The worst hit due to the pandemic, the travel industry is now slowly churning its wheels again. Here, India’s top hotels share how will we travel after coronavirus, and what to expect from the new normal.
As soon as coronavirus started inching towards becoming a pandemic, the first activity to come to a halt was travelling. Across the globe, unanimously, the most stringent lockdown was thrust upon the travel industry, in both domestic and international capacity. While no one was prepared for this unprecedented standstill, the following months of zero activity has meant that brands could regroup, understand, and prepare for what will be the new normal.
With lockdowns being gradually lifted, hotels are gearing up to host people again. It’s a given that things won’t be the same for a long time to come. And if you are wondering how to plan your next travels, here’s some help: A deep dive into how the country’s best hotels are ensuring a safe stay for all guests.
“We believe that technology would be a crucial instrument in driving the mission to serve guests safely,” says Julian Ayers, General Manager, Hyatt Regency Delhi, about how the foundation of travel behaviour will change. With QR codes and contactless everything—menus, check-ins, payments, information guides—being a step taken by most hotels, he’s hit the nail on the head.
Of course, this is also an essential measure as caution and anxiety concerning hygiene is now a priority for travellers. “People will do a lot of intercity vacations and short-haul road trips in their vehicles, rather than travelling via trains or airplanes. We estimate that domestic travel will pick up faster than international travel. Travelling for leisure will rebound faster than business travel,” opines Vijay Dewan, Managing Director of The Park Hotels.
The boutique hotels are banking on their exclusivity. “Small will be bigger. People will travel in small groups of well-known friends and family and book an entire boutique hotel,” says Akanksha Lamba, Senior Vice President of Operations, The Postcard Hotel. She agrees with Dewan and adds, “People are also likely to take fewer, but longer trips, as the new logistics of travel, making it sensible to stay in your destination for longer once you have reached there.”
As for legacy hotels like the Taj and Oberoi groups, along with stringent measures, they’re also banking on the decades-long trust and loyalty they’ve shared with their patrons. “The challenges we face are unprecedented, but we believe the best way for us to demonstrate our commitment is to give our guests and associates the assurance of exacting standards of safety and hygiene,” says Puneet Chhatwal, MD & CEO, Taj Hotels. His sentiment is echoed by Vikram Oberoi who also points towards the need for transparency at all levels. “Our stringent health and safety standards are now available on our websites in their entirety. We hope this will help our guests understand in detail the measures we have implemented for their safety and perhaps others too may find these standards useful,” says the Managing Director and CEO of The Oberoi Group.
Measures implemented to ensure safe travel after coronavirus
All the hotels speak of standard protocols that they’ll roll out: Contactless service when possible, frequent sanitisation of luggage, surfaces, and cars, social distancing within the premises, portable hand hygiene stations, protective gear, temperature checks, medical assistance at hand, and adhering to all government and WHO guidelines.
However, most are going the extra mile to secure hygiene and patrons’ trust at all levels. “Hyatt has announced a Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment. The multi-layered commitment builds on Hyatt’s existing rigorous protocols and will include an accreditation process by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), colleague training and support resources, and a cross-functional working group of medical experts and industry professionals that will contribute to various aspects of the hotel experience,” shares Binny Sebastian, General Manager, Alila Fort Bishangarh (Hyatt Group).
They aren’t the only group to vouch for a third-party stamp for safety assurance. The Oberoi Group has collaborated with Bureau Veritas for inspection and certification for their program as well as virtual and in-person training sessions to supervise the implementation of the new standards. They’re also undertaking soft measures like menus comprising of immunity building wellness dishes and drinks.
The Park Hotels have developed an internal program called ’S.H.I.E.L.D.’, i.e., ‘Sanitisation, Hygiene, ISO Standard Equipment, Excellence, Luxury Redefined, Distancing’. These pillars seek to attract patrons with the promise of their health being the first and foremost concern. “The reservation team will enquire and maintain a record of the travel history of the guests. Check-in cards will be UV treated every time before handing over to the guests. Protocols and emergency numbers will be shared with guests before check-in. And rooms will be left vacant for 72 hours before the next check-in,” adds Dewan.
“We have the ‘One Key’ option wherein a small group can book our entire property to ensure complete privacy. With this guests can also be assured that there will be complete sanitisation of the premise before they come to our hotel, including the pool, which means that they can safely and confidently take a dip,” says Lamba. They’ve also accommodated staff at the property to limit external exposure, and will only open for non-resident guests after August 31. Both The Postcard Hotel and The Park Hotels have tied up with the cleaning technology experts, Diversey, for a third-party affirmation of their hygiene standards.
How are hotels making it easier to travel after coronavirus
While most remain non-committal on the subject of price changes within the new normal, few shared initiatives they’re undertaking to attract patrons. “To welcome guests back to our world of care and experiences, we will be announcing a special Staycation Offer. It is an invitation to experience their world with new eyes. We hope that our special package will allow guests to rediscover their community, reconnect with loved ones or themselves, and relax in the knowledge that they are safe hygienic surroundings,” says Ayers. The Hyatt Regency Delhi offer consists of a complimentary guest room and meals for two children (12 years of age or under), 20 per cent off on dining, 50 per cent off on a room upgrade, daily breakfast, one meal per day, two complimentary bottles of beer per stay, four pieces of laundry per stay or one-way pick up within 5 km radius of the hotel.
The Park hotels have introduced various staycation and daycation packages across all their hotels. “We estimate price-conscious hotels will witness a faster recovery,” says Dewan.
One thing is for certain—that we all will learn and strive to create as safe a ‘new normal’ as we can in the post-pandemic world. As hotels do their best to reinstall the comfort and luxury that forms their ethos, Sebastian encapsulates the industry’s current frame of mind, “We live in a world of change and change is the only constant! We are already creating processes and precautions to meet the new needs of our guests, and we will adapt to any further changes that may be needed to better serve our guests. As a hotel, we shall continue to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of our guests & colleagues.”
For updates on re-opening and bookings, you can check the hotel websites.
All images: Courtesy hotels