Sonica Malhotra Kandhari, JMD, MBD Group pens her recommendations on post-pandemic recovery
Re-imagining of the hotel industry need not necessarily be limited to the service side, renovations and structural modifications can be undertaken to alleviate guest concerns on the one hand and to reduce operational and maintenance cost as well
The industry is passing through these uncertain times and true assessment is based on how well we could manage this situation. Our industry has witnessed huge amount of losses due to the on-going pandemic and we are fully aware of the disruption caused.
Globally it is clearly spelled out that the hospitality industry is trying it’s best to survive this unpredictable phase even with zero revenues. I truly believe one will be able to achieve pre-covid levels no earlier than 2022 as key customers such as corporates / key probably guests are much likely to have less discretionary monies and spending power to spend for travel and organising seminars and conferences in hotels. Behavioural changes such as social distancing will also impact how we socialise, which will also cast a shadow on F&B and entertainment operations in Hotels. Domestic and international travel which are important source of business for hotels are also likely to remain subdued for the foreseeable future, impacting bookings and occupancy at hotels.
Nevertheless, every cloud has a silver lining and due to pandemic all of us have done what was required for the sustenance and reengineer ourselves. Considering the present scenario, there is a lot of partnership required with the owners in terms of guidance on what is to be done and what not. Our industry is also experimenting with new concepts and is discovering incremental revenue streams.
Optimism would be the key to our way forward and we should aim to be agile and innovative. With technology being the new defining factor many expectations and variations that we are creating are basically work in progress, we will have to continue to tweak this as the way forward.
With the easing of restrictions, hotels have begun to receive the nod to reopen. The road ahead for the industry will be challenging and new norms will have to be followed so that safety concerns are addressed. In setting up a new normal, there may be an opportunity for hotels to go out of the box in designing attractive rates and packages for their customers. It is likely that domestic tourism will witness a boom as people will avoid international travel on safety and regulatory concerns. Hotels can take this opportunity by offering packages and facilities to attract family and group travellers while following high standards of safety protocol.
The reopening of hotels also provides an opportunity to re-calibrate operations to not only maximise guest safety but to streamline operations for maximum efficiency. Digitalisation of check-in and check-out facilities, automation of operations and accelerating technology adoption are some step that can be taken. Re-imagining of the hotel industry need not necessarily be limited to the service side, renovations and structural modifications can be undertaken to alleviate guest concerns on the one hand and to reduce operational and maintenance cost as well.
We are 90 per cent on survival mode and 10 per cent revival mode. The guests’ confidence is increasing every passing day and this proportion will change month by month as we move forward. I think in our industry everything is connected to people and ensuring that we take care of our team/workforce. There’s a great need to relook with respect to insurance to cover up the pandemic costs for our employees as well as for our business. Going forward, all these aspects will come into play.
Moreover, we have also learnt that multi-functionality is the name of the game to reposition and handle the situation. Now onwards, things are going to be very distinct in terms of roles and responsibilities of hotel team members. Multiskilling will be imperative and therefore, there’s a need to inspire people, whether they are from the front office, housekeeping or engineering department, everyone have to work in silos in the future.
The hospitality sector has the potential to be the main driving force behind the growth of the economy. However, I believe that it is more likely to be possible only with the right amount of support and incentives from the government. The Govt. should also support the hospitality sector in terms of loan restructuring both through extending loans at lower costs and large tenures which will help in boosting and reviving the hospitality segment. Secondly, we would urge the Govt. to provide relief related to removal of the interest or penalty with regards to delayed payment of GST and other statutory liabilities.
Thirdly, in Unlock 4, the Govt. has given relaxations in terms of non-restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods which was earlier effecting supply chains and adversely affecting efforts to revive the economy. However, we would request the Govt. to open up the economy in a unanimous manner across the country with no quarantine required for inter-state movement of persons and allowing banquets to operate across states as each state has different norms. We would also urge excise exemption on liquor for the hospitality and travel industry across the states.
With an urge to create and generate demand, most of the leading brands of hospitality have gone out of their way in showcasing the safety and security protocols ensuring that whenever guest checks in they’ll have safety barrier without compromising the human feel.
Furthermore, each cost has to be renegotiated as much as every new avenue of business development has to be relooked. Cost-effectiveness has been badly hit and to maintain it one needs to keep a very good eye on rates since input costs are going to be quite low.
Finally, looking at the optimistic side this pandemic will reinvent our industry in the long run.