Barriers to a reboot of the hotel, travel and tourism industry grow daily. Why? Perhaps the industry cannot gain traction because industry leaders refuse to acknowledge the core issues that concern consumers. They struggle with how to move beyond COVID-19.
Pricing is not an incentive: The airlines offer rock-bottom prices and yet there is no rush to make a reservation. Photos of beautiful (and empty) hotels fill my inbox and LinkedIn space. But still, the hotels remain empty. Disney reopens and rather than flooded with reservation requests, social media mocks the attempt to show happy visitors.
Why are these traditional marketing techniques failing? Because the magical thinking of corporate executives in the hotel, travel and tourism industry keeps them locked in to “what was” and they are unable to find the doorway to “what is.” They continue to believe that people will leave the safety and security of their homes and venture into the “unknown” because of attractive dancing housekeepers opening the gates to a hotel, while cruise ship executives proudly announce they are eliminating the buffet.
The CEOs of major corporations believe that by hiring high-priced medical doctors and scientists, scheduling meetings in executive suites, and congratulating each other on their personal achievements, consumers will line up and eagerly hand over their credit cards to be first in line for a reservation. Multiple sectors of the industry continue to toss millions of dollars into public relations and advertising campaigns that may have been effective in 2018 and 2019 but fall flat in 2020.
Ladies and gentlemen, please note, the road to success is not on the road you are on. According to Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general, “The pandemic is still accelerating. The total number of cases has doubled in the last six weeks.” Industry leaders have got to get a grip onto the new reality and face the future because COVID-19 and the devastation it has created, will hover over us for years to come.
COVID-19. Not Leaving
Even when the virus diminishes its hunger for new bodies to explore and more borders to cross, the virus will still be among us. If not COVID-19 – than another virus or bacteria strain will find its way into our borderless universe and attempt to create havoc and mayhem. What is the industry going to do to diminish the power of diseases to access staff and guests and ultimately create an industry that is able to stabilize – regardless of adversity?
Although there are mixed opinions on where the virus originated, and multiple views on how it spreads, what almost everyone agrees upon is that it is shared on a real, immediate and personal level. COVID-19 is airborne and moves rapidly from one person to nearby friends, families, and strangers and, with the help of poorly functioning or inadequate HVAC systems (think hotels, airlines, cruise ships) the virus spreads across and through entire rooms and suites. The “floating” molecules we just shared (through speech, singing, yelling, yawning and coughing), will also land on surfaces (counter tops, window treatments, bed linens, luggage and box tops). There is scientific evidence to prove that COVID-19 remains alive and well for hours and days on surfaces.
Realistic Strategies: Anti-Microbial Fabrics and Materials
Now is the perfect time for industry partners to end the period of magical thinking and embrace the technology that has brought us new antimicrobial fabrics and building materials so that every interior space with guest/staff access (i.e., hotels, cruise ships, restaurants, attractions, theme parks, museums, public transportation) and staffers are engaged in preventing the spread and/or killing the virus.
Fashion vs COVID-19
Fashion and science may not appear to be the perfect pairings; however, many designers, engineers, and scientists disagree. Beneath the glamour and finery of brand name designers, the fashion industry is constantly going through change thanks to technology. From 3-D printed clothing and accessories, to mathematically crafted garments developed for women postmastectomy, the design industry has used science to develop clothing for the future. The pandemic has pushed innovation across multiple sectors and anti-viral fabrics can neutralize the virus and have captured the fashion industry’s imagination.
HeiQ, a Swiss textile innovator, combines silver antimicrobial and vesicle technology that targets the fatty chromosomes surrounding the viruses and when they touch the fabric, destroys the virus within a few minutes. The Albini Group (think Kerig, Armani, Ermengildo, Zegna and Prada) invested in the new antiviral textiles and designs clothing with the same look and feel of its other luxury materials. The CEO, Fabio Tamburini, stated, “The fact that my travel suit is not just good for avoiding wrinkles, but also protects me from viruses…this is a very nice-to-have feature.” Albini is the first major luxury fashion group to enter this zone, with Grado in India and Sonovia in Israel among the firms marketing similar treatments for clothing.
Donear (India) has developed an anti-viral fabric that is 99.99 percent effective against COVID-19. The company uses Neo Tech technology, providing a shield against bacteria and viruses based on HeiQVibroblock NPJO3 and is among the first textile technology to be proven and certified effective against SARS CoV2. The product kills the viruses and microbes within minutes, drastically reducing the risk of contamination. It has been tested and certified by world-renowned labs including ISO 18184 rapid best. The technology is used on poly-viscose and worsted fabric where a virus usually remains for 2 days; however, this treatment kills it within minutes with no side effects and is environmentally friendly. The product is available via Grado, OCM and Donear brands.
The Copper Company, a small enterprise supported by Chile’s state copper miner Codelco, works on research and development of smart fabrics including nanotechnology to reduce infections, to protect against accidental splashes of fluids with luminescent properties to make the person more visible and to reduce safety risks, as well as thermally insulated and mosquito-repellent fabrics.
Surfaces Can Be Deadly
Resysten is a Hungarian start-up that sells only one product, a protective coating that kills coronavirus on surfaces (think counter tops, handrails, busses, elevator buttons). It also kills other viruses, as well as bacteria and fungi, and prevents them from reproducing on any surface including metal, fabric, and wood, retaining its protective properties for an entire year.
The coating is harmless to the environment and people and requires only a light to make it work. The coating contains several metal oxides, mainly titanium-dioxides and when light reaches the surface, the titanium dioxide works as a catalyst for some processes that take place in the thin layer of the air surrounding the surface. Free radicals are then generated, leading to hydrogen peroxide forming on the surface and surrounding it so that this very thin layer becomes unlivable for microorganisms and they perish. Before COVID-19 the product was used on public transportation systems, now, however, the product has been introduced in offices and open spaces, shops, courthouses, etc.
A Polish company, Sanwil, makes protective coatings for materials that are used for a wide range of products – from soft sofas to dental chairs, car seats, shoes and clothing for fire fighters. The company develop Sanmed (made of polyester knitted fabrics with a polyurethane outer layer). The protective polyester layer offers bonafide strength against rips, tears and punctures and the material can be sewn or fused together.
Polyurethane has properties that function as a barrier to virus and bacteria and some variants of Sanmed have been enriched with silver zeolite that kills microorganisms that touch it. The material is thin, soft and flexible, waterproof and breathable, easy to clean, can be disinfected and washed at 203 degrees Fahrenheit and does not lose its properties after washing. Sanmed is used for protective PPE and antiviral hazmat suits and accounts for 80 percent of production. The company has been certified by the Belgian Centexbel Institute.
Chile is the world’s largest red metal producer and the government is proposing the use of copper nanoparticles in bills and bankcards in order to stop the spread of bacteria. In addition, the government has used products developed by Aintech Commercial and, according to Vittorio Stacchetti, Co-Founder and Commercial Manager, the company is, “…proud to contribute to sanitizing the Mining Ministry thanks to the nanoparticle that we created using Chilean copper. We have already used it in senior citizens’ residential homes, high-risk areas, municipal buildings, fire stations, hospitals and similar public spaces. We believe that Chilean nanocopper is a key material for mitigating coronavirus contagion and transmission in our country and around the world.”
Copptech (Chile) is a biotech company delivering antimicrobial solutions based on copper and zinc and applied to fabrics, construction materials, food packaging and body creams.
The Technical University of Szczecin (Poland) is researching antibacterial paint for walls with an antiviral effect. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have developed a washable textile coating that repels viruses and can be used in PPE.
Delhi-based GermCops has a disinfection service that uses a product that is safe for humans and pets that is water-based and non-flammable. It disinfects with a 99.9 percent germ killing rate and lasts for 30-120 days. The product is manufactured and certified in the US and can be used on surfaces that include metallic, non-metallic, glass, tiles and leather.
Saumya Lohia Agarwal, Head of Strategy, Lohia Health determined, “…there were two ends to the spectrum of mask producers for consumers. N95 masks – safe but not breathable; cotton masks – breathable but not safe. We wanted every citizen to have the right to breathe safely…”
Lohia Health produces a SilverPRO mask that is made from 4-play organic cotton and is a non-medical mask designed with special silver chemical solution coating to make it as effective as an N95 mask but it has breathability; lasts through 30 washes; is 100 percent biodegradable and uses melt-blow fabric for bacteria, pollution and dust filtration. Agarwal stated, “With the silver coating on each layer, there is no problem if the wearer touches the outer surface, unlike an N95 mask.”
Acteev technology has developed masks from nanofiber and a microfiber in its Acteev Biodefend line as a barrier against microbes, harmful airborne particles and fluid splatter. Laboratory tests determined that the technology deactivates SRA CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes COVID-19) and other pathogens including H1N1 and other viruses and bacteria. The testing was conducted following the protocols of ISO, ASTM and other international standards organizations. According to Dr. Vikram Gopal, Ascend’s Chief Technology Officer, “Previous technologies rely on the materials within a mask to retain an electrical charge to achieve filtration efficiency…But when antimicrobial agents are added, those materials lose their charge and begin to fail as barriers.”
Sleep Without Anxiety
Silver with its naturally occurring antimicrobial properties is implanted in the fibers of fabric that protects guests from COVID-19 virus migration while they are sleeping and used in the AllerEase Professional product line. Using HeiQ technology the product blocks microbes from getting into mattresses and pillows and is a barrier that inhibits growth of microbes.
Where Do We Go from Here?
It is so exasperating to read that hotels, restaurants, airlines, airports, and destinations are eager to reopen their doors and gates to visitors; however, they are ignoring the reality that traditional technology, fabrics and building materials do not provide the barriers to COVID-19 that the traveler needs and wants in order to be safe and secure. COVID-19 does not infect just one person, it contaminates friends, families, and dozens of strangers encountered along their travel path.
Unless (or until) the industry makes legitimate changes in the way it does business, all the marketing activities in the world will not convince consumers that it is the right time to pack the grandparents, uncles and aunts, kids and pets into airline seats or cruise line cabins for a holiday.
The answers to the challenges already exist. The next step is to introduce the new products and technology into each and every enterprise in the hotel, travel and tourism industry…then, and only then, will there be a viable message to share through press releases.
© Dr. Elinor Garely. This copyright article, including photos, may not be reproduced without written permission from the author.