The COMEBACK PLAN

How the INDIAN TOURISM & HOSPITALITY Industry will open its doors post Covid-19

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The pandemic has crushed the global economy and shut down the tourism industry. Everything is falling like a ton of bricks. It’s like a torpedo has just hit the ship. It may take months or maybe even seasons to come back and stand on its feet if data is anything to go by.

While the entire tourism industry which includes Airlines, Hotels, Airports and all its partners are sending out their prayers and thoughts to the millions of people across the globe who have unfortunately suffered the wrath of the Virus, they are also gearing up and committing to making a difference in whatever way they can. Whether it is evacuating people from wherever they are stranded, to chartering flights in providing essential supplies and being an important link in the supply chain or even opening their doors to the community at large by providing food and shelter anywhere required.

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HOTELS are working hard in preparation of reopening their doors post the lockdown, ensuring that the facilities are safe, clean and ready, making sure that patrons feel secure in the areas of cleanliness, hygiene and social distancing so that when they walk through the doors they know the hotels commitment to their health and safety is of paramount importance and a priority.

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Deep cleaning and sanitization procedures will be carried out according to the new stricter norms. Rooms may have minimalistic approach and amenities could include sanitizers and wipes.

Most hotels have already started virtual trainings for the teams on the new standards, be it the airport assistance, front of the house, in-room delivery, laundry or the kitchen and have come up with new seating plans for the meeting spaces, restaurants and staff cafeteria.

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AIRBNB distinguished itself with an inventory of mostly short-term rentals. It offered the hosts a steady income to cover up their mortgage payments etc and offered would-be travelers who couldn’t afford fancy hotels, a chance to rent a room or a home in a cool glitzy neighborhood for maybe half of the cost of a hotel stay.

What would have been a roaring public listing announcement this year has now flown out of the window so to speak. And even if things start limping back to ‘normalcy’ by the end of the year let’s not forget the underlying issue here: how will AIRBNB find customers willing to stay in other people’s homes after all this?

Unfortunately, no one knows how long the crisis will last or how it will change consumers’ behavior. As the world puts on surgical masks and latex gloves, the corporate sterility of a Sheraton or a Hyatt suddenly seems a lot more appealing than somebody else’s bed. So has the AIRBNB’s moment ended? Only time will tell.

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With unprecedented consequences, many AIRLINES have grounded all, or almost all of the planes in their fleet. Several airlines are now flying passenger aircraft as freighters. Unless the government provides a stimulus to the cash strapped airlines, the year 2020 will see a lot more airlines staying grounded rather than up there at 35000 feet flirting with the skies.

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An action-oriented, and digitally supported “flight plan” is imperative for airlines to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis. One of countless air-travel challenges will be on getting passengers off their plane and through passport control, baggage reclaim and arrivals without putting them in close proximity to each other.

Airlines will have to accelerate consumer confidence about the safety in flying again, making sure to enhancing the need for sanitization of the aircraft after each route.

Assigning the necessary space for people on flights won’t be any easier. Armrests, tray tables and seat-belt buckles will have to be disinfected after every journey; and in-flight magazines and all other reading material have been removed.

Of course the ground turnaround time will have to be re planned for all LCCs – for whom timing was of paramount importance in pre Covid-19 days.

Airlines will have to begin imposing specific limitations for passengers, including requirements before boarding and have stringent security measures put in place at  boarding , such as mandatory health screenings or certificates, carrying personal water bottles, wearing masks and gloves at all times during the duration of the flight, and limit or refrain from carrying cabin baggage .

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Post COVID-19 AIRPORTS will have the gigantic task of maintaining social distancing through-out the terminal buildings inside as well as at the approach. What they will also need to work on is managing a contactless passenger process to avoid the risk of infection. E boarding cards, self -Check-in kiosk and Bag Tag printing, Self Service Bag Drop facility, Biometrics, will have to be implemented at airports across the country.

Each airport will be responsible to sanitize, maintain the hygiene and cleanliness of the passenger processing equipment units used at the airport, including boarding pass printing kiosks, bag tag printers, digital payment modes, card machines and scanners, security zones, trays to scan cabin bags, laptops etc.

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Sanitizers will have to be placed at all the locations that involve touching of the equipment before and after the process zone.

In the days and weeks following September 11 of 2001, the world changed. We all just felt it in our bones that nothing would ever be the same again. There was a pre-9/11 world and we are now looking at a post COVID-19 world.

Staff of food delivery companies sit on social distancing chairs due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, as they wait for their costumers' orders at a department store in Bangkok

While the 2008 financial crisis changed the economy, 9/11 changed us; it bought out our worst fears into the open. It created a shift in thinking and our sense of self. It changed how we viewed the world. There was a “lost innocence.” And as the Coronavirus has rapidly unfolded in the past few months, we feel that way again, on a massive global scale.

From how we work, travel, and conduct our day-to-day lives, everything is going to be different. We can see that a change is coming.

Let’s hope this change is a positive one. And this change of a ‘new normal ‘offers us a clean slate to decide on and create a better and brighter future for each one of us and for all of humanity.

 

-Madhavi