European hotel sector on standby for emergency role

Europe's hotel industry could have an important role to play in the management of the Covid-19 crisis, according to a new briefing note from Marie Hickey, commercial research director at Savills. 

According to Hickey, many hotels have availability due to cancelled events and bans on all non-essential travel implemented by various countries. At the same time, many properties are often well-located.

Hickey argues that Ireland, for example, has 60,000 hotel beds with around 15,000 positioned near main hospitals. Germany has over 680,000 hotel beds (excluding hostels/smaller hotels), with a similar number in the UK, and the Netherlands has close to 285,000 hotel beds. Many of these are in the countries’ largest cities, such as London, Berlin, Hamburg and Amsterdam, where demand is expected to be highest.

'China has, so far, successfully contained the virus and one of the key tools it deployed was the use of enhanced medical centres and a large number of isolation centres, many of which were hotels. Many of the tactics used in China in terms of repurposing buildings and accommodation to deal with growing numbers of Covid-19 patients can be replicated in Europe,' Hickey says in the report.

Occupancy options
In the case of China, hotel occupancy has been improving over the last month as the number of new cases has declined significantly, with the epicentre of the virus, Wuhan, reporting the strongest bounce.

In the UK, the first hotel chains have already approached the government with, for example, Best Western Great Britain volunteering to convert some of its 270 hotels into temporary hospitals for the NHS. The company is currently offering 15,000 beds and more than 1,000 meeting rooms to NHS staff, care workers, families, low-risk patients and those over 70 years old. Similarly, Britannia Hotels has said that it can provide accommodation for 600 patients across the country.

Hickey notes that Chelsea Football Club has said that the Millennium Hotel at Stamford Bridge can be made available to medics, with the NHS accepting the offer. GG Hospitality, whose founders include former Manchester United footballers Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs, has closed both its Manchester hotels to guests and offered them to health workers.

In Ireland, Tánaiste, the deputy head of the government, Simon Coveney recently said that hotels and other large-scale properties could be used as isolation units, if necessary. At that time, he asked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to identify thousands of extra beds in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hickey reports that there have also been calls from bodies such as Dublin Regional Homeless Executive (DRHE) to support those without a home who may contract the virus with hotel accommodation.

'Self-isolation for those who are homeless is virtually impossible – so we need to look at ways in which we can make this feasible. Again, hotel accommodation is an obvious solution,' Hickey concludes.