We will be back, stronger than ever
The Hazelton Hotel, Toronto.
I work in the hospitality industry and I’m a traveller at heart. There is no doubt that these are dark days, but I believe it is just as certain that we will see even brighter ones again. It is true that what we are going through is very tough, however, it is also true that we will survive it and come out stronger than ever before.
I believe this because that is what hospitality professionals have done. That is what we do. That is what we will do again.
First, though, there is a painful short-term challenge to overcome. As the Managing Director of my hotel, I have had to lay off colleagues. It was heart-breaking for them and for me. Hotels have shuttered their doors. Occupancy levels across America are at a historic low. Restaurants have had to shut their doors, some permanently, and others are on the brink of going out of business. Hospitality & Tourism professionals are not sure about the future of their businesses and the ongoing well-being of their families. That is also a truth.
In the past, societies have been ravaged by global pandemics, world wars, and financial crises, and yet, every time we rebuilt, we adapted and we travelled, dined and celebrated again. And I believe this time will be no different.
I believe this because I know – and I have seen throughout my career – that hospitality is life’s party. It is where people celebrate their most memorable life moments. The human spirit longs to dream, to travel, to experience our world. And in our hearts, we know it would be a tragedy for us not to travel its four corners, discovering, learning, and seeking inspiration. So, I feel confident that – not today or tomorrow, perhaps – but soon we will travel and celebrate together again.
This crisis is defining our industry and further forging and strengthening its character. What is encouraging, however, is the shape that this change is taking. Grassroots movements such as SaveHospitality.ca have sprouted up everywhere. In response, leading industry organizations like the Greater Toronto Hotel Association (GTHA), Ontario Restaurants and Hotel Management Association (ORHMA), Restaurants Canada, the Hotel Association of Canada, Tourism Toronto, Destination Canada, local tourism boards, and other organizations are stepping up and working in a collaborative way to ensure that the industry gets the support it needs.
Many hospitality operators have adapted to the pandemic and quickly pivoted their full-service operations to offer take-out and pick-up service. Hotels like the Royal York in Toronto are taking the opportunity to perform public service: they have made rooms available for doctors and nurses as they quarantine away from their families. Others have offered to serve as places of overflow and quarantine, when and if they’re needed.
And to their great credit – and our industry’s everlasting thanks – our political leadership, working together on all levels, listened and responded with appropriate measures and policies. More help is said to be on the way.
Recently, hotels and iconic venues all across North America lit up in purple to honour and support hospitality workers in these trying times of COVID-19. It was awesome to see our city all lit up in purple, from our iconic CN Tower to many hotels and hospitality establishment around the city. It was a great act of solidarity – which is something that we, hospitality and travel professionals, know very well. And it happened again earlier this month. This industry never rests.
So, do not be mistaken. Hospitality and Travel are resilient. Iron tough. We will be back, stronger than ever.
During these uncertain times, much of the world is looking for a glimmer of hope – a source of inspiration. Hospitality professionals – as life-loving optimists – are happy to step up to be that inspiration. We may be the hardest hit, but I believe our solidarity, our camaraderie and our ingenuity can be the inspiration that our city, our country and the entire world need right now.
President Roosevelt once said “courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength.”
These times are testing our industry hard, however, in the midst of this, let us always remember that all this shall pass and that the sun will shine again.
You can follow Hani Roustom on Twitter and Instagram at @haniroustom.