By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
As the pandemic has evolved over the past year, so has legal advice regarding how to handle common issues that have come up. Greg Duff, principal at Foster Garvey, where he chairs the national hospitality, travel, and tourism practice, has provided valuable insights to HSMAI members in the past, and on May 25 will present a webinar on traveler expectations and legal implications for hospitality sales, marketing, and revenue optimization professionals moving forward. The webinar is complimentary.
Throughout Duff’s more than 25 years working exclusively in the hospitality industry, he has dedicated himself to helping clients solve the range of legal issues associated with owning and operating a modern hospitality organization. We recently caught up with Duff to preview the upcoming webinar and get his take on moving forward into the post-pandemic stage.
What emerging issues will you be tackling in the upcoming webinar?
The areas that I intend to cover include the evolution of the pandemic from COVID protocols to testing to vaccinations, and then focusing on health passports and whether they are necessary. I’m also going to talk about the use of guest waivers and whether they are appropriate. There have been a lot of questions on if hotels need to be using them to waive liability if anyone gets COVID from their property.
I’m going to touch on guest communications and what communications should look like in this pandemic world and soon-to-be post-pandemic world, and the importance of communicating. I’m also going to talk a little about the privacy implications related to COVID and if properties should be taking affirmative steps or offering testing and vaccinations. Finally, we’re going to talk a little about the use or issue around cancellations and refunds that have occurred because of COVID.
What do you hope attendees will take away from your presentation?
Everyone is hoping to learn something different, so I really hope that people ask questions and participate so they get the answers that they need. The more I hear about various experiences and issues makes me a better lawyer and helps me help other people. It’s more difficult via video, but I like to keep things interactive.
Why should HSMAI members tune into this webinar if they have heard you speak on COVID issues before?
This is going to be a broader conversation, as opposed to focusing on specific topics as I did in several past presentations. This will focus on post-pandemic effects, and there will be new information.
Do you think that things are starting to stabilize, or will they — along with your advice — continue to evolve as the pandemic slows?
I think it will continue to evolve just as it has been. There is still a great amount of uncertainty, not necessarily around how bad the pandemic will get, but uncertainty on how everyone will respond as restrictions begin to lift. Some states like Florida or Texas have already completely opened their doors, and others are far behind. How they unwind from the peak pandemic differs for every jurisdiction. We’re still in a period of great uncertainty.
When do you see things getting back to “normal?”
Even when the pandemic is past us, I think there will be lingering effects. It’s too early to tell right now, but I think that by fall in many regions, it will be back to normal levels. However, that also varies greatly by segment. It’s clear that leisure is the first to come back, and then corporate and group will follow. How quickly corporate and group come back still remains to be seen.
I’m the first to champion and support the idea that travel will come roaring back and will continue to keep coming back as long as COVID remains in check. As more people get vaccinated and good practices improve, so will travel, and therefore our advice will evolve.
Do you think that we’re still living in the pandemic, or are we finally starting to move into a post-pandemic society?
We’re still in pandemic right now, but for purposes of this discussion, we’re going to be looking at the future. We have testing and vaccines widely available to us right now, so we’re taking that into consideration and discussing, as those things continue to improve, what the industry will look like.
Does your advice to hospitality professionals vary based on where they’re located?
Depending on the issue, it is incredibly difficult to give blanket advice for properties due to the varying locations, because everything depends on where the property is located. One of the very first questions I ask when advising someone is “What is your current state of reopening?” You have to have all of the information before you can advise someone, and because every state has different restrictions in place and plans to become less restrictive, it’s crucial to understand that before you can give advice.
Greg Duff will present “The Post-Pandemic Legal Landscape: An HSMAI Webinar” at 2 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, May 25, 2021. The webinar is free. Learn more and register here.