Analysis: An opportunity for positive change in a post-Covid world – Pt.4

Concluding our four-part series unpacking opportunities for positive change post Covid-19, 5THWAVE explores the global implications of the US' recommitment to international cooperation on climate and trade, and addresses the significant challenges for the global hospitality industry that still remain. Catch up on parts one, two and three here

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In March 2021, President Biden injected the US economy with a $28.6bn Restaurant Revitalization Fund offering much needed support to the US independent hospitality sector 


 

A new dawn in the USA

The election of Joe Biden in 2020 represents a recalibration of US democracy, underlining the nation’s commitment to international cooperation, the climate crisis and the imperative to promote social justice. Furthermore, Biden’s economic and vaccination policies are a boon to the global economy and US hospitality industry alike.
 
Indicating Biden would be engaging with Washington’s hospitality businesses far more than his predecessor, in January 2021 he visited Washington DC’s Call Your Mother deli, purchasing four bagels and leaving a tip of more than 50%. “Company morale is through the roof,” said the business’ owner Andrew Dana, revealing weekly sales rose 80% after the publicity. “The energy in the city is so different now they’re in office. It is two thumbs up.”
 
Part of Biden’s $1.9trn Covid-19 economic rescue package is the $28.6bn Restaurant Revitalization Fund. Specifically aimed to support the independent segment, the fund allows hospitality businesses to apply for grants of up to $5m to make up for lost revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
 
“The Senate passage of the American Rescue Plan means we have turned the corner and can see the finish line… [this bill] will support restaurants across the industry to put us on the road to recovery,” commented National Restaurant Association Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, Sean Kennedy.
 
Eighty-one-percent of coffee industry leaders surveyed by World Coffee Portal in 2020 indicated there is plenty of growth potential for branded coffee shops in the US. With green shoots in the US hospitality industry already appearing, World Coffee Portal is forecasting a return to outlet growth for branded coffee chains in 2021.

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The world waited with bated breath to see who would be elected the next president of The United States in November 2020


 
Joe Biden’s election marks a renewed and welcome conciliatory tone between the US and the global community. With the new administration embracing international trade, tackling the climate crisis and committing to diversity – as well as controlling Covid-19 – there is now greater scope for progress on all of these issues around the world.
 

Significant challenges remain

As societies chart a course back to normality after the pandemic, some aspects of daily life will likely be forever changed. Less daily commuting, coupled with lower levels of business travel and tourism, at least in the near-term, means there will be further hospitality casualties at travel hubs and business district locations.
 
Those businesses adversely impacted by disruption to traditional sales channels must seize the initiative and adapt to new trading realities, or face becoming increasingly irrelevant in the post-pandemic world.
 
“We are realising society is not as resilient or indestructible as we thought, and that issues like climate change and health security must be addressed now. The aviation, travel and tourism sectors, in particular, now have the opportunity to rebuild and rethink,” says WEF’s Lauren Uppink.
 
Despite the positive trajectory of change in 2021, significant global challenges persist. Inequality is rising rapidly, with fewer individuals and companies controlling a growing share of wealth and control. Technology behemoths, such as Amazon, Google and Facebook, to name a few, hold increasing and unprecedented sway over our daily lives. In 2019, charity Oxfam highlighted that just 26 people owned as much as 50% as the world’s poorest population.
 
Globally, nationalism is on the rise and fuelling isolationist divisions from India to Brazil and across Europe. Severe tensions between China and the US, too, present significant challenges to international stability, with ongoing trade disputes continuing to adversely impact the fortunes of coffee and hospitality businesses globally.
 
While digital tools, such as video calling and social media have been a boon during the pandemic, mental health concerns over social isolation and digital dependence is on the rise. In March 2021, research from King’s College, London, identified one in three young adults in the UK now meet the criteria for smart phone addiction.

The global Covid-19 vaccination effort has so far been hugely encouraging – particularly in the UK, UAE, Israel, the US – and increasingly across Europe. But new coronavirus strains and a lack of vaccine access in the developing world could threaten the global recovery from the pandemic over the next 18 months.

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Progress with the global vaccination programme has proved encouraging with particular success across the UK, USA, UAE and Israel


 

The case for optimism remains strong

The drama of the global pandemic has been felt across virtually every facet of daily life, and particularly so in the hospitality segment. While coffee shops, bars and restaurants have endured months of store closures and trading disruption, paradoxically Covid-19 has also created an historic opportunity for lasting, positive change.
 
In 2021 and beyond, winning businesses will be those able to embrace new market realities, technological advancements and tune into new consumer desires and behaviours. Now more than ever, the ability to adapt to the shock of the new will determine the fate of hospitality venues and organisations of all kinds.
 
With extraordinary disruption comes the opportunity for radical reinvention. History will yet judge if our civilisation is ready to embrace this unique opportunity, but beneath the lingering dark clouds, there are significant grounds for optimism after the seismic disruption of Covid-19.


This article was first published as part of a feature analysis in Issue 6 of 5THWAVE magazine.
 
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