I can’t help thinking these days that we are living in a virtual (not material) world (apologies to Madonna).
Depending on your source, tourism/hospitality ranks as either the second or third largest industry in terms of economic impact and employment in the state of Rhode Island, home to JWU’s main campus. Depending on where you are reading this, those industries might even rank higher in your economy. Sadly of all industry segments, tourism/hospitality — including lodging, food service, sports, entertainment, travel, and events — has probably been the hardest hit by the recent unexpected outbreak of COVID-19.
Certainly, we’ve all seen such media accounts reporting on cruise ships and the COVID crisis, and the images of numerous virtual floating Petri dishes anchored offshore unable to disembark their guests are indelibly imprinted in our minds.
Hospitality Industry Response
However, I’d like to take a few minutes to refocus and remind everyone about the many contributions and sacrifices this industry is making on a daily basis to keep our world more hospitable despite the outbreak. First, although the media focus has been on mega liners, huge airlines, and massive chains, the majority of this tourism/hospitality industry is composed of small local businesses — the “mom-and-pop” restaurant, family B and Bs, little league competitions at hometown parks, privately owned catering and event organizations, meeting planners, travel consultants — and the list goes on.
Whether large or small, every one of these vendors normally provides a service to make everyone’s life, simply stated, more fun! However, during this time of crisis, they’ve each adapted, much as chameleons change color to adjust to different surroundings. Despite depleted resources, lack of patronage, and thus lower income, some examples to consider:
- Cruise ships, massive exhibition centers and casinos have been transformed into field hospitals.
- Hotels have provided rooms to house medical personnel and families.
- Restaurants have donated countless hot meals to front line medical service personnel.
- Meeting and event planners have worked tirelessly to rebook and still create memorable experiences for displaced brides, anniversary, and birthday parties and the like.
- Entertainment celebrities have provided free online concerts and virtual fundraising events.
- Theaters and sport complexes have refunded millions of tickets to patrons in the hopes that next year will be that championship season.
- Airlines have issued countless vouchers for future travel to exotic destinations.
How to Support the Hospitality Industry
In our virtual world today, we can all still safely help not just the cruise lines but the entire tourism/hospitality industry stay afloat. Here’s a few ideas to consider:
- Purchase gift certificates online from your favorite restaurant and anticipate how much you’ll enjoy that dining experience when this crisis subsides.
- Order takeout/curbside service at a local restaurant and donate the meal to someone who is quarantined or unable to shop — call them, leave the goodies on the steps, wave, and feel good!
- Plan next year’s summer vacation and capitalize on the great deals hotels, airlines, and tour operators are offering for future bookings — you’ll never see prices like this again.
- Make a charitable contribution (after all, it is tax-deductible) to a local arts organization, museum, nonprofit theater, local high school sports team. Help them keep the lights on and spirits soaring
In closing, we’ve all been impacted by this seemingly impossible set of circumstances, some to a greater degree than others. We have only to turn to social media to view the new virtual lives our friends and family are sharing with us. My own next social post will involve the postponement (NOT cancellation!) of our 25th wedding anniversary celebration. However, in the grand scheme of this great adventure we call life, it really isn’t that important. We know we’ll reschedule — maybe we’ll celebrate 26 years of marriage instead!
If you still have any doubts that the tourism/hospitality industry will be back better and stronger than ever next year, check out #Wewilltravelagain. We’re certain of it!
If you’re interested in a career in hospitality, consider earning a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management or a master’s degree in hospitality from JWU. Learn from experts with real-world experience. For more information, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].