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New app helps hospitality sector fortify pandemic management protocols

Less than a year after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, global economies are still in shambles and left with a limited number of backup plans and strategies to help them stay afloat. This scenario is more apparent in the field of travel and hospitality. Throughout the stretch of the pandemic, many hotels and travel enterprises have closed their doors to the public following the imposition by governments of strict safety and health protocols during the pandemic.

While the discovery and mass production of vaccines have alleviated market woes and allowed economies to anticipate a light at the end of the tunnel, governments and industries are still feeling the impacts of the health crisis not just in terms of cost but in the way they operate. A bigger question looms – is vaccination the saving grace in this new normal? If it is, will there still be a need, particularly for stakeholders in the travel and hospitality industries, to invest in business continuity, corporate responsibility and risk mitigation protocols moving forward? 

This was the point of the discussion made during a webinar attended by experts in the field of digital technology and crisis management programmes. The virtual session, which focused on the topic The Future of Pandemic Outbreak Management for the Hospitality Sector, focused on the importance of having a critical event management platform designed to cushion the blow of unanticipated onset of critical events such as the current global health crisis. 

Mohit Sagar, Group Managing Director at Access Anywhere, started the webinar by citing reports that 9 out of 10 people live in areas with travel restrictions. This, he said, was a big blow to the ailing hospitality and travel sector, which logged in losses amounting to US$ 2 billion. He admitted that the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines, alongside mass vaccination programmes instituted by several governments, lessened some burden of key players in the hospitality industry. However, he was quick to add that as people question the longevity and effect of the vaccine, a cloud of worry still looms in the travel sector.  

Ultimately, the problem is not whether the vaccine will ease strict protocols in the new normal but whether their current outbreak management frameworks can withstand the rigours during the new normal and those of future critical events. 

One solution is to invest in an outbreak management system. Gerard Mcdonnell, the Regional Solution Director of Fraud & Security Intelligence of SAS, said that a key component of this system is the Liberty App, a digital risk assessment tool that can proactively warn organisations corporate management about the health risk status of employees.  

Gerard dispelled the notion that this app is just another contact tracing programme. He explained that the Liberty App goes beyond stating which members of the workforce may or may not have the COVID-19 virus. It helps guide enterprises from testing to quarantine management and its data analytics helps paint a holistic picture of what decisions and policies must be undertaken.  

For businesses in the hospitality and travel sectors like hotels and airports, the Liberty App leverages other data sources like tablets that can be mounted in key locations to monitor people. It has built-in features that can record temperature doing away with the hassle of physically taking temperatures with manual devices. It likewise sends alerts once an individual has been in contact with potential COVID-19 positive persons.

One of the benefits of using the application is that it can also double as an entry pass into establishments like restaurants, stores and other places of interest, making transactions easier for travellers and customers. 

During the webinar, one question raised by the participants was whether using the app can compromise data identity. Mohit and Gerard assured that users are automatically anonymised. The app only requires mobile numbers and email addresses, as well as details like age and job title. 

Like other digital platforms, the app offers back-end solutions when it comes to lifting medical records, thereby brushing off any doubts regarding manipulation or forgery of information. As a digital tool, it has integrated functions for dashboard reporting. This feature allows companies to see the overall health status of the whole workforce. 

Ravi Bedi, Advisor at the Garcha Group, attested to the effectiveness of the Liberty App. He mentioned that in their company, they initially had to do temperature checks and health reports manually. This was an added burden that they could do away with by utilising the Liberty App. Through the application, they were able to seamlessly record work logs and gather data insight into their employees. This is in addition to being able to provide a high satisfaction level for staff and customers alike. 

Mohit proceeded to give his insights regarding the key areas that the application tries to address. For one, the programme has different pillars, each customised to fit the needs of various enterprises. Liberty Corporate offers an in-depth risk assessment of the whole workforce, a feature that makes it different from contact tracing apps. For those in the hospitality sector, Liberty Passage allows companies to step up their game in monitoring customers’ and employees’ health in the new normal. 

Mohit added that the Liberty App is a product of collaboration with a slew of companies that are considered experts in the field of technology. These include Access Anywhere, Microsoft, SAS Institute and Confluent. The overall goal behind this collaboration is to hand over the control in monitoring health standards to the user. 

To emphasise more on the effectiveness of the Liberty App, William Tey, the Global Strat ISV Lead at Microsoft Asia Pacific, reiterated that being future-ready must be a priority in mapping out an outbreak management model, specifically for vulnerable sectors like the hospitality and travel industries. 

William noted that they can help achieve this by using effective digital tools that companies can use to help them focus on their core business, by operating hybrid cloud models seamlessly and by making sure that data security and regulatory compliance are met. 

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