The coronavirus has created a global catastrophe with far-reaching implications for the hospitality industry. This sector has never experienced such a sharp decline in its activities.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council’s Economic Impact Report, before the pandemic, the travel and tourism industry directly and indirectly accounted for 10.6% of all jobs and 10.4% of GDP global. However, in 2020, due to Covid-19, 62 million jobs were lost, a decrease of 18.5%.
Global airlines, according to the International Air Transport Association, would need an emergency reserve of up to $ 200 billion to survive.
The Covid-induced lockdown has wreaked havoc on the Indian hospitality industry. This industry in India brings in billions of dollars every year. Although it is one of the fastest growing companies, this industry is more sensitive to external and internal crises. According to the conclusions of the Tourism and hospitality journal, in India, this sector faces a possible job loss of around 38 million, or 70 percent of total employment, due to the coronavirus.
According to the Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India, hotel industry revenue in fiscal year 2020-21 fell to 1.30 lakh crore from 1.82 lakh crore in 2019-2020 . In addition, the industry has struggled to meet regulatory compliance and capital spending commitments since March 2020. The repayment of loans with interest has further worsened its financial health.
According to HVS Global Hospitality Consultancy Services, hotel occupancy rates in major cities fell 45% from the previous year. To make matters worse, the pandemic has affected the incomes of potential tourists in addition to creating a barrier for the basic reason for the trip: to see and explore other cultures. The chances of recovery and growth to the level seen in 2019 are low, unless a full vaccination against Covid is performed.
While most hotels predict two to three years of decline, some predict a longer recovery time, making it difficult to predict how the pandemic will affect their businesses in the long run.
Although the pandemic has taken the hospitality industry to an all-time high, the industry’s continued efforts to introduce innovative techno-managerial interventions and new security protocols give hope for a recovery.
A study reported in Sustainability Journal shows that environmental concerns and customer confidence in green hotel brands have increased due to fear and uncertainty over Covid-19, and are willing to pay more to stay in green hotels.
Thus, it is the responsibility of hotels to strengthen their green image by preserving water and energy, minimizing waste, recycling reusable products, etc.
In addition, they should develop effective marketing campaigns emphasizing their respect for the environment, and thus pave the way for better brand recognition and a reduction in the trust deficit.
Today more than ever, Indian hotels must be vigilant and adopt rapidly changing ecological practices.
The government, for its part, has taken financial stimulus measures to revive all sectors of the economy, including the tourism and hospitality industry. Programs such as free visitor visas for five lakh travelers, a loan guarantee for areas affected by Covid, LTC payment vouchers, as well as incentives for travel and tourism actors and registered tour guides, have been put in place.
Experts advocate maintaining the subsidies and the moratorium on loans for a few more months, in addition to strong concessional financial assistance to meet operating expenses. However, it is imperative that the government insists on sustainable environmental practices in the process of reviving the tourism sector.
Destination Capital, a strategic consulting firm, has signed an agreement with the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) to help revitalize the sector. This agreement envisages investments in green and sustainable tourist accommodation, in particular in the aftermath of the Covid crisis.
Indian policymakers could seek financial and technical assistance from UNWTO to revive the hotel industry, if the need arises.
Encouraging the sector to adopt more green initiatives and practices would also help India meet the sustainable development goal for climate action, as well as meet its commitment under the 2015 Paris Agreement of reduce its carbon footprint to 35% by 2030.
Milind is a professor at MBM Engineering College, Jodhpur, and Manpreet is a postgraduate student