Next year we will strength our team further with the hiring of experienced associates, renovate specific facilities in front and back of the house but also prepare the launch of new products that we hope will surprise positively our clients and guests
With Mr. Petrakis, we spoke about the impact of a pandemic on the tourism and hospitality industry. As he pointed out, this year is lost, and still, we need to focus how to face with the third wave of Covid-19 and to prepare for a challenging winter. But, they are preparing for 2021. In terms of the new project, new staff and renovating.
How do you see the impact of Covid-19 on the tourism and services industry in Serbia?
Like in many other countries, the impact of covid-19 on the tourism and hospitality industry of Serbia is devastating as well. 2020 was expected to be a year of historic high records for the industry, and even though there was a positive start in January and February, it turned out to be a “lost” year for the industry with a disastrous outcome, if someone compares it with the budgets and the results of previous years. Many companies fight for their survival since their cash reserves reach record low levels, many people have lost their jobs and families, the bone of our society, suffer tremendously. It is not by accident that many people have reached a status of depression. Companies and people try to get through the next few months with the hope that speed tests and vaccines will allow again people to start travelling on leisure or business and bring back the industry to a more normal rhythm. At the same time, this virus has already left its stigma, and the industry tries to adapt to the “new normal”, part of which will continue to exist even after the vaccine will be available in the market.
Has the state done enough with the adopted measures and can something else be done to help hotel chains and complexes in overcoming the crisis?
It is a challenging period for governments globally. This crisis is different from previous ones since it has to do with the health of our society to the extent that potentially closes down the economies. Serbian State has taken several measures since March to protect the people, from strict regulations like the curfew to softer ones like the wearing of a mask, measures which have produced some positive results overall compared with many other countries. In terms of supporting the hotel companies, it was positive to see lately the grant given by the State that is of great help even though it is a one-off type of support.
“We are preparing the launch of new products that we hope will surprise positively our clients and guests”
In addition, the fact that the State has lifted many restrictions for foreigners to visit Serbia has still kept some demand for the country from foreigners who are still allowed to travel from their countries. Furthermore, HORES has sent several suggestions to the State, and I believe that some of them would be very helpful for the hotel companies if the government would adopt them, especially during the challenging winter months, which are coming ahead of us.
Were hotels in Belgrade more affected by the crisis than hotels in Serbia, which, despite the crisis, had such a visit in the months when the corona was with low impact?
If I understand correctly you refer to the hotels located in the rest of Serbia in comparison to the hotels of Belgrade. Generally, the answer is yes, especially due to the summer months when many Serbians decided to take some days off within their own country from the moment they could not travel abroad. This domestic type of tourism in the country’s resorts is a trend that we saw in Serbia but also in other countries. However, this does not mean that these hotels escaped the crisis, or they do not suffer. On the contrary. Some hotels managed to get dissent occupancies mainly in July and August, but the outcome is not enough to “save” the year and the overall bad financial and cash flow situation for them. However, the hotels in Belgrade during the same period were on average below 15% occupancy.
What do you think about the forecasts by the end of the year, can any miracle happen that would reduce the negative impact of the crisis?
As mentioned, this is a lost year. The boost of occupancies in Belgrade during October from specific markets that can still travel to Serbia will not save the year but will help to create a better cash flow for some hotels to be able to pay their obligations. The emergence of the second and third wave of covid-19 are expected to drive the results until the end of the year. Europe records new historic high in the number of infections, the region of Balkans as well. It seems that it is a matter of time to have more restrictions in Serbia and the other countries which will deter people from travelling again and postpone events even further.
People and companies should prepare for a challenging winter and approach their actions in a conservative manner and with a focus on cash reserves. The speed tests and the vaccines which would help change this environment should not be expected before the end of the first quarter of 2021. I am afraid that I cannot see a miracle happening, but then, it would not have been a miracle if we could forecast it.
What are Metropol’s plans for development in the coming year?
We, at Metropol Palace, are trying day by day, step by step, and conservatively and carefully, to re-launch our hotel after the lockdown period. We have still many things to do to be able to reach the high standards we had in February when the hotel had reached its peak. However, we have a plan in place that we follow and with a target to be in such a good position by April next year when we expect that the market conditions will be opening again. Therefore, 2021 is for us a year of re-launching the hotel in terms of strengthening our Team further with the hiring of experienced associates and by renovating specific facilities in front and back of the house which need a facelift or deep maintenance. At the same time, we are preparing the launch of new products that we hope will surprise positively our clients and guests. Of course, the speed of the plan’s implementation will depend largely on the evolution of the coronavirus and the opening of the business but we want to be conservatively optimistic about 2021.