Last week when the Hyatt Regency in Mumbai decided to shut down, it confirmed everyone’s worst fears – the second wave plunged the crumbling hotel industry into an existential crisis. Reports indicate that 10 other hotels, which are part of major hotel chains, have closed their operations permanently due to the second wave of Covid-19. Industry experts believe that once the second wave is over, the industry will see hotel rebranding, with independent hotels likely to seek a merger with big brands.
According to global real estate services company JLL, hotel occupancy rates in India fell 17% and room rates fell about 9% in April 2021, compared to March 2021. The recovery of the industry in early this year was mainly due to the good performance of the leisure segment.
Vikram Lalvani, Head of Revenue, Sales and Destination, Sterling Holiday Resorts, says: âThe first few months of 2021 have been good for the brand with around 65% occupancy. Even through the first days of April 2021, we saw 65% occupancy with a healthy mix of members as well as weddings, business meetings, conventions and other events. However, with the restriction reimposed in the second wave, the summer season was again impacted this year in all resort destinations. Many people, whose reservations were scheduled in the summer, began to inquire about alternative dates and resorts. “
To remedy this, Sterling, which owns more than two dozen properties across India, also offers ‘holiday insurance’, as a free sign-up feature when booking, which covers guests up to Rs. three lakh per person in case of cancellation and medical emergencies. Lalvani adds: âTraditionally, city hotels have a higher occupancy rate due to business trips Monday through Friday. But according to our trends from last year, recreation centers seem better suited because of the advantages of a large indoor space, closer to or in the middle of nature, and accessibility from major metros.
In the meantime, many hotels are trying desperate measures to make up for some of their growing losses. A few weeks ago, the image of a luxury hotel in Hyderabad offering a vaccination package worth Rs 2,999 – including the dose fee – went viral on social media. Later, other images of this type were noticed, including that of The Lalit in Mumbai and Columbia Asia in Bangalore. Soon the government issued a notice calling for action against private hospitals offering special packages for COVID-19 vaccination in collaboration with hotels. Following the directive, the hotels withdrew the offers.
Zostel, a nationwide chain of youth hostels, has converted some of its properties into quarantine and isolation centers, even as it launched the Zostel Bubble to provide long-stay travelers and digital nomads a safe environment. âThe only trip the industry has seen in recent times are those who opt for long stays to escape their COVID-stricken cities,â said Dharamveer Singh Chouhan, its co-founder and CEO. While Zostel’s premises in Mumbai, Delhi and Jaipur have been transformed into quarantine centers with multiple patient facilities, the extended stay program in places like Dalhousie, Alleppey, Mukteshwar and Vagamon caters to digital nomads and stranded travelers.
Meanwhile, Treehouse Hotels has launched an impact initiative to help patients and families infected with Covid-19 around Bhiwadi with simple and nutritious meals. They have now extended this initiative to their guests. Each expense for a room for the night would help feed 50 people in the community.
Jayant Singh, his Managing Partner, adds: âThe hospitality and tourism industry as a whole has been hit hard over the past 18 months. Our company also felt the pain, but more pain was felt by the team who wanted to work and contribute but had no direction. “
Global digital travel platform Agoda has leveraged its technological expertise to help people in India research and find alternative quarantine or stay options during this latest phase of the pandemic. For this, Agoda has organized a list of hotels from its network of accommodation partners that provide “hospi-tel” services, that is to say accepting customers positive for Covid-19 to be isolated until their recovery. Guests who have tested positive for COVID-19 and whose vital signs are stable can now self-isolate at one of the 100+ listed hotels, located in 23 cities across India. These properties, according to Agoda, are equipped with amenities such as COVID-19 nursing support, three daily meals, and oxygen support.
The high-maintenance wellness industry, which thrived on international visitors, is also in crisis like never before, with flights banned for over a year now. In the meantime, they are also jumping on the bandwagon of immunity, well-being and recovery to make up for some losses. For example, Niraamaya Wellness Retreats has introduced a 21-night post-Covid care program at its properties in Solan (Himachal Pradesh) and Kovalam (Kerala), which aims to help patients who are struggling to regain their activity levels. physical, reduce dependence on supplemental oxygen, improve quality of life and, above all, cope better with the emotional and psychological impact of illness. Besides accommodation, the program includes medical consultations, meals, treatments and therapies, and of course, diagnostic tests and unimpeded internet access.
While there is an exodus of hotels from big cities, hill stations and remote places are where most of them turn now. Welcomhotel, one of the fastest growing Indian hotel brands of the ITC Hotels group, has just launched its second property in Himachal Pradesh – Welcomhotel Tavleen Chail. This launch follows the inauguration of the Welcomhotel Shimla about six months ago.
âThe pandemic has resulted in timely lockdowns and restrictions in most states. As a direct result, there have been quarantine-related trips and a handful of city vacations. The penetration of the vaccine helps to build confidence in travel. We expect an upsurge in motorized getaways that offer rewarding destination experiences.
âHills and beaches are normally the fastest to recover, and this time again we see great interest in these hotels. Additionally, we have launched responsible dining initiatives such as Gourmet Couch, Flavors and our F&B app that have helped our customers savor the culinary heritage of ITC Hotels’ best cuisine from their award-winning restaurants, âsaid Anil Chadha , COO, ITC Hotels.
Customers can place their orders on Zomato, Swiggy and EazyDiner, in eight cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Jaipur and Agra.