The COVID-19 pandemic has, and continues to affect every sector across the globe, and the hospitality industry is amongst the worst hit. With lockdowns and travel restrictions in place, hotels chains, resorts, banquets and restaurants across the country came to a standstill, and only those organisations were permitted to operate that qualified as an essential service.
The Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) further highlighted that due to the financial losses during the first wave, almost 40 per cent of hotels and restaurants in India have shut down permanently. About 20 per cent haven’t bounced back fully and the remaining continue to run in losses.
Overall, the Indian hotel industry has taken a hit of over Rs 1.30 lakh crore in revenue for the fiscal year 2020-21 due to the impact of the ongoing global health crisis.
Need of a helping hand
In such a situation, the hospitality sector is seeking more support from the Government to stay afloat. So far, the only respite has been the Government’s decision to extend the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme (ECLGS) to the sector, under which the finance ministry recently removed the ceiling of Rs 500 crore in loan outstanding to get credit.
Besides, the industry is pinning its hope on the revival in domestic travel seen after the waning of the second wave while wishing there is no third wave.
Hence, stepping up to understand and respond to changing consumer behaviour as well as adopt new practices will be essential to the recovery of the hospitality sector.
Mantra: Adapt, agile, survive & thrive
Though the suspension of global tourism has hit the Indian hospitality industry hard, it’s time to shift the larger focus on the domestic demands. Millions of travelers, who are unable to travel overseas, would look for quality domestic alternatives. So, focusing on internal tourism is the way forward.
With the work-from-home working model, employers should consider extending their employees the opportunity to take a break and unwind - as a ‘staycation’ or a ‘workcation’. Resorts or hotels could remodel and renovate to address workation needs of employees.
A continued focus on guest’s safety, hygiene and sanitisation is important to instil confidence among guests in a post COVID-19 World.
The global health crisis actually offers a unique opportunity to rethink prevailing business models in the hospitality space. The idea is to develop experiences that satisfy domestic as well as local needs of the communities. Adaptability is the key for survival -- and those who are seizing this opportunity are further enabling the inclusive and sustainable growth of the sector.
Tech to pick
Amid stay-at-home, digital adoption and consumption are on the rise, with customers now expecting contactless technologies for a safe and seamless experience. Homestays, resorts, hotels and restaurants, who are changing their conventional approach to technology-backed services, are impacting business performance and delivering value to consumers.
Let’s say, integrating facial recognition technology within the hotels or resorts will primarily speed up the check-in process including payment processes while reducing the amount of human contact that is needed in the age of social distancing.
Also, an omni-channel approach for sales in the hospitality space will make the sector more attractive.
Gradually, schools and colleges are planning to open their campuses and resume classes physically. Hospitality industry can look at these segments and work in collaboration with them to offer hygienic, safe and cost-effective stay options for students who are not keen on staying in hostels.
All in all, the world has moved on. And even though the road ahead may appear uncertain, the challenges along the way if converted into opportunities by the Hospitality sector will be instrumental in the sector’s success in the post-COVID-19 world and it will ultimately return stronger.
Views are personal. The author is a masterchef and restaurateur.
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