Op-Ed: Omicron, another leadership opportunity for tourism/entertainment sectors
As expected, Omicron is here and spreading fast and painfully, like the sounds of the “voceteo” vehicles traveling at high speed through our communities after midnight.
Following various concerts, the positivity rate grew by almost five-fold in just 10 days. Our medical community is quite concerned, and we all should be.
In addition to the health implications, it will exacerbate our labor shortage, posing a serious threat on our economy and specially on the 17 industries within the tourism sector.
While the situation is alarming, our focus shall be in monitoring hospitalizations, urging vaccination, and establishing rigorous and consistent control actions at our businesses to mitigate the spread.
Today, we are equipped with better knowledge about COVID-19, access to the vaccines and therapies, and proven sanitary countermeasures.
Throughout the pandemic, the hotel sector has led the way, along with the Puerto Rico Tourism Co. and Discover Puerto Rico, in setting the example in establishing effective safety protocols to protect our employees and guests, as well as our businesses.
Now, we must go back to basics and act swiftly. Otherwise, in a few weeks the business environment may be far more complex.
Our reality is that COVID-19 will be with us for a long time, and after 21 months of limitations, our people are attending concerts, activities, family gatherings and celebrations. And, thousands of visitors, including our Puerto Rican diaspora, will travel to the island during the holidays.
So, we must focus on education and prevention on every area we can, to mitigate the contagion, and avoid significant financial injury and the loss of many jobs within the hospitality sector. Restricting responsible business operations and activities should be our last option.
As a hotel operator, our team is prepared to manage this responsibility. All of our employees are fully vaccinated, we maintain extraordinary sanitary protocols, enforce mask and distancing compliance at our facilities, and have strict procedures for people to access the property and events.
We strive to provide a safe, healthy, and relaxing environment, and hold our guests accountable for abiding to our norms. So far, this formula has worked, contributing to an unprecedented recovery during 2021.
Regardless of these countermeasures, our collective challenge is that Omicron is more contagious than previous strains; many businesses have lowered their safety standards; we are receiving thousands of visitors from hotspots in the US mainland; and a vaccinated person may become an asymptomatic carrier.
Therefore, it is upon us to provide leadership and boost our preventative measures and check points, along the service line to protect our staff, guests, and families, without limiting our capacity, service, and quality levels.
COVID is a global collective problem, is here to stay, and other variants will emerge. So, our strategic role as leaders within the tourism and entertainment industries is to stay abreast of the best practices and set the standards for others to follow amid the pandemic.
Otherwise, we may be in a rollercoaster of multiple episodes of threat and uncertainty, during the next two to three years.