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. In India alone, the tourism industry, valued at around $28 billion, has come to a screeching halt since the imposition of lockdown.
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.
For the industry, even after travel rules are relaxed, it is the lingering fear that will hinder its recovery. Hotels, for instance, will have to assuage that fear by making transparent policies about their hygiene and sanitation procedures. The nature of advertising and marketing in the hospitality industry post COVID will undergo a paradigm shift. Ocean-view or pool-side sounds great but consumers will also want to know how often are the employees tested and if there are temperature checks along with metal detectors at the entrance. In addition to disinfecting, a doctor on call and offering wellness programs could also help the industry cope with the fear.
Another sense of dread that is impeding the growth of the industry is the anxiety around finance. Stringent lockdown and social distancing measures threw a humongous spanner in the economy of nations at large and people’s spending patterns. With jobs being at stake and medical expenses on the rise, it is natural that people, especially from middle and lower income groups, will cut down on their travel budgets. At the moment, especially in countries like India where the pandemic is not completely under control, most of the industry has adopted a wait-and-see approach. But it has also sparked a discussion to figure out how the travel/ hospitality industry can adapt to this scenario and sustain themselves, despite the crunch. Each player will have to figure that a balance that takes into account both safety and the economic viability of their operations.