Impacts of COVID-19 on the Hospitality, Travel and Leisure sector

In collaboration with Women in Hospitality, Travel and Leisure (WiHTL) and The MBS Group, we’ve carried out research looking at the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19) on the hospitality, travel and leisure sector.

This report includes findings from an extensive survey conducted by PwC earlier this year of 1500 hospitality, travel and leisure (‘HTL’) employees exploring the impact of COVID-19 from their perspective, with a particular focus on gender and ethnicity. The survey sought to understand how the pandemic had affected them and whether they felt inclusion and diversity had taken a back seat as HTL organisations have had to make tough decisions in their struggle to survive.

With the Black Lives Matter movement having further heightened the spotlight on inequality and discrimination, the survey also sought to find out how they felt HTL organisations have responded.

Treated fairly or unfairly

Our survey found that 71% of HTL workers felt supported by their employer during COVID-19. However, fewer women and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (‘BAME’) workers shared this view. The survey highlighted concerns in areas ranging from the protection of staff in vulnerable jobs to the lack of data being collected and used to inform key decisions affecting women and BAME workers. Additionally, while almost all of the people surveyed were aware of the Black Lives Matter movement, most reported little or no response from their employer.  

Findings from our survey indicated that many women and BAME workers have lost out in comparison to other groups. More women have been furloughed, put on reduced hours or made redundant (65%) than men (56%). And 67% of BAME workers have been furloughed, put on reduced hours or made redundant, compared to 62% of white colleagues. Whilst few believed that either their gender (1% of women) or their ethnicity (1% of BAME workers) contributed to their employer’s decision, some operations are more likely to have faced widespread furloughing and job cuts than others.

Findings from our survey indicated that many women and BAME workers have lost out in comparison to other groups.

A positive or negative experience

Encouragingly, many of the HTL leaders interviewed for this report believed that COVID-19 could help fast-track inclusion and diversity within their organisations. 

The view from staff however, was more nuanced. Overall, 43% of HTL workers reported that their working experience during the COVID-19 pandemic has been positive, compared to 21% negative. It is also broadly consistent among women (43% positive) and BAME workers (41% positive). However, women working in ancillary roles such as cleaning are more likely to have had a negative experience (29%) compared to their male colleagues (15%). BAME workers in clerical and managerial roles have also had a less favourable experience (29% negative) compared to white colleagues (20% negative).

43% of HTL workers reported that their working experience during the COVID-19 pandemic has been positive, compared to 21% negative.

Black Lives Matter

Almost all (99%) HTL workers were aware of the Black Lives Matter movement and 31% knew a lot about it. Despite this awareness, only 30% reported that their organisation has had conversations about racism in the workplace and only 19% reported that their organisation has responded to Black Lives Matter. This limited response reflected the sentiments in many of the interviews with HTL CEOs. The leaders were keen to do the right thing, but many were still unsure about what this entails in practice.

Only 30% reported that their organisation has had conversations about racism in the workplace and only 19% reported that their organisation has responded to Black Lives Matter.

The way forward

So how can the sector respond? Though the pandemic has been a test for inclusion and diversity, we believe it could also prove to be a turning point. Below we’ve laid out four areas for you to focus on in response to our survey’s findings.

Harness inclusion and diversity

Inclusion and diversity can help to inform key decisions by improving your ability to understand and connect with customers and can also help you to engage more closely with your workforce at a time when you need all their insight and support.

Communications

Encouraging people to speak out is essential in raising awareness about tackling issues within your organisation.

Data

Data can help to ensure that decisions are fully informed and no section of the workforce is being unfairly treated. Data can also help to inform a proactive approach to redeployment and reskilling that reduces job losses and maintains a diverse talent pipeline within your organisation.

Support

Many staff may be facing additional challenges in areas such as juggling work and caring responsibilities. Talk to your staff regularly, including all the people on furlough. Check on their welfare and what support they need.

Contact us

Lisa Hooker

Lisa Hooker

Leader of Industry for Consumer Markets, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7802 882562

David Trunkfield

David Trunkfield

Hospitality and Leisure Leader, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7764 235446

Katy Bennett

Katy Bennett

Diversity and Inclusion Consulting Director, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7715 211210

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