Courtesy coronavirus, hotel industry stares at oblivion; recovery unlikely soon
In the months to come, nations are bound to ease restrictions. Some, like India, have already started. But it will be long before the hotel industry bounces back to the pre-coronavirus days. The exhaustive precautions that hotels would be taking won't be enough to convince people, even travel enthusiasts, for getaways. So how will the hotel industry recover? Or will it, ever? Let's dig deep.
The coronavirus outbreak hasn't left any industry unscathed. The booming tourism sector dealt with the maximum blow as travel restrictions were levied, large gatherings banned, and food and beverage outlets shut. In India, occupancy levels at hotels neared zero and some establishments were being turned into quarantine centers for suspected patients. The hustle-bustle was gone and losses kept mounting.
If a report by HVS-Anarock, a leading consultant in the hospitality industry, is to be believed, the Indian hotel industry is looking at a whopping Rs. 90,000 crore loss in the ongoing calendar year. Massive job cuts at the lucrative industry will follow. In April, the Hotel Association of India estimated that 4 crore people will lose their jobs. The number could rise.
Considering how things are currently, these estimates don't seem improper. Other data paint a grim picture too. Credit Rating agency ICRA said that some hotels might shut permanently, adding that the debt servicing holiday of six months which RBI announced won't serve as a bailout. Recovery could start 3-4 quarters later, and normalcy not before two years. This too depends on vaccine/cure.
Those who are in the business have little hopes. Subhadeep Datta, the general manager of Goldfinch Hotel, Mumbai, revealed they saw a de-growth of 80%. He isn't expecting revival before October '20. And Dr. Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director of Bird Group (which own Roseate Hotels), said they had no guests for weeks and even after restrictions are relaxed, the situation won't magically improve.
The lockdown also wreaked havoc on budget hotels, homestays, and guest houses, which flourished in the last five years. Owners transformed their properties into hotels, offered a great deal to customers, but with hygiene and health becoming the top priority after the pandemic, they will have to struggle to match the standards of bigger names. The coming months, if not years, look tumultuous.
Faced with an unprecedented crisis, hotels are chartering their way, keeping hygiene and minimum contact in focus. Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) said menus will be online, and foods that can boost immunity will be highlighted. Park Inn by Radisson installed Alexa in premium suites in 2019 itself and plans to fix it on elevators to let guests make voice commands. No touching at all.
At the reception desk, some hotels are mulling installing glass barriers. Some want patrons to carry their own pens. Customers will be screened and will be asked to furnish details about recent travel. Buffet service could be discontinued and in-room dining will be encouraged to minimize contacts. The elementary practices of sanitization, wearing masks, and maintaining distance from others would be sworn upon.
While things seem all gloom and doom now, an April survey by Preferred Hotels & Resorts said many people could travel in 2020 itself, buoyed by the boredom of the lockdown. Some could plan a trip with family members, they have been far from. But this could turn out to be a textbook theory. How would people, struggling to meet ends, plan hotel trips?