That the COVID pandemic has been the most challenging crisis since the Second World War is now long established. The world is still reeling from it, and it’s far from over.
One of the worst-hit industries has been the hospitality industry – and its ancillaries like aviation and tourism. And while people are starting to travel, the ongoing restrictions have made it difficult for the industry to set up a prognosis for revival. The crisis put the tourism business activity of the country, which is estimated at over $28 billion and related activities, to an unimaginable halt.
The UN World Tourism Organization estimates that during the lockdown, 75 million jobs were at risk worldwide, which corresponds to an expected 20-30% decline in international tourist flows. As per the Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH), it was estimated that around 70 percent out of a total estimated workforce of 5.5 crores (direct and indirect) could get unemployed, nearing around 3.8 crores. For the domestic industry, the summers which are the key months for the hospitality industry were estimated to be completely wiped out to the extent of the losses cutting upwards of 40 percent. Since the impact of all of this on the traveller is yet to be gauged, estimating how they would behave post the lockdown was not an easy answer at all. A very real fear for health and hygiene, lower confidence levels, etc are expected to last for a great deal of time.
A global future travel survey conducted in April 2020 by Preferred Hotels & Resorts suggested a more optimistic outlook. The survey revealed that people want to travel with around half of the people ( more than 50 percent) across countries worldwide and went on to say that they’ll book a trip in 2020 itself, and will do so as soon as travel restrictions are lifted or eased. 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 percent of people intend to travel regionally or domestically while 40 percent still want to travel to another continent. Surprisingly contrary to what perception was, over 80 percent of the participants were ready to travel by air.
Experts are hopeful that this year onwards domestic tourism will start witnessing some recovery signs. India has so far created a case study in managing the effects of a 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. Akshita M Bhanj Deo, who is the Director of The Belgadia Palace, strongly believes that post the lockdown, domestic travel has become 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 in an interview.
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 the past lockdown by investing our time in defining new concepts of delivering our services, we can take new initiatives which can shape into potent strategies which can help in policymaking. Staying safe at home, and building on our positivity and sail each of our ships to the shores of the constructive market,” suggested Hari Sukumar, VP-Operations, Jaypee Palace Hotel, Agra in an interview.
For the sector to bounce back once the operations resume, the industry has come up with new policies and concepts and reboot its services, giving priority to health and hygiene. Experts believe that most travelers are already interested in browsing the internet for quick getaway trips with experienced hosts who can guarantee 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. It is quite a hint 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.
In the same interview, Sukumar added, “Whilst this focus will continue, the implications for economic growth and corporate profits have led to a sharp reimbursement 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 policymakers is the safety of their people, the secondary one is to balance the economic parameters to ensure a smooth running market. Experts believe that it is the need of the hour to stimulate new decisions which can take forward our hospitality enterprises without making it stagnant.