Hospitality has been one of the industries that have received the hardest blows of COVID-19.
Hospitality has been one of the industries that have received the hardest blows of Covid 19. Sustaining their costs through travellers and tourists alone - the pandemic had quickly and unexpectedly blocked their only source of sustenance, leaving the industry in a gloomy state of depletion and drop. If we draw back to 2020, Hospitality was one sector along with tourism, travel or retail that directly froze with the imposed lockdown in the country. Travelling was not as common anymore, and on the other end, the entire working setup was shifted to digital means, curtailing the need for professionals to travel for corporate meetings or business trips. Amid the colossal wreck of its economy with the first wave of Covid, the Indian Hospitality sector witnessed a massive drop of 38.7 % in Revenue based on its Per Available Room. Dr. GVK Reddy assesses this recession in the hospitality sector of the country as "a historic, unforgettable and painful experience for the segment to bear. This has to be an eye-opener for the government and the owners of businesses alike, to better plan for upcoming economic slumps, to be ready with backup plans to cushion them from catastrophes in the future."
The third quarter of the economic year came as hope for the industry when the country slowly but steadily made a way away from its peak of Covid 19 cases. The lockdown restrictions were relaxed, hotels were opening up to welcome guests and the popular 'workation' culture emerged as the saving recourse for the segment. As the country started to foresee its way to post-Covid and an upbeat Covid recovery, it was not long before the fatal second wave of Covid hit the country again. The recovery efforts in hospitality fell into pieces and the segment was again back to fighting its hard economic strains with tax dues and exigent liquidity expenses. As many as 40 % of these hotels have shut down amid the pandemic. Dr. GVK Reddy throws light on the manifold issues the segment stood heads-on with, as these changes were increasingly leaving a mark on the functioning of the entire segment, "hoteliers and business leaders who were able to craft strategies and actions to fit into the new trends and adapt their business models in sync to the new normal, were the ones that pulled traction and continued in popularity." Indeed, a lot has to be done and a lot more to be seen before our economy gets back to strength after these difficult times.
To stay afloat, there is an urgent call for help from all these business owners. Industry representatives from The Hotel Association of India have, of late, appealed to the Prime Minister for Covid relief measures like one-time settlement of loans, extension of the moratorium period of these loans and waiver of all statutory liabilities for the period of the crisis. The sector took a breath of relief with the RBI announcement that opened a separate liquidity window of Rs 15,000 crore (INR) for some of the sectors that were contact-intensive. The relief plan included sectors like hospitality, tourism, aviation and restaurants, all of which fell immediately with the lockdown. Another note of assurance came from the government of Maharashtra where the Chief Minister, Uddhav Thackeray has hinted towards a certain concession measure for the hotels where they were assured some waivers in excise fee and other statutory fixed costs. Other parts like Himachal Pradesh, Jaipur and Punjab have been seeking for similar aid, making appeals to draw government attention to their despairing battle.
Dr. GVK Reddy elucidates how, "The present times have signalled to the extremely fragility of the hospitality sector during pandemics and crisis, setting a tone of worry and becoming wary for the unfavorable consequences of future outbreaks". The trajectory that leads the industry out of these setbacks has to be one that establishes equal efforts in part of the hotels as for the government. While the government has been inclined for the interest of the segment now, Dr. GVK Reddy highlights the responsibilities that hotels have to equally shoulder as part of their Covid-revival efforts - due care to health and hygiene is a must, the opening has to be in phases that omit risks of any rush while the guests are to be taken due care of in every service offered. Even though the segment comes under a "close contact - intensive" category, means have to become contactless to the best extent possible - Digitalisation of means is an integral step to take for the present and the future. As the sector now awaits more government assistance to kick-start business as the lockdowns in states relax, they are all set with measures of safety to welcome the guest to host a satisfactory post-Covid experience.
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