'We are often reminded that adversity builds character and resilience..however it takes planning and organization to recognize the way forward"
The Small and Micro accommodation sector appears locked in the 'death grip' of COVID 19, as we prepare to celebrate the one year anniversary of a semi shutdown industry in St Lucia. For a majority of these investors, large and small, this past year has been a horrible realization of the worst case scenario.
Early recommendations back in June 2020, included numerous certification requirements, if owners wanted to remain in the business of offering accommodation. This resulted in an early "spending spree' in mid 2020 as owners and hosts who were already ' stretched' but desperate to get back to work, attempted to generally become compliant with new COVID 19 protocol regulations.
Even when compliant, these local hosts seemed faced with the ever moving targets caused by a growing pandemic, causing ever changing 'new' requirements and consequently additional investment at a time when the industry is pretty much in hibernation
A 'flurry' of new fees for licenses, inspections and upgrades to facilities, seemed to be the 'official' response... and everyone signed on...ready for business.
But business was hard to come by with collapsing 'travel bubbles' and concerns on ' front door' infections. The work required to reach out to the smallest accommodation sector and an effective contact tracing mechanism was still absent from the formula. The focus on physical signage and fixed sanitizing stations were obviously insufficient.
Without a system for contact tracing for visitors, additional tests and a dedicated awareness campaign focused on visitors in the small and micro accommodation sector, there was little hope to address this most critical aspect to modify this segment of human behaviour. We have obviously fallen short by focusing on one side of the infection and transmission 'problem' and by placing responsibility only on the local angle.
From hand sanitizer stations to window coverings, temperature check devices to fences, owners were determined to get compliant and get back to "business" by isolating guests who would still eventually find their way into our communities.
Even now in the first quarter of 2021, the official focus continues to be solely on physical signage and property upgrades, totally ignoring the need to grow awareness and increase visitor participation in this desperate fight.
So, even as the arrivals fawcett is tightened, the real cost of operating your micro sector continues to grow...even before one more paying guest arrives.
The lessons remain the same as always, because you as independent operators speaking with several voices, no matter how loud, have little chance to control the elements that determine your success. Whilst ' Accommodation Sharing Platforms' facilitated this role in the past, the game has changed. Small operators will have to find the the means to speak with one voice if they are to survive in this changed environment where the local authorities have intervened to regulate their operations.