SARS didn’t organize hospitality sector to counteract prolonged COVID effect

 Thursday, December 10, 2020 

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A virulent virus, brought travelers and tourism on the brink of destruction. Sounds like this year, right? In fact, this was the case in few cities of the world in 2002 and 2003.


Toronto was one among them. The battle of Toronto against this deadly virus — and the rehabilitation struggle damaged the tourism. This give lessons for cities on the way how they will navigate a post this pandemic 2020 worldwide. And even stay prepared for the next crisis, whenever it knocks on the door.


Hotels are the important places to see how the tourism sector handles its way through pandemics. Internationally, the experience with SARS provides sobering lessons for Toronto and urban tourist destinations.


How the 2002-03 crisis and today are similar, and how they differ? Both public health crises happened suddenly, causing dramatic slump in hotel occupancy. Nevertheless, while all travel came to a temporary pause in 2020, the 2002-03 crises had basically engulfed few cities, like Toronto, Singapore and Hong Kong under the microscope.


In the above mentioned cities, hotel occupancy rates recorded steep drop, as travelers went to other countries, businesses suspended events and worried airlines and public health authorities explored protocols such as the now-ubiquitous face masks.


The fall down in travel in winter 2020 happened in such a time when the overall economy and the travel were in excellent shape and creating record profits. In 2002-03, circumstances were not similar. Iraq war had slowed global travel. Increasing documentation requirements and lingering concerns over security after 9/11 reduced cross-border traffic between Canada and the United States.


After COVID-19
Today, the hotels experiences different conditions, dramatically. It is in the middle of global pandemic, impacting sectors worldwide. SARS took fewer lives and survived over a shorter period of time, in a small number of major cities.


As the story of hotels’ recovery is enthusing, the pace was so fast that few paused to ask is larger lessons would be learned: What susceptibilities might have been camouflaged in the rush to re-establish the dynamic tourism sector of Toronto? How new technologies, systematic contingency planning and early detection systems might have become integrated into hotel management post-2003?

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