The Rundown: Highlights from the weeks of June 29 and July 3

Expert perspectives from Cornell SC Johnson College of Business faculty on COVID-19’s impact on business, hospitality, and the economy.

By: Stephen D'Angelo
the coronavirus and the global economy. image of virus cells and market trend graph

Dining: Changing orders

NPR—Restaurant owners and operators across the country are slowly but surely opening up again for service. However, they are finding themselves navigating a shifting landscape of rules and regulations around COVID-19. Professor Alex Susskind, a food and beverage management expert at the School for Hotel Administration, says restaurateurs have a whole new job as they relaunch operations in a changed world. “They have to make sure that their guests feel comfortable coming into their business,” he says. “[Customers are] going to want to see that things are being cleaned regularly, right in front of them, where in the past restaurant operators wanted that to be invisible.” For Susskind, restaurants will have to juggle keeping guests safe, making sure they feel safe, and showcasing the traditional dining experience as much as possible. “There’s all of these elements that require the restaurant operator to basically build trust with their guests, but also build trust with their employees to make sure that it can all happen.”

Work space: The great escape

USA Today—New services and apps, such as Globe, are focusing on providing the opportunity for individuals to rent a space for a short period of time and hosts to promote spaces they have available to offer. The idea of renting workspace for short periods of time already exists, including some hotels offering day work spaces, or flex rooms. Before the coronavirus, hotels offered rooms for small group meetings. These spaces could be valuable for companies who are seeing slow downs in rentals and/or bookings, as well as workers trying to focus on their jobs and not be distracted while working outside of the office. “A hotel room with free Wi-Fi might be worth it if you had a full day of Zoom/web meetings planned,” says Steve Carvell, professor of finance in the School of Hotel Administration. “We all know what it’s like when children and a significant other are using Wi-Fi bandwidth while an important business meeting is going on.”

Tourism: Papers, please

Skift—Experts are warning that the European Union’s temporary travel ban on Americans, due to an increase in coronavirus cases within the domestic U.S., will continue the strain for an already pained tourism industry. Particularly, this will be felt by U.S.-based chains and upscale European hotels. “Completely closing Europe off for American travelers is going a cripple an already severely damaged European tourism industry,” says Chekitan Dev, professor of marketing and management communication at the School of Hotel Administration. “Clearly, public health has to be the number one priority. But, there’s got to be a better, smarter way to screen American travelers to allow them to travel to Europe.” Greater protective measures could have been more economically viable for the European tourism industry, including heightened screenings, contact tracing, and border checks, he says. “Once tourists that used to travel to Europe find other places to travel and have a good experience, they may shift some of their future travel away from Europe.”

Education: Opportunity knocks

CNBC—The COVID-19 pandemic is seeing hospitality programs, and their recent graduates, leveraging the crisis to play up applicable skills. Kate Walsh, dean of the School of Hotel Administration, says she sees the coronaviruses’ impact on the industry as an opportunity for it to evolve through innovation and new technology offerings. SHA, Walsh says, is “training emotionally intelligent leaders who also have background in how to use data strategically.” Further, SHA leadership has tapped into its alumni network, particularly those from the class of 2009 who graduated during the downturn of Great Recession, to offer advice to current students on how they adapted. “That’s been very profound and helpful for students. They have really great stories around resilience and taking the long view,” Walsh says. “This pandemic is more devastating than 2008 and even 2001, but there are definitely learning points to take from them.” Walsh says some faculty are using this as a valuable learning and teaching opportunity, and have voiced that there should be increased focus on tech and sanitation. “The interesting story might be that there’s no opportunity, but we really don’t feel that way,” she says, adding that it will take time for the industry to rebound. “But we’ve got some amazing leaders that will be prepared to do that.”