Following the initiatives taken by the tourism industry in 2020 to rebuild traveler confidence, and the initiation of vaccination drive by the government, the year 2021 had started on a positive note. Hotels had started seeing some revenue coming in and the employees who had been on furlough also started joining back. All eyes were set on the upcoming summer season until the second wave of COVID hit several parts of the country and they started undergoing lockdown.
While the businesses had already prepared themselves for a long road to recovery post covid, the road got a little longer and here is what the industry leaders think about the current scenario
Ajay Bakaya, Managing Director, Sarovar Hotels tells The Hindu Business line, “We were seeing some recovery in the November-February period. March was flat and April has been devastating. We believe April and May will be a complete washout. We are hoping trends reverse in June but it’s difficult to say when we might start seeing recovery. We are getting some revenues from small pockets such as Puducherry, Goa, and Mashobra but all the city hotels are down and out.”
With authorities already in action, hospitality and tourism businesses are largely in favour of stricter lockdowns and an extensive vaccination drive
Shoba Mohan, Founder Rare India, says, “It seems like we are back to 2020. That said in view of the surge in numbers and subsequent issues with oxygen supplies and hospital beds, it is best that stringent lockdown is imposed. It is health first. Large scale cancellations are a direct result of this second wave, the summer is quite literally wiped out.”
According to Rajeev Kale, President & Country Head-Holidays, MICE, Visa, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd “This is indeed a challenging time for us in the travel and tourism sector. The good news is that the considerable pent-up travel demand, given the lockdown fatigue, and with Indians having missed out on vacations for over 12 months. Travel will be back, but for now, the need of the hour is to focus on what is mission-critical that is vaccination.
“Our Second Holiday Readiness Report underscores the value of health and safety in travel decisions – 93% of respondents ranking Health & Safety as a key consideration. Health and Safety has and will continue to remain a critical focus for us at Thomas Cook India
“The travel and tourism industry is a force multiplier – a key contributor to the global economy and employment. Recover it must and it will! The road to recovery is going to be calibrated and long haul and each of us in the ecosystem is called upon to play our valuable part.”
The industry experts believe that it may take up to two years before Industry can see itself getting back to pre-COVID levels. This has led several hotels to resort to online food delivery or serving as a quarantine facility for COVID patients, travel companies on the other hand have been occupied with assisting their guests with cancellations and rescheduling of their travel.
Daniel D’souza, President & Country Head, Leisure, SOTC, Travel told us that several of his teams have been working to offer flexibility to customers in rescheduling their travel plans. Additionally, several initiatives have been taken not only to ensure physical safety but also mental and financial safety for their customers. Several products and discounts have been introduced for vaccinated passengers in a bid to encourage vaccination among travelers.
Prashant Gupta, Ceo Aayush Holidays, with operations in Northeast India, says that at the time when tourists were starting to trickle in the region, there was a lack of clear SOP’s regarding the requirement of permits or clearances for travellers
He says, “We have to not only take up the challenges of the industry but also the opportunities that could be harnessed in the shadow of the pandemic.
“The pandemic offers us an opportunity to hit the reset button to make the tourism sector a sustainable engine for economic growth and development. Beyond the immediate pain of the pandemic, we should not miss the chance to make full use of the crisis. Critical to the success of this would be to allay the anxieties of tourists by ensuring that robust protocols for safety and hygiene are in place.”