Will the tourist industry rebound? Sooner or later, COVID-19 will degenerate into one more everyday menace to be avoided (e.g. everything from catching the flu to falling overboard from a cruise ship).
But can tourist industry businesses survive if recovery happens later rather than sooner?
Short Term Rental (STR) landlords such as those who advertise through airbnb seldom have deep pockets. Many, if not most, cannot afford to wait and see whether bargain hunting sightseers will once again beat a lucrative path to an STR door.
Already, there is evidence that airbnb landlords can turn their attention on longer term rentals. Indeed, where the lack of long term rental housing has become a crisis, some cities are promoting the conversion of rental accommodation away from STRs by offering subsidies.1
But the COVID-induced evaporation of the tourist industry has impacted not only the little guys, but on the big guys as well — the hotel and motel industry.
What has helped at least some of these larger businesses to survive has been a coincident, non-tourist demand for housing. Many communities worldwide have contracted to move people who are homeless into the shelter of motel and hotel rooms, both for their individual safety and for the safety of the community.
This community-driven housing of people who are homeless has been something of a silver lining in the horror of the pandemic. With the high cost of shelter plaguing many countries, bundling people who are homeless into fortuitously available rental rooms has demonstrated that, pandemic aside, growing homelessness crises in many countries can have a quick and practical solution.
With forecasts of recovery ranging towards half a decade, could tourist industry rooms be repurposed into permanent, and/or transitional housing for people who are homeless?
A Shelterforce Article examines this issue: What’s Next for Those Staying in Hotels During the Pandemic?