In 2020, the world has literally come to a standstill. Country after country has declared national emergencies and complete lockdowns. The business world is facing its worst moment of crisis, the Covid 19 pandemic, and the hospitality industry is amongst the worst hit.
The hospitality and tourism industry in India accounts for about 10% of India’s GDP, approximated at a whopping 275 billion US dollars. It includes lodging, food and drink services, event planning, transportations and even theme parks. Hence, with a sector so vast, the employment capacity is quite high, and equally high are the consequences of the pandemic.
As this industry involves direct contact with people, at all levels, it is one of the first to be hit by the lockdown. Statistics predict a potential loss of 5-7 million hospitality-related jobs in India alone. But this very dark cloud has a silver lining. Every night has a morning, and this pandemic, also, will pass. In 2003, when the SARS virus caused havoc, 50% decline in hotel bookings, and a drop of nearly 9.4 million in international tourist arrivals, the travel business managed to get back on its feet, registering immense growth by 2006, with a total contribution of $5,160 billion to the global GDP within the year. (Ref. Hospitality.Net.)
The way ahead
To survive, the hospitality businesses will have to make substantial changes in their operations. Hippocrates had famously said that, ’Drastic times call for drastic measures.” When those drastic times are unprecedented, then the measures must be equally innovative.
Hotels and resorts will have to rethink and revamp their business strategies. While giving priority to both, customers and employees health and safety, they will have to find answers to crucial issues like:
- What are the customers’ sentiments about patronising a hotel in the time of coronavirus?
- Are they ready to return?
- If not, what will make them return?
The research agenda of hospitality management and marketing studies will need to have an overhaul. Hospitality scholars have put their heads together for finding better, practical, and doable alternatives, to help the industry come back to its former glory.
The Robot at your service:
The role of artificial intelligence is about to become more prominent in the service sector. Automation and self service will be creatively used to enhance customer safety. The pretty receptionist at the reception counter may give her place to the ‘Chatbot’, for speedy, contactless front desk services. Robot butlers and robot luggage porters may be a common sight in the near future. Technologies like digital menus, keyless entries and touchless elevators are already being used.
Take a ‘Staycation’:
When people are tired of working from home, and crave to satisfy their wanderlust, but cannot travel far from home, the answer comes in the form of ‘staycations’.
The hospitality industry would do well to capitalise on this growing trend, where W-F-H would mean ‘Work from Hotel’. Being able to stay in a comfortable and safe home-away-from-home hotel, getting better wifi and office facilities, and being able to spend quality time with the family, all under one roof, is proving to be attractive to the professional, who wants a vacation, but does not want to travel.
As Ricardo Pliego says,” Sometimes big problems are best solved with lots of small and creative solutions”, the pandemic has prompted innovative measures in many small, interesting ways.
As an article in The Hindu, Luxury hotels in city all set to welcome guests back suggests, Mr Puneet Chatwal, MD and CEO, Indian Hotel Company, and president of the Indian Hotel Association, says, “The ICHL has launched its 4-D initiative -Dream Drive, Discover, Delight- aimed at providing their guests with the option of driving with friends and families, and relaxing in the luxury offered by the hotel.
The future scenario:
As the Covid curve flattens, a lot more changes await us. Contributions from all sectors will play an important role in helping the hospitality industry to bounce back to its feet.
Until things get back to normal, we will have to get used to’ the gun’ pointing at us, don’t worry, I meant the therma-check gun pointing towards us at hotel entrances; and the ‘hidden smile’– the smile of the moustachioed entrance personnel, now hidden behind a mask!
Contributor: Nafisa Shabbir Master
About our Writing Program Student
Nafisa is a Behavioural Psychologist, Neuro Linguistic Master Trainer, and Life Skills Coach. Apart from over 20 years of experience in Corporate Coaching, she also takes time to travel and go trekking. An avid traveller and trekker, Nafisa has trekked to the China, Myanmar and Bangladesh borders. She loves reading, coking, singing and making friends. She’s happily married and a proud grand mother of four beautiful children.