One of the great unknowns of this COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impact on the travel sector is how long it might last.
At last week’s short Stay Show in London panellists in a discussion on coronavirus outbreak had a stab at answering that question.
Maxime Leufroy-Murat, founder and chief executive of property management services provider City Relay, struck a relatively positive note, although tempered by some sober realism.
“We hope it will peak in five to six weeks but maybe that’s optimistic, it may last many months. We need to act quickly and start to rethink our businesses.
“Are they sustainable as they are, or do we need to restructure? If you do not act you are taking a risk. I would have hoped we have peaked in the next couple of months.”
Humphrey Bowles, co-founder and chief executive of Guardhog Technologies, a provider of insurance policies for property owners, said he was more “gloomy”.
“You are having to look at this as a tsunami,” he said. “Right now the see has gone out and we are all sitting on the shore waiting for that wave to come back in.
“That could be up to June and this is a two or three wave virus, it’s not a one off. It will be back and be back harder.
“We could be at the beginning of a three-wave virus which is going to knock out the whole of 2020. We could be looking at an entire year of lockdown.”
Na‘ím A’nis Peymán, chief revolutionary at direct booking platform Zeevou, said the world’s economic systems have to be ramped up to cope with the impact of the virus.
“It would not surprise me if there was another recession pretty soon. I do not see corona as a massive issue in the long-term evolution of mankind but things will have to change one way or another.”
Bowles added that one upside for the sector was “it is likely to see strong domestic markets” as people are either unable or unwilling to travel.
“People are still going to want to go on holiday and want to stay somewhere. Hotels are really difficult and vacation rentals provide a lot more flexibility.
“However gloomy we are about the virus this is the right place to be in the world travel sector. We know from earlier disease outbreaks we bounce back very quickly.
“We have an opportunity, it’s about building resilience.”
A’nis Peymán agreed because with a private rental guests can have the whole place to themselves, and effectively be able to self-isolate while being away from home.
And he added: “The industry as a whole may bounce back very quickly because it a low cost of entry business.
“As long as we are in this state of uncertainty that’s the damage. Like with Brexit. We will see similar things as we try to get to grips with what coronavirus is going to be.”
Leufroy-Murat said the crisis will prompt some soul searching among people looking to rent rooms in their homes and raise questions about the sharing economy in general.
“The whole sharing economy is being questioned right now. I think it will pass, although you need to be in a solid cash position.
“It will be costly, it’s going to be difficult for sure. If you come out of this you will come out of it stronger.”
Leufroy-Murat added it will be urban markets that will be mostly affected. “There’s lots of stock and it’s very international. Bookings are coming in but it’s longer term.”
Bowles added: “The great thing about this industry is that resilience and the ability to bounce back and there are some really super-smart people working in it.
“The ability to adapt in difficult circumstances is something people should be really applaud for.
“For the survivors who come through it they are going to be stronger and that will lead to growing professionalism of the industry.”