Pandemic and its aftermath
- Aditi Balbir
- Updated: May 06, 2020, 09:09 IST
This is a time of war. And it’s bigger than WW1 or 2. Because the enemy cannot be seen. Because the scale is global. And because 3 million people have already been infected and this is just the beginning.
We felt it first — because suddenly people were afraid to travel — and the travel industry came to a grinding halt. Still, the damage had been done and the Corona virus that had originated in a small province in China had reached over 210 countries in a few short months. And now, after a month of lockdown, with each day a frantic search for news on growing cases, we have come to a realisation. That we have to live in a new normal and adapt as best as we can.
So what is the new normal for the hospitality industry? Even if we promise 100% sanitised version of our hotels, are people going to come? Are they going to feel safe? Because this is the key to attract customers. Chains have already responded by introducing new hygiene standards. Marriott is replacing cleaning agents with hospital grade disinfectants. Thermal checks are likely to be mandatory and sanitizers are the new norm. While we continue to focus on the needs of customers, hoteliers need to also protect their staff and the people who are come in contact with many guests each day. And so there is a case for PPE — or what we all know as a personal protective equipment. It includes a safety helmet, gloves, eye protection, high visibility clothing, safety footwear and respiratory protective equipment. For those who haven’t seen it, it is a hazmat suit — what you see often in Hollywood movies where the protagonist is handling dangerous materials! While this would be considered blasphemous in a customer friendly industry such as ours, it is in fact the need of the hour. Especially for resorts such as ours, which are offbeat and run by local people.
We believe that PPE shall be useful in processes that require maximum interaction with the guest. The bellboy for instance, will be required to wear one as he offloads the luggage, sanitises it and brings it into the lobby. The F&B service boys, who carry food trays to the table and take orders. Or even the sourcing boys, who are taking deliveries of groceries, and other items on a regular basis. In fact, a simple thing like a smiling hostel carrying a welcome drink shall be replaced by one in a hazmat suit carrying a tray of sanitisers for the guest to disinfect their face and hands after a long journey. Or the front office manager, usually eager to greet the guest will be behind a visor and shall instruct one to pick up his room key with zero contact. Of utmost importance is handling the PPE itself, for that is most prone to infection and needs to be disinfected carefully. Since a good PPE costs under Rs.1000 (I’m not obviously referring to the ones designed by Loius Vuitton), a widespread adoption of the same is economically possible.
So the argument is this — in a high touch industry like hospitality, what can be automated or changed to ensure minimal touch. What is mandatory, and what can be considered going too far? For instance, can we force our guests to wear masks? Can we disallow a reservation if a guest has fever? All questions that we must navigate through if we are to see a revival in our businesses and the industry at large.
The pandemic has changed the world, now more connected that ever before. Work from home is legit, conferences are digital and technology is key. In our industry, the Indian ‘Namaste’ has already replaced the handshake. And tomorrow a robot might take up the place of a front office manager. One thing is clear, brands that can deliver On hygiene and personalisation, even in low touch processes will win.
(This article is authored by Aditi Balbir, the Founder & CEO of V Resorts)
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHospitalityWorld.com does not necessarily subscribe to it.