All is not lost?

The industry prime players tell Hospitality Talk why lockdown’s extension is the only hope to help this sector escape any long-term damage. 

Anupriya Bishnoi

With the extension of lockdown, business loss across the travel and hospitality sector remains incalculable. 2019 was a good year for the industry with RevPARs positive in all the major cities. However, since the pandemic broke globally and lockdown was announced in India which now extends till May 3, has forced hotel occupancies to plummet to single digits.

Where a few players think this is a much-needed step, some disagree and opine that timely intervention by the government can only save the industry from plunging to rock bottom.

Ankur Bhatia, Executive Director, Bird Group, applauds the Prime Minister’s decision. He says, “I firmly believe that life is more important than livelihood. Only when the infection is curtailed totally, would the travellers and hotel guests would feel confident enough to start travelling again and in availing hospitality services.”

The industry has shown resilience time and again, having battled severe depressions in the past. However, for something as unprecedented as the ongoing pandemic, industry can never be ready.

“We are appreciative of the government’s move to extend the lockdown. While this does increase the pressure on the hospitality industry, it is both pragmatic and essential for combating COVID-19 and ensuring the greater good of the nation. We are optimistic that with the government’s proactive and stringent regulations, we will be able to flatten the curve and emerge out of this crisis soon.” says Zubin Saxena, Managing Director and Vice President Operations, Radisson Hotel Group.

The total cases of coronavirus in the country surged past the 10,000 mark and social distancing seems like the only cure. Most of the chief ministers have also favoured the extension of the lockdown.

Sunjae Sharma, Vice President India Operations, Hyatt Hotels Corporation explains, “Our top priority is the continued safety and wellbeing of our guests and colleagues. We will continue to remain vigilant and follow the recommended procedures and protocols of the national and local authorities to ensure their safety and wellbeing.”

Though FHRAI supports the PM’s decision, the federation believes that with every necessary extension, reviving the industry will get much more difficult, especially without any announcements for specific relief.

“The hospitality and tourism sector accounts for 12.75% of employment, 5.56% of it is direct and 7.19% indirect. As we speak, the Indian hospitality and tourism industry is staring at a potential job loss of around 38 million, which is 70% of the total workforce.” elucidates Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, Vice President, Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India.

The hospitality industry has been the worst hit and a lot of damage is already done, businesses have come to a standstill and revenues have already hit rock bottom. With this new extension, besides the revenues of both the industry and the government, employment too will be jeopardised. GS Kohli adds “Timely government intervention can give us a new lease of life. I would reiterate that as an industry, our hotels and restaurants are at the helm, assisting the authorities with the required rooms for doctors and healthcare workers and food for various sections so that no one goes unfed. I also appeal to the Honourable PM to kindly review the order on full wages to be paid to all workers during the lockdown as without revenue, it becomes impossible to maintain full salaries of workers. We assure the PM that as far as possible we will ensure no worker is retrenched.”