As soon as COVID-19 checked-in it was curtains down for the travel, hospitality & tourism industry. Many looked at alternative modes to keep the till running at its best while others provided rooms for the “Vande Bharat Mission”.
It has been a tough and dismal 2020 for this sector. A survey conducted by JLL corroborates the same. 60% of the respondents predicted a 13 to 24 months period to bounce back to 2019 RevPAR levels.
Key to survival & revival of the hospitality industry like all other sectors lies in increased spending and changing the guest’s perception that it is safe to step out. For the former, government intervention will help, for the later, the industry will need to take steps.
The Kamath committee too has recommended a focus on this segment by the Government.
From my perspective the Government could consider extending MSME working capital loans to this sector to help job restoration. Waiver or normalization of the Liquor license fee of hotels on a pro-rata basis for the time the hotels were shut and not allowed to operate in a previous year will help the hoteliers tide over the tough times. Rationalization of GST rates over a short period to make the cost of stay more reasonable would be another step.
In the hospitality sector, many of its members are on the verge of going bust, relaxation of interest on loans and moratorium on loan repayment is the need of the hour. A dedicated stimulus package for the distressed hospitality sector is a must.
PM’s call for visiting 22 domestic tourist destinations by 2022 is encouraging. However, it needs to be supported by the backbone of travel and tourism, which is Hotels. FICCI’s recommendations to this effect are very timely. Deadline extension of restructuring for hotels to March 2024; extension of the repayment period for the hotel industry under the Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Schemes (ECLGS) to 10 years. The idea to create a separate Tourism fund under the aegis of the Ministry of Tourism and bailout packages to fund and support the salaries in the Tourism and Hospitality Sector in this time of crisis is another great proposition that the Government should take cognizance of.
All these measures will yield results only if people travel. People having cooped up for months are restless to travel, this may give a boost in the short-term to this industry but to sustain and grow it through the year Government may need to take steps to make travelling lucrative and hotels will need to reinstate the message of being safe, clean and a hygienic stop. They need to relook at their systems, processes and offering to ensure they can reposition themselves in line with the need of the hour.
It is the time to change gears from Ask to a Give. All need to take that small extra step to make the guest feel special and cared for like never before.
The government may need to look at these measures and find ways to subsidize or offer relief on the additional expense that these efforts load onto industry to help them tide over the rough patch.
Another thing to consider, that would go a long way in instilling confidence in guests to travel or dine out, in light of the availability of vaccines is to prioritize inoculation for front liners in this industry.
(Rohit Warrier is the CEO & Founder, Warrier Safe Shields)