The Hotel Industry and COVID-19: Lessons From 9/11 and SARS

by Wouter Geerts + Skift Team - Apr 2020

Skift Research Take

With no way of knowing how long this crisis will last or what recovery will look like, we look back at two past crises to see how the industry reacted then, and what lessons can be learned. Many, as it turns out.

Report Overview

As we are in the throngs of COVID-19, forecasting a shape and timeline of the recovery is nearly impossible. We can, however, look back at similar past crises and see how the hotel industry behaved and responded to those. This report focuses on two particularly relevant past shocks: 9/11 and SARS.

Both crises resulted in a significant dip in arrivals, which had a considerable and lingering impact on the hotel industry. We investigate how Hong Kong was impacted by SARS, and how the U.S. hotel industry was impacted by 9/11. This allows us to provide a forecast for 2020 performance.

The report provides takeaways from our investigation of these case studies, and from interviews with hoteliers who lived through these two past crises. One main question asked is whether you can prepare for a crisis like this. Key lessons, as discussed by the hoteliers, are to pivot segmentation, change operations, market cleanliness, continue investing in the future, and don’t become complacent.

What You'll Learn From This Report

  • 2020 performance estimates for U.S. tourism flows and hotel market.
  • Impact of SARS on the Hong Kong hotel industry, and the shape of the recovery.
  • Impact of 9/11 on the U.S. hotel industry, and the shape of the recovery.
  • A discussion on the usability of past crises on the current situation.
  • What hoteliers who went through 9/11 and SARS learned then, and how that can be applied today.

Executives Interviewed

  • Giovanni Angelini - Founder at Angelini Hospitality, and former CEO of Shangri-La Hotels
  • Cathy A. Enz - Professor Emeritus of Strategy and Business Economics at School of Hotel Administration, Cornell University
  • Arthur Kiong - CEO at Far East Hospitality
  • Thomas Magnuson - CEO at Magnuson Hotels
  • Douglas Martell - President and CEO at ONYX Hospitality Group
  • Dean Schreiber - CEO at Oakwood Hospitality