New Delhi: Several hotels in India are offering some of their rooms for free or at heavily subsidized rates to healthcare professionals while also utilizing their kitchens to prepare meals for the needy.
However, the massive impact of covid-19 on the hospitality industry has put the sustainability of these initiatives in doubt as hotels struggle to overcome the crisis amid strict government restrictions and strong emphasis on social distancing.
The nationwide lockdown, preceded by a series of travel curbs that increased in intensity over the past two months, have left most hotels struggling with near record low occupancies, which is unlikely to improve much until September, according to industry executives. Part of the reason for offering rooms for quarantine to those who have returned from abroad or to the medical fraternity is to utilize their near empty properties but it is also as much driven by a sense of social responsibility, these executives said.
“Most hotels have taken a humanistic point of view in rendering these services, but the larger question is how long they will be able to continue them," said Jyotsna Suri, chairperson, Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry tourism committee, and chairperson and managing director, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group. The disruptions caused by the pandemic would result in 30 million job losses in the travel and hospitality industry and “ ₹15,000 crore loss between the months of March and April itself", she said.
The Delhi government has been at the forefront of involving hotels to resolve the shortage of rooms available for quarantine as well as distribution of meals and food packets to people such as migrant workers amid the lockdown. When the Centre introduced quarantine measures for even people without any symptoms who have arrived from places that have been highly-affected by covid-19, Delhi roped in some hotels to house them.
“We were mandated by the Delhi government under the Disaster Management Act to accommodate asymptomatic people who needed to be quarantined after their arrival from overseas" said Rattan Keswani, deputy managing director at Lemon Tree Hotels Ltd. He said the company has offered its Red Fox Hotel, Delhi airport, and Red Fox Hotel, Sector 60, Gurugram for quarantine purposes.
Vijay Dewan, managing director, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels Ltd, and chairman of Confederation of Indian Industry West Bengal State Council, concurred. “As for the future, this is definitely going to be a very challenging year for the hotel industry. We need government support in helping to mitigate the impact and business losses that the industry will incur," Dewan said.
Nandita Mathur, Pretika Khanna from New Delhi, and Romita Majumdar from Mumbai contributed to this story.