Coronavirus, now globally carrying the status of a pandemic, has led to a worldwide crisis with its effects on the hospitality industry potentially heavier than those of 9/11, SARS, and the financial crisis in 2008. This time, however, the hospitality industry has experienced a sudden downturn. Putting the human at the center of the situation, the virus generates deep fear, confusion, and impacts us in a deeply emotional way that this generation has never felt. Of course, on top of this, physical confinement is aggravating the situation. Uncertainty on the jobs and economy front is also another reason for the reticence for patrons to throng their favorite restaurants or head to a resort, in addition to the fear of COVID-19.
But when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And even though the hospitality industry has been one of the worst-hit by the pandemic (up there with the airlines), out-of-the-box thinking by hotel chains have seen many adopting unconventional, if effective, new growth models to tide over the present crisis. Super luxury hotels like JW Marriott and Shangri-la all come for just around Rs 5,000, while the starred property Novotel Aerocity, owned by the owners of Indigo airline, offers fares around Rs 2,000 rupees. Many leading hotel groups have reported bookings going up in resorts situated around, or within driving distance from Delhi NCR for example, like Manesar, Neemrana and Bhimtal. Bookings are solid at tourist hot spots in the north like Jaisalmer and Palampur. Ironically, business hotels in smaller towns are seeing more business than in the metros, especially in states with lesser COVID-19 figures.
With most people not ready to dine out, many hotel chains have come up with measures, Taj hotels, for example, launched an app called Qmin where guests can order dishes from the F&B outlets of the hotel, while many others finally got listed on food aggregator apps like Swiggy. Many others now do ‘DIY kits’ of restaurant-grade ingredients that would be delivered home, while some even organized social media gigs or classes online. Sarovar group’s DIY food kits also came with a recipe and a live video call facility with their chefs, who would instruct the guests on the proper cooking process. And at restaurants at leisure properties, where there is a rush, it is a whole new way of dining—tables and chairs are kept apart, with some marked with ‘Do not sit’ signs. Menus come with QR codes, and even at buffets, dedicated waiters wearing protective gear take the required food item on request and serve it at the table, to reduce crowding at the buffet counters. Most items, from dals to other dishes, now already come pre-portioned at the buffets, making it easier to maintain the safety protocols. Interestingly, some hotels are going beyond their bread-and-butter of rooms and restaurants, letting go of some precious revenue their way. Hotels are supposed to be the most hygienic place, even before COVID-19 hit. Since they specialize in this, hotels have started giving services of sanitization of work and commercial space, and homes. thus, it is a completely new field of revenue generation.