Europe’s largest hotel chain Accor has said that it plans to pay for all of its employees to be vaccinated by late summer as it tries to recover its business amid ongoing national lockdowns.
“We are not going to wait for government. We will be buying our own vaccines if we can get them but we don’t want to do it [taking] from existing government programmes,” said Sébastien Bazin, the French group’s chief executive. “It should be not be taking away from fragile people.”
Accor, which owns the Novotel and Ibis brands as well as the luxury Raffles hotel chain, swung to a €2bn net loss in 2020, underlining the devastation the coronavirus pandemic has caused in the travel industry.
It was a sharp reversal from the €464m net profit that the company, which operates more than 5,100 hotels, reported in 2019. It has slashed annual costs by €200m, bringing monthly cash burn down to €40m a month, from €80m in the first half of 2020, and said it had €3.9bn of liquidity following the sale of half its stake in the Chinese hospitality group Huazhu.
Companies have been tentative about committing to vaccinations for employees amid concerns that making them mandatory would be against employment laws. However, Norwegian Cruise Line has said it will require vaccinations for its crew, while some businesses, including the German supermarket chain Aldi and grocery delivery service Instacart, have said they would offer financial incentives to encourage staff to be vaccinated.
Bazin said Accor would not insist staff were vaccinated but that the company was in negotiations with pharmaceutical companies to secure supplies. It is “open-minded” about which it would take and is willing to buy the Russian Sputnik V vaccine or the Sinovac vaccine from China, he added.
The group, which is among the first companies to commit to funding a vaccination programme for staff, has already vaccinated employees in Singapore and Dubai.
In the meantime, however, it must cope with ongoing lockdowns across its key European market — about 400 of its hotels are currently closed.
Analysts expect it to benefit from the rebound in tourism in the second half of the year after restrictions are lifted. About 40 per cent of Accor’s business comes from leisure travel.
To offset what Bazin expects to be a 6 to 7 per cent permanent drop in business travel, Accor plans to offer co-working spaces on a subscription basis to corporate customers.
Group revenues fell 60 per cent to €1.6bn last year but Bazin said he expected a recovery to pre-2020 levels in the second half of 2022.