(Adds details on China outlook)
PARIS, April 22 (Reuters) - Accor, which has closed hotels around the world due to lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic, expects April and May to be its toughest months as it awaits clarity on them being lifted.
However, Europe’s largest hotel group, owner of brands including Ibis and Movenpick, said some markets were showing signs of improving, particularly China, where confinement orders to try and contain the health crisis have now ended.
“Tourism is picking up again, restaurants are not full but are reopening,” Chief Executive Sebastien Bazin said.
Accor said it was preparing for gradual reopenings and to start taking reservations again in the weeks ahead, although it is not expecting business to return to normal for at least 12 months - and is bracing for changes in consumer habits.
Of the 112 countries in which the French company operates, 92 still had coronavirus confinement measures of some sort in place, Bazin said, and two-third of Accor’s hotels are closed.
Accor said first-quarter sales fell 17% drop to 768 million euros ($832 million), while like-for-like revenues were down 15.8%, excluding currency moves and acquisitions.
Despite the results, Bazin said he was “still very optimistic” about the hotels industry.
“We might have to reinvent ourselves. Maybe tourism will become more local, more respectful of the environment, maybe there will be less transatlantic tourism .. It will be up to us to adapt,” Bazin added.
The company, which had already cancelled its dividend, has said it has enough liquidity to withstand the turmoil. It added on Wednesday that it did not yet have enough visibility in terms of the financial impact of the crisis on 2020 results.
Accor said it was cutting spending and has placed the bulk of its staff on furlough or unemployment schemes.
Accor has kept some hotels in France open, partly to accommodate medical workers, and it will also host people infected with the coronavirus who are symptom-free or showing slight symptoms.
The French government plans to start gradually lifting restrictions on movements from May 11, and will also ramp up testing for the coronavirus. It has said that people who test positive should remain isolated, in hotels if needs be. ($1 = 0.9238 euros) (Reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Jane Merriman and Alexander Smith)
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