In the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospitality industry will open its doors to patrons tomorrow in a scenario not experienced before. The tourism sector, too, is slowly awakening with the Karnataka government gearing up to welcome visitors and guests, under guarded circumstances.
The State government released a set of guidelines for the industry on Saturday for tourists, popular tourist destinations and those affiliated with the tourism sector such as transport operators. Apart from necessary COVID-19 protocol involving social distancing and sanitisation, the guidelines have also announced COVID-19 Crisis Management Teams for tourist destinations and accommodations.
The long list of dos and don’ts are expected to change the way travel happens in a lot of ways – from check-in and room service to dining and sightseeing. In addition, the industry too has started taking measures to adapt to the new situation.
State-run Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) hotels are set to open in a phased manner with half occupancy.
Kumar Pushkar, MD, KSTDC said only four hotels of 20 will be opened in the first phase to enable efficient staff training and sanitisation and disinfection of premises. The first bookings are open for KSTDC properties at Madikeri, Mysuru, Badami and Kumara Krupa – Bengaluru.
“We will be starting with 50% occupancy only, mainly because once guests check out, we can disinfect the premises more thoroughly. The training is also an important aspect of how to behave, how to monitor touch point sanitisation, etc., as we don’t want any hotel to become points of infection,” Mr. Pushkar explained.
With some sectors, such as doctor and dental clinics, hiking prices to cover safety costs, will there be an impact on hotel tariffs too? Mr. Pushkar said the hotel industry ecosystem is competitive and dynamic, wherein prices increase with demand. “But we can’t increase rates now as that would be discouraging people to travel. We are looking at generating some kind of revenue. Once functional, then we will see. There has been very good demand for jungle lodges already. But there could be hesitation initially to travel,” he said.
The private tourism sector, too, is cautiously opening their doors to visitors. An OYO spokesperson told The Hindu that the precautionary measures being implemented include minimal touch policies, ensuring accessibility to protective equipment, higher standards of hygiene, cleanliness and sanitisation. “We have trained 1,000 hotel partners under this programme. We aim to implement these measures across 18,000 hotels in India in the coming weeks,” said a spokesperson for the company.
Hoteliers are expecting a growing preference for staycations where travellers would prefer independent boutique hotels with limited capacity. “We can also expect domestic travel to boom as restrictions continue on international travel across most destinations,” the spokesperson added.
Zubin Saxena, MD and VP, Operations, South Asia, Radisson Hotel Group, said that have developed new standard operating procedures (SOPs), a 20-step protocol for hotels and a 10-step protocol for meetings and events. “There is no doubt that people will begin to travel again soon. Over the past decades, hospitality brands have earned the trust of their guests for comfortable stays. Now, this needs to be extended to personal health and hygiene. As soon as the industry can establish this, people will step out and travel again,” he added.