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With the world adjusting to new lockdown measures, many hotels are understandably closing.
Some will play their part in the recovery efforts though, from proposed plans to transform into emergency safe spaces to protect rough sleepers from coronavirus, to re-purposing beds for medical use. However, the hospitality sector shouldn’t rule out a surge in demand from one type of customer — the crisis worker.
In the UK, the government has ruled crisis workers (including key workers such as police, doctors, nurses, teachers, construction workers and cleaners) and other workers on the frontline (such as supermarket and delivery staff critical to keeping supply chains functioning) as exempt from the latest travel restrictions.
They are deemed as essential in helping the country work through the coronavirus crisis, and as a result one UK-based corporate travel agency is urging hotels to keep the lines of communication open before shutting down.
“We’ve got people who are still making bookings at the moment, and they are doing a lot of planning and block booking. Yesterday (Wednesday) we sourced 13,360 hotel nights for customers in this period,” said Jill Palmer, CEO of Click Travel.
Click Travel has many public sector clients, including the UK’s National Health Service and police force, which are now requesting block bookings of over six or eight weeks. But there are fears corporate travel agencies across the country will soon have nowhere to put them.
Palmer said her agency is actively contacting hotel chains to tell them customers are booking now, and want to book in the future, and is requesting those chains keep Click Travel posted on any closures.
“If every Travelodge and Premier Inn is closed, I don’t know where these key workers are going to stay. There has to be some give and take. I know some hotels are staying open for key workers, and doing what they can to support them, but it does present a challenge for us.”
Meanwhile, in the UK there remains confusion over exactly who can be classified as a crisis worker, which Palmer worries may hinder bookings.
“Hotels are defining key workers differently, depending on the hotel chain, and differently compared to the government definition. That involves more manual work than usual, which we’re happy to do, and we’ve got the people there to do it. But bookings might take longer,” warned Palmer.