By Puja Gupta
Many experts and foreign agencies worldwide are taking the stand that the COVID-19 pandemic is the most challenging crisis the world has faced since the second world war.
This has caused an unpredictable market crisis that any of the sectors has ever witnessed. Undoubtedly, the hardest hit industry is aviation, hospitality and tourism which are interdependent on each other. Hoteliers anticipate the following months might be tough for the hospitality industry with no definite vision of a recovery.
Roop Pratap Choudhary, Managing Director of Noor Mahal in Karnal, said: “As an independent hotel brand, we were the first ones to experience the extreme conditions. We are now carefully assessing the challenges and focusing on the recovery roadmap.”
“The prognosis for revival does not look especially promising as of now-considering we have no knowledge of when the restrictions on travel will be lifted. The impending worldwide economic recession is a very real threat, since it’s unlikely that people will have the disposable income to travel even after the crisis, besides this the fear of infection will persist,” said Vivasvat Pal from Bhanwar Vilas Palace in Rajasthan.
The ongoing lockdown in the country and pause in all domestic and international travel has impacted all segments — domestic, inbound and outbound; and all verticals – leisure, MICE, heritage, adventure and niche. The crisis has put the tourism business activity of the country, which is estimated at over $28 billion and related activities, to an unimaginable halt.
As per Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH), around 70 per cent out of a total estimated workforce of 5.5 crore (direct and indirect) could get unemployed (around 3.8 crore).
If the next full-fledged season revives by October of 2020, Sobha Mohan, founder of Rare India feels:
“In terms of financial value, if the next full fledged season revives by Oct of 2020, we could be looking at losses on the current books for the inbound to be close to 20-25 per cent. The domestic and the outbound, the summers which are their key months are completely wiped out so the loses can be upwards of 40 per cent. Since the impact to the traveller is yet to be gauged and how they will behave post the lockdown is not an easy answer. There will be real fear for health and hygiene, confidence levels are very low and we may see this last till over January.”
A global future travel survey conducted in April 2020 by Preferred Hotels & Resorts suggests a more optimistic outlook. The survey reveals people want to travel with around half of the people ( more than 50 percent) across countries worldwide say they’ll book a trip in 2020 itself, and do so as soon as travel restrictions are lifted or eased.
The survey was conducted amongst 3,695 of its members participating from United States 56 percent; Europe 14 per cent; Canada 11 per cent; Asia Pacific 9 per cent; all other regions 10 per cent.
It revealed that 75 percent of respondents plan to travel with family, having spent so much time apart; they are ready to reunite with loved ones. It added that more than 50 per cent people intend to travel regionally or domestically while 40 per cent still want to travel to another continent. Surprisingly contrary to what perception is, over 80 percent of the participants were ready to travel by air.
“We are hopeful that from June onwards domestic tourism will start witnessing some recovery signs. India has so far created a case study in managing the effects of pandemic by implementing the lockdown. This has developed a lot of confidence in the domestic capabilities hence attracting travel enthusiasts to explore more local experiences. This confidence in capabilities is bound to have a positive impact by way of increased trust in domestic travel-tourism players,” Choudhary added.
Akshita M Bhanj Deo, who is the Director of The Belgadia Palace, feels that post the lockdown, domestic travel will be the future for the hospitality industry. “Given how the pandemic has created both physical and economic duress, the first thought on travelers’ minds will be proximity and low-cost safe travel,” she said.
With the rising needs of essential goods and services among people, the purchasing behaviour of consumers is changing constantly to a major extent. It now becomes even more important for the hospitality industry to bring new fertile models with more opportunities for the development of the business.
“With rising needs of essential/necessary goods and services among people, the purchasing behaviors of consumers are changing constantly to a major extent. It now becomes even more important for our hospitality industry to bring new fertile models with more opportunities for the development of our business. Due to the outbreak, our economy is constantly fluctuating, but we can still make better use of this lockdown by investing our times in defining new concepts of delivering our services, we can take new initiatives which can shape into potent strategies which can help in policy making. Staying safe at home, and building on our positivity and sail each of our ships to the shores of constructive market,” suggested Hari Sukumar, VP-Operations, Jaypee Palace Hotel, Agra.
For the sector to bounce back once the operations resume, the industry has come up with new policies and concept and reboot its services, giving priority to health and hygiene.
Deo was qouted saying:
“Most travelers are already interested in browsing the internet for quick getaway trips with experienced hosts who can guarantee the safety and have stringent health checks. Technologically adept places with medical facilities nearby will be a must. Security and screening will become the norm with wellness at the core of all functions. A doctor on call will be as important as offering wellness programs, yoga, spa, forest bathing etc. Health and hygiene will be a major fact with guests taking extra precautions in making sure that their rooms and all common areas are not just cleaned but also regularly sanitized with external parties. What we need to understand is that the old world order no longer exists and mindful, conscious living with an affordable cost that is curated and tailor-made is the new norm. Social media will become the new go-to tour agent and people more than ever will be drawn in by authentic storytelling and experiences,”
Sukumar adds, “Whilst this focus will continue, the implications for economic growth and corporate profits have to lead to a sharp reimburse in worth markets across the globe. The operators and investors are trying to alleviate the cash and capital to stay in close contact with their stakeholders. Where the primary focus of the policy makers is the safety of their people, the secondary one is to balance the economic parameters to ensure smooth running market. It is the need of hour to stimulate new decisions which can take forward our hospitality enterprises without making it stagnant.
Vivasvat Pal believes that the government needs to sep in and recognise the role of hospitality in the growth of the country adding, “It is time that the government realizes the contribution of the hotel industry, particularly heritage hotels, not only to the GDP, but also to employment and to the preservation of ancient buildings and cultural traditions. It is imperative to heavily reduce taxation on the hospitality industry and reduce the costs of bar licenses, visa fees and other associated costs if there is to be any hope of recovery within the next five years.” (IANS)