Lessons from the NFL’s COVID-19 outbreak
Lessons from the NFL’s COVID-19 outbreak
09 OCTOBER 2020 7:45 AM

The spread of COVID-19 for the Tennessee Titans might not seem to have a direct impact on the hotel industry, but it’s important that hoteliers learn a valuable lesson from it.

I will start of this week by admitting that as I sit here to write this, I am somewhat preoccupied. One of the most enjoyable diversions for me at this point in what has seemed like a never-ending pandemic has been the success of my beloved football team, the Buffalo Bills.

They’ve started the year off undefeated, heading into this upcoming weekend 4-0, with young quarterback Josh Allen among the top contenders for the MVP. If this were a typical weekend, I’d be obsessing over injury reports and matchups with their scheduled opponent, the Tennessee Titans.

But instead, that game looks less and less like it will actually take place as the Titans are in the midst of a teamwide outbreak of COVID-19 with their facilities shut down. With no practices held for them at all this week, the likelihood of a Bills-Titans matchup highlighting my Sunday are grim. This would mark the second consecutive game the Titans have missed due to the outbreak.

There are lots of things to unpack about that situation, including a discussion about the wisdom of the NFL holding a full season in the midst of a global pandemic, but one takeaway that seems to have crystalized among all football fans outside of Nashville, Tennessee, is that everyone is mad at the Titans. All signs are they were violating either the spirit or the letter (or both) of the league’s protocols to mitigate the spread of the virus, and they are quickly turning into the target of the collective football fandom’s ire.

Now, you’re probably reading this thinking “What does any of this have to do with the hotel industry?” Well, if you’ll remember, I started this by telling you I’m preoccupied, but beyond that it sparks the thought that it wouldn’t be terribly difficult for any hotel company or individual property to become the industry’s equivalent to the Tennessee Titans.

It is fantastic that across the industry and individually for brands and management companies, there have been widely touted cleaning protocols established to help guests feel more comfortable and trusting in their potential stays. But all it takes to tear that all down is one bad actor going rogue and causing an outbreak.

The issue that complicates matters further with the Titans is not just that they had some players contract the virus, but once they did, they circumvented the rules and hastened the spread through their own carelessness.

So all of this boils down to a pretty simple missive: Have a plan to avoid outbreaks at your properties, and in the case employees or guests do contract it, have additional plans in place to stem the spread.

We’re all worried of properties being unfairly labeled as unclean due to the presence of COVID-19, but I think some people are willing to be more understanding about that if you can demonstrate you took the appropriate steps in those circumstances and made the best of a bad situation. But if you let it spiral out of control through lack of proper planning and an improper or inadequate response, I imagine people will be significantly less forgiving.

What do you think? Let me know via email or on Twitter.

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