Dharamveer Singh Chouhan, Co-Founder & CEO – Zostel, believes the second half of 2020 will notice a steady rise in all sectors including tourism.
How are you dealing with the crisis?
– We are following all the guidelines laid out by the Government
– We are helping stranded travelers and frontline workers for self-isolation and quarantine
– We have launched a campaign inviting fellow players in the travel sector mostly dependent on tourism as a revenue source to join us in helping them start a steady flow of cash under our campaign Travel for Tomorrow. Here we will accept payments on behalf of these players (Homestay owners, adventure companies, cafes) online, these will be turned into credits and given to the customer to redeem it at that establishment whenever they want. The money, however, will be transferred to the partner immediately.
– We have also launched the Zostel backpacker package where we are selling room nights at unbelievable prices which can be redeemed anytime anywhere and have lifetime validity.
– We are also working on a digital product where we intend of bringing the entire Zostel experience online, where you can experience the vibe of our properties and interact with people you would meet in our common rooms on our online platform itself. With dedicated focus on art, culture and people we are looking to make virtual socialising cool
Do you think the crisis has a different impact on a different segments of hotels?
The travel sector like any other sector has received a major blow, however considering the nature of the circumstances it will not be the first one to recover. The pandemic will change the way people step outside their houses let alone cities, so regardless of segments, people will now focus more on the kind of precautions each accommodation service provider undertakes. Hygiene and safety will soon become a primary selling point for each hotel segment.
What are your predictions for 2020?
As we have read on social media platforms ”this too shall pass” we will overcome it sooner rather than later, and the 2nd half of 2020 will notice a steady rise in all sectors including tourism. Depending on how aware and alert people are, together we will be able to help the economy regain its strength and in a due course of time we will have put this behind us and would be looking at a brighter future ahead. This situation has already taught us so much about hygiene and the environment, all we need to do is not forget.
In the time of crisis like COVID-19, how do you keep going?
It is fair to assume in this time of crisis that we are all in this together, so what we are doing right now is focussing our energies to securing our future and making the present situation more bearable. Hence we have chosen to launch our travel for tomorrow campaign to not only help our franchise owners and their employees but also other players in the industry who are facing the same issues and unfortunately do not have the means to do anything about it. It is only by helping each other will we be able to overcome this pandemic together, let’s remember this time by the stories of how passionately and unselfishly we came together to survive this.
Do you think the prime players would somehow make it in comparison to new hotel brands?
It is very difficult to make a general assumption on this situation, only time will tell who will survive this and who won’t but the general consensus believes that the prime players will probably survive this because of cash reserves, however loss of lacs of jobs is a bargain no one will probably be happy about.
What have your learnings been from this situation?
Organisation and leadership is key in these situations, we have been grateful that all Zostel employees were already well accustomed to Slack, trello, & Zoom, so the onboarding of all communication on these platforms was a cakewalk. We have been working on our objectives since the first day we went on work from home. This has kept the morale high, days have become more productive in a weird sense, from washing dishes during the break time to having chai with the family while replying to emails, our daily townhalls are place of fun stories of work and how interesting life has become. I personally feel that addressing the situation and making light of it is the best way to keep things smooth, real and positive.
What happens to expansion plans of hotels when something like this strikes on a global level?
Needless to say that everything will be halted, however let’s treat it like a slingshot and not a speed breaker, let us use this situation to analyse plans and perfect them, so that when the time is right, we nail it in the first go. This is the perfect time to step back and do a deeper analysis of your plans, make changes based on the situation and be patient because every nation will have its reformed policies and guidelines, so the best thing to do right now is to wait for the right moment. Tourism is an essential part of every economy so considering how sensitive it is to the situation it will see a lot of changes for the better and quicker resumption of its state. Domestic and international travel is going nowhere, we will have to follow new rules and regulations just to make that happen so let’s work together to make it possible sooner rather than later.