creativity born out of a sheer will to survive.’
‘The industry has demonstrated great initiative, and there has been tremendous eagerness on the part of hospitality businesses to implement various hygiene, social distancing and contact tracing precautions. This is not only about fulfilling government requirements, it is about winning public confidence so that patrons want to come back and enjoy the experiences we provide,’ she noted.
‘One of the things that really touched me was that while restaurants were unable to operate, there were many reports of patrons contacting their favourite local restaurants to express concern for the welfare of staff during the lockdown. When customers return, they will no doubt take a keen interest in the precautions employers put in place to protect their staff members, which also help to protect the patrons themselves.’
According to Bianca Viljoen, director of distribution for Agility, the Agility Hospitality end-to-end employee health, risk and wellbeing solution provides an opportunity for employers in the hospitality industry to optimise performance through safeguarding valued employees during the current national Covid-19 challenges and into the future.
‘The agility that so many hospitality businesses have displayed is nothing short of inspiring. From guesthouses that have turned themselves into private self-isolation accommodation, to restaurants preparing ‘do it yourself’ home cooking kits and offering online cookery courses, there is enormous potential for these businesses to thrive once more. Key to any hospitality-related business is the people who the customers recognise as the ‘face’ of the business and those who work behind the scenes to deliver an exceptional experience. Looking after their health and wellbeing is, therefore, a major business priority,’ Viljoen said.
‘Providing staff members with access to private healthcare, whether through full medical scheme membership or day-to-day benefits provided through a healthcare network, means that they are more likely to be engaged and optimally productive and, crucially, this builds trust and is a foundation for good labour relations. With the intense interest around health that Covid-19 has generated, this is perhaps the most sought-after employee benefit at the moment. The curative healthcare benefits are even more effective when integrated with holistic preventative care and productivity management and group risk benefits.’
Christie welcomed the news that businesses can reopen immediately on complying with the new directive published by the Department of Tourism. ‘In hospitality, it is our calling to create wonderful experiences for our customers. With the publication of the new rules, businesses will adapt their service to make it as attractive as possible to patrons, and I anticipate this will stimulate some incredible new ideas to make hospitality not only safer but more enticing than ever.’