From the idea of five-star and boutique hotels going to a customer’s home and offering an out-of-the-world experience to introducing futuristic steps like introduction of minimal human interference between a guest and hotel staff anytime soon, a number of interesting and innovative suggestions came up at the Global Online Hospitality Conference last evening. The online discussion, hosted by Gurugram based Ansal University’s Vatel Hotel and Tourism Business School (VHTBS), aimed at finding ways to combat the current pandemic scenario as well as to analyse the changes Covid-19 is forcing onto the hospitality business in the country.
“The educational institutions may have been shut for a while and other events may have stalled, the fact remains that every house has turned into a learning centre. This has been a major advantage,” said Prof (Dr) Garima Parkash, Dean, VHTBS during her inaugural welcome address.
“This period of the pandemic has been one of great learning for life for future. All we need to do is be optimistic. As we had distanced ourselves from Nature, though it wasn’t deliberate, as we had been forever engrossed in our daily grind, it has taught us a lesson and got itself closer to us. Such experiences make us multi-skilled individuals. We need to just unlearn everything and move ahead,” shared Dr DNS Kumar, Vice Chancellor, Ansal University. He added that the hospitality industry will surely hit back, just that it might just take some time.
From here began opinions and suggestions by industry experts. First up was Sunil Mathur, former general manager at Oberoi and ITC Hotels. “The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the industry globally with equal intensity but we will bounce back. We, in the Indian hospitality industry, are not new to challenges. In the past, we have done it successfully and in future too, we will be. Just that to succeed, we need to learn the art of balancing,” he said.
One of the most interesting suggestions for the evening came in from the senior general manager with the airline division of Café Coffee Day, Subroto Lahiri who began his talk about the industry citing the example of the Japanese city of Hiroshima on which a 16 kilo-ton atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945 and reduced it into a rubble, killing over 1.4 lakh people instantly. And that the restoration process took around two years and the population of the city, which had dwindled to about 80,000 after the bombing, had doubled in a short time. And by March 1946, most of the life in the city was back to normal.
“If it can happen there despite nuclear bombing, why can’t we do it here? There has been no bombings, just a pandemic. The need of the hour is to keep the staff motivated, maintain transparency and when there is rain outside, just train your staff. With customers, the idea is to keep them engaged like we have been giving them virtual tours of our facilities – how we brew our coffee, how we work and so on and so forth,” he shared, adding that in case of five star hotels, the plan should be to reach out to the customer as he cannot come to you as they have the infrastructure, the facilities and the experts.
Meanwhile, Srinivas Rao, Director (HR), Pullman Aerocity, observed that the mid-level sectors in the industry will strike back sooner than others. “The same will happen with the Tier 2/3 cities as they number of coronavirus cases is far lesser than the major cities. Travellers, when they start undertaking trips again, will prefer mid-level facilities over five star and boutique hotels,” he said. Rao was also of the opinion that there will be major technological innovations in the sector. “How best will we be able to check in our guest with minimum human intervention will be the key. Then other services, perhaps on the same lines as an Alexa, will need to be introduced so that a guest need not even pick up a phone to ask for details if he requires any,” he added.
The online session extended over three hours with more experts from the industry talking about their views and possible solutions. All in all, a very enlightening experience.