The much needed check-in

Issue 03, 2020

The much needed check-in

Devashish Vaid |author

Issue 03, 2020

The Novel Coronavirus has highlighted how caring for others is all that matters. While travel, tourism and hospitality sector took the first and perhaps the hardest hit of the pandemic’s economic impact, even the deadly virus couldn’t keep the indust...

The Novel Coronavirus has highlighted how caring for others is all that matters. While travel, tourism and hospitality sector took the first and perhaps the hardest hit of the pandemic’s economic impact, even the deadly virus couldn’t keep the industry’s spirits down. Several hotels – both chains and standalone properties – have proven to be critical support for guests and emergency service providers, highlighting that quality service and comfort of guests always remains at the very core of hospitality.

Switching fuctionalities

Many hotels are supporting the fight against COVID-19 by turning the  properties into quarantine facilities in addition to accommodating stranded travellers. Some hotels have even converted rooms into isolated workstations for individuals and corporates. Nearly 50,000 hotel rooms across the country belonging to chains such as ITC, Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL), the Lalit, Lemon Tree, Sarovar Group, Radisson Hotels, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) and many others have been set aside for quarantining suspected patients, asymptomatic travellers, or for accommodating medical staff battling the COVID-19 outbreak. As India launched the Vande Bharat Mission, a repatriation exercise to bring back nationals stuck across the world, several hotels were chosen to offer facilities for quarantining these travellers. In Delhi, properties included the Taj Palace Hotel, Shangri-La’s Eros Hotel, Le Meridien in addition to Hotel chains such as Lemon Tree, Accor and Radisson Hotels that have been offering quarantining services for asymptomatic people during the lockdown. IHCL’s budget chain Ginger hotels in locations such as Bhubaneswar, Faridabad and Bengaluru are providing rooms for quarantining people. Ginger hotels in Mumbai and Noida have been turned into isolation centres for medical workers. Vice-president of the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) Gurbaxish Kohli, said: “The hospitality industry and its entrepreneurs have opened their doors to support the people and the central, state and local authorities to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.”

A hotel staffer cleans a room for people who need to undergo 14 days quarantine after returning to the state, as a preventive measure against COVID-19, in Siliguri, West Bengal

Hotel chains have also been providing meals to those who are battling the pandemic at the frontline – medical staff, police personnel, government officials and many others. Hotels have also been instructed to assist hospitals with the increase in influx of the patients. Recently, The Taj Mansingh hotel, was instructed to assist the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in New Delhi with the treatment of COVID-19 patients. The hotel will have the responsibility of providing rooms and food to the patients and will also be in charge of the housekeeping duties. Speaking about the community service, Vijay Dewan, MD, AS Park Hotels, said, “In Kolkata, we are working with the state government and have assigned 20 rooms for health practitioners and medical staff battling the COVID-19 outbreak. Some of our hotels are operational and we are ensuring our best to do whatever we can to keep everyone safe.”

Shwetank Singh, VP, Development and Asset Management, InterGlobe Hotels  said, “In New Delhi, we are providing full support and assistance to the government in its efforts to control the outbreak. At present, we have reserved 149 rooms across three dedicated floors for guests who have been instructed by authorities to undergo self-quarantine after returning from international destinations. We are also coordinating with the concerned embassies and have offered our services to international travellers who are stranded in India.”

Speaking about the initiatives undertaken by the Sarovar Group, Ajay Bakaya, MD, Sarovar Hotels & Resorts, says, “We started the ‘Thinking Of You and Caring For You’ initiative with an aim to contribute to those who are distressed. In Bhavnagar, Gujarat, we are distributing cooked packed food among the needy. In Chandigarh we are distributing food through the Deputy Commissioner’s office. In Mumbai we are collaborating with the local authorities to prepare and distribute packed meals. Our hotels in Rajkot, Haridwar, Amritsar and Pune are also serving cooked food to daily wagers, policemen, and employees at hospitals.” Kush Kapoor, CEO – Roseate Hotels & Resorts adds, “It is also imperative as a leading luxury brand, being a part of the ecosystem to offer assistance to one another in demanding times like these. We support the move and are also actively doing community work in enabling food distribution safely and hygienically.”

Hospitality staff from the Roseate group getting ready to distribute hygienically prepared meals to people in need with the help of security personnel in New Delhi

Adverse impact

The pandemic has severely affected the hospitality industry. With global travel severely curtailed, hotel occupancies have diminished and cash flows have become a major challenge for the industry. Most hotel chains are looking forward to the return of normalcy. Industry reports predict an 80 per cent fall in revenue compared to 2019. The sector is still coming to terms with low room demand and uncertain future bookings as the hotels are unable to secure any future business.

Indian police personnel wear facemasks as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak outside a hotel in Amritsar, Punjab

Bouncing back

Given the government initiatives to promote domestic and local products and services, even hoteliers are pinning their hopes on domestic travel. “We will focus heavily on local and domestic market to start with. The hospitality and tourism segment are expected to see an upsurge in demand from domestic travellers post the containment of virus.” Dewan added. “To reinforce greater care and ensuring a safe environment for our guests, we successfully launched a program with enhanced standard operating procedures to leave no stone unturned when it comes to touchless guest stay, dining or delivery services.” adds Kapoor. Until the hotels resume their normal day-to-day operations, the use of properties as quarantine facilities and shelters for medical staff is greatly helping the authorities in the efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 in India.

Devashish Vaid

Devashish is an avid traveler and a storyteller who loves sharing snippets, flavours and sights from his journeys, undertaken mostly by road. His idea of travel revolves around first hand experiences with people and the real flavour of a destination.
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