Ezio Indiani, EHMA President and GM, Hotel Principe di Savoia, Milan.
This is a painful time for the global hospitality industry and, of course, for our members, who, over the past few weeks and months, have been forced to stop performing the jobs they love so much and to make incredibly difficult, sometimes painful decisions. Here in Milan, we were among the first in Europe to witness first-hand just how challenging and distressing events could soon become for the entire continent, but, in truth, nobody could have foreseen an event of this magnitude causing the damage it has done to the European and global economy.
In a letter to the president of the European Parliament, David Maria Sassoli, written on 11 May, I articulated an irrepressible “cry of pain” from EHMA. We are the largest and most relevant European association of luxury hotels’ general managers, and work in a sector that has been brought to its knees by the present disruptive crisis due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Tourism generates more than 13% of GDP (direct and indirect), 6% of employment and 30% of external trade in the EU. Hotels have mostly been closed for months, and in doubt as to if and when they will be re-opening.
The impact is huge, and not yet predictable, with potential worst case scenarios yet to come, on revenue generated, supply chains and social. Thousands of management companies face insolvency or count their days to survive; millions of workers lost their jobs or are on temporary unemployment. Specifically, what with the hospitality industry a labour-intensive one which involves a large number of sectors in the economy, from food to construction, with guests spending their money on extremely diverse goods and services, the impact is even greater.
We have appealed directly to the European Parliament in order for the European governments and institutions to consider the tourism and hotel industry an absolute priority and to take aggressive and coordinated policy actions at local, national and international level to minimise job losses and business closures in the immediate and long term. We have requested financial and taxation support in order to protect employment in all of its forms, including seasonal and temporary associates, and prevent irreparable damage, thus providing the possibility to gradually re-open hotels when the pandemic emergency is finally under control. It will be a very slow recovery and the hospitality industry urgently needs available assets, compensation of the reduction of revenues, elimination of additional loan costs and their renegotiation terms, rental costs waive and payment postponement, relief of taxes and payment postponements, funds for the associates psychological support and training. Moreover, a relevant allocation of funds for the promotion of tourism and travel support to unique countries and their beauties.
Never before in its 46 years of history, since its establishment in Rome Italy in 1974, has EHMA felt the need to appeal for institutional support. The Association currently has 421 members in 27 European countries, corresponding to a market share of approximately 10% Europe of premium travel. We are here to collaborate on finding solutions and strategies to relieve our beloved hotels and relaunch the hospitality industry across Europe.
I have been in regular contact with our national delegates to encourage this process and lockdown has seen a huge amount of collaboration, conversation and constructive engagement among members, both internally and externally, across a number of different platforms. This must continue as we work together to share best practice, protect and promote an industry we all hold so dear.
My message to all members is that we must remain positive and constructive, even in this most challenging of times. There are always lessons that we can learn together and it is important we do not panic – reopening will come and the hotel industry will return. In the meantime, we have a huge amount of work to do and a very strong, important message to deliver. Stay close to your people and stay close to your guests. This might not always be easy, but we will be back in business. As hoteliers, as associates, and as human beings, I truly hope we shall be stronger for the experience.