“ḳhudī ko kar buland itnā ki har taqdīr se pahle
ḳhudā bande se ḳhud pūchhe batā terī razā kyā hai / Make yourself so able that before every decree of fate
Even God is forced to seek your consent”
— Alaama Iqbal, Bal-e-jibreel (Gabriel’s Wing)
Alas, these are beautiful words for an ideal world.
At a time of extraordinary challenges, when Covid-19 seems like the prequel to the global climate crisis, we need to assume the best in one another. I can’t say I’m optimistic, but I am hopeful because hope impels us to act.
There is something that we can all agree upon and this is the vast and unforeseen impact the Covid-19 crisis has had on all our lives. The hospitality, travel and tourism sectors have been hit hard. Lockdowns, the inability to travel, teleworking, social distancing, strict health and safety measures are the factors that have influenced our behaviour, interaction with others and our way of viewing life.
Consumers are paying more attention to the different security, hygiene and health procedures of establishments. In order to gain the confidence of consumers, firms will need to be both transparent and reliable.
Many of us will be placing special emphasis on our wellness and wellbeing, such as inhouse exercise and sports, fresh and organic food, nutrition, self-care, regular medical checks, etcetera.
Many consumers will be prioritising expenditure on basic products and will focus on better quality products or known brands. There will also be more pre-planning and less spontaneous purchasing.
Home delivery services, contactless payments, medical appointments through videoconference, online purchasing, etcetera, are a way of life as we speak. As teleworking has proven to be successful, it looks like many organisations will maintain this concept as a definite or hybrid alternative for workers.
Some of the emerging trends when considering travel activities include drivable destinations, trips closer to home leading to increased use of private transport and domestic tourism.
In effect, consumer behaviour will be more orientated towards reduced and conscious consumption and minimal waste. Ancient sacred literature of the Vedas enshrines a holistic and poetic cosmic vision. Long before ecology became the refrain of the global song at Stockholm and Rio, the ancient Indic heritage had already provided a spacious spiritual home for the environmental ethos. The Vedic seers regarded the earth as a “sacred space” for the consecrated endeavours and aspirations of humankind, and for the practice of restraint and responsibility. The Vedic, Upanishadic, Jain and Buddhist traditions perceived this and together built an enduring spiritual, intellectual and cultural foundation for an environment-friendly value system and a balanced lifestyle.
In the Atharva Veda, is found the oldest and the most evocative environmental invocation for earth, the Prithvi Sukta: “Mata bhumih putroham prithivyah / Earth is my mother, I am her son.” It represents for the world a Renaissance of “the third plate”. What is good for the earth is good for humanity.
Now is the moment for hotel owners and operators to demonstrate the resilience of the sector and its capacity to adjust to the realities of the market and integrate the new rules and regulations. Operating departments will establish new standard operating procedures (SOPs), action plans will be fundamental for all divisions, business models will be reconfigured and contingency plans will need to be carefully analysed. Cleanliness, sanitisation, reduction of non-essential elements (cushions, decorative elements, newspapers/magazines) and the redesign of common areas to respect social distancing and capacities are all key aspects to consider when evaluating how rooms and public areas need to be adapted.
Without a doubt, the health and safety measures will be the area where hotels will need to focus their efforts. Some properties offer 24/7 medical care services, extended insurance policies or free RTPCR tests. ‘WeAssure’ from ITC Hotels is a holistic programme that addresses all facets of hotel operations, from back-of-the-house activity at the receiving store, back offices, laundry to the public areas with heightened sanitisation measures for guest luggage, elevators to room service. Accor Hotels have elevated the high standards of hygiene and cleanliness even further by launching a unique cleanliness and prevention label ‘ALLSAFE’.
Hotels will have to invest money and resources by organising training sessions, supplying appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), providing meticulous information and guaranteeing a safe working environment. Comprehension, flexibility, adaptability and empathy are also key in facilitating a fluent return to work.
Solvency and liquidity, future cash flow projections and uncertainty about the markets of the future are the main factors affecting all-new hospitality investments. Ambient conditions must be the norm. For example, temperature, fresh air flow rate, etcetera.
In the grand sweep of history, Covid is still a relatively mild pandemic. The third plague pandemic killed 10 million people in India. Worldwide, the coronavirushas killed fewer than four in 10,000 so far.
Whether we will go back to normalcy depends on how we define normal. Is washing our hands every time we enter a hotel room normal? Will “B-leisure” travelling now be more common as a consequence of an increase in the popularity of remote working? Is access to wellness facilities at hotels now indispensable? Will greeting and escorting guests upon arrival be permanently substituted by online check-ins and electronic devices?
The lifting of travel restrictions and the administration of the vaccine is not enough for people to travel again. Transparency with sanitary procedures, strict health and safety regulations and reconditioning of common areas are just some measures hotels will need to deal with over the long term. Those hotel companies characterised by a culture of adaptability and a positive attitude towards change will show resilience and lead by example.