For a mini relaxing vacation, my sister and I decided to visit Goa this year. To make the most of our first girly trip, we booked a comfortable hotel which was located close to most of the tourist attractions. As we had sourced local help from one of my friend’s family residing in the vicinity, commuting would not be a problem for us. So with all the arrangements done months before, we were more excited than ready for our trip. However, little did we know that all the time and effort spent for the preparations would only be wasted in the end.
Although there had been news circulating about COVID-19 since January 2020, travel restrictions only started getting enforced in India from the end of March. Nobody had the least idea of the severity of the spreading virus, until situations around the world actually started getting out of hand. With no further option and obviously a heavy heart, we had to cancel our dreamy trip with refunds still pending for our booked flights and hotel. Not only restrictions on travel, but rules for social distancing and the need to stay indoors were also implemented.
Pandemic brings difficulty on Hotels and other Travel Accommodations
There has not been a single day, where we have not heard about coronavirus and the impact on the travel and hospitality businesses. Nevertheless, the hotel industry faced a different and more severe crisis. COVID-19 restrictions have effectively stopped economies around the world, leading to enter a recession period in 2020. With the length of the restrictions still active in many locations, the relentlessness of the crisis is likely to leave a long-term impact on the functioning of economies, supply chains and trade relations.
The travel and tourism sector have been heavily affected due to the pandemic with airlines suspending flights, and consumers cancelling trips and hotel accommodations. Majority of the companies restricted corporate travel to the affected countries, border closures and quarantines leading to vast economic disruption. With no profitable business, many people working within the travel and hotel industry faced unemployment and salary cuts.
The global hotel and other travel accommodation market are expected to decline from US$956.4 billion in 2019 to US$953.2 billion in 2020 at a CAGR of -0.4%. The decline is mainly due to economic slowdown across countries owing to the COVID-19 outbreak and the measures to contain it. The market is then expected to recover and grow at a CAGR of 10% from 2021 and reach US$1227.1 billion in 2023.
The hotel and other travel accommodation market consists of sales of short-term lodging services and related goods in facilities known as hotels, motor hotels, resort hotels, and motels by entities (organizations, sole traders or partnerships) that provide short-term lodging services and related goods in facilities known as hotels, motor hotels, resort hotels, and motels. Asia Pacific was the largest region, accounting for 36% of the market in 2019. North America was the second largest region accounting for 27%, while Africa was the smallest region in the global hotel and other travel accommodation market.
Restructuring Health and Safety Procedures
The fact that the coronavirus outbreak has led the hotels to close their doors, most of them have utilized this time to renovate and complete any pending maintenance work. While being aware of the ever-changing government policies, hotels are taking every precaution to provide a safe and healthy environment, as they prepare to re-open and welcome their guests.
Given the infectious nature of the virus, the hotels have taken care of a contact-less service wherein the staff have been asked to wear masks and gloves at all times, in-room dining and self-service have been encouraged to reduce human contact, mobile apps have been introduced for self-check-in/check-out facilities, as well as to connect to all switches in the room in order to avoid using fingers to touch. Following strict actions, guests have been asked to provide verified documents of their health and travel history on arrival at the hotel. Although, corporate travels have been limited with technology supported aided communication, there are few hotels that have started providing quarantine facilities for absolute necessary travel.
Technological advances are enabling firms to deliver personalized services by obtaining customer intelligence. Companies are providing customized promotions and offers by collecting vital information about consumers’ likes, dislikes and preferences by using social media and technologies such as mobile software applications that track customer behaviour. Hotels are now offering personalized menus, lighting, and other services based on customer information available from previous visits or intelligence gathered from social media. The Four Seasons Hotel spent US$18 million to revise their website which will deliver personalized dynamic web pages to potential customers.
Travel and Tourism is a huge substantial source of foreign exchange earnings for a country, and a contributor towards generating employment. Looking at the brighter side, we know that few of the countries are emerging from the deadly virus as the rates of infection are slowing down. The pandemic is temporary but it may still take some more time for the travel and hotel industry to get back on track. In the end all that matters is how to find ways to overcome these difficult times and recover faster.