Although they are in no way interconnected with each other, thinking of the Indian hotels and tourism sector right now, brings to mind the famous quote by Robert Frost- The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep (Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening). In a way, this seems to be the prevalent scenario for the entire sector at the moment, going by the need for embarking on extensive (and often costly) sanitization measures and adopting other safety precautions, adjusting to the new normal owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and of course, tweaking customer service, marketing and overall hospitality paradigms to reflect this change.
The good news is that hotels are steadily reopening as part of the Unlock framework laid out by the Central Government. Several States are slowly opening up more hotels for local travellers and tourists alike, albeit with a flurry of restrictions and regulations that have to be followed by both hotels and guests alike. However, to be honest, the definition of the best hotels to stay has undergone a rapid transformation.
People are now seeking secure, somewhat isolated (from crowds and not near major tourist spots/pilgrimage sites for instance) and sanitized stays that are equipped to maintain adequate distancing as well.
Space for guests to spread out is a major criterion and so is the location, i.e. not too far from major hubs (restaurants, shopping avenues, major tourist landmarks) yet not too near them. Hotels with ample parking space, CCTV surveillance, all necessary safety infrastructure including frequent sanitization of all surfaces, the kitchen, restaurants and common areas, temperature checks of staff and guests alike and amenities like room service of food and beverages will automatically win brownie points from guests. People are also looking for workations or vacations which combine work and play in the current scenario. Hence, free Wi-Fi, conferencing facilities, power backup and televisions become a must at hotels. Brands which stay ahead of the curve in adapting to the new normal are the ones who will garner more hotels bookings in the future.
You should know that standard operating procedures or SOPs have already been officially released by the Indian Government pertaining to the hospitality sector and hotels. This has paved the way for the reopening of several hotels which were closed over the last 3-4 months.
One thing that stands out is the emphasis of the Union Health Ministry on the duties and responsibilities of hotel management with regard to maintaining safety on the premises and containing the spread of COVID-19. A big responsibility for sure, considering that these SOPs seek to reduce all physical contact, as much as possible, between guests and hotel personnel while including a raft of other preventive measures to be taken.
Agreed, guidelines and regulations are often of the boring kind! Yet, in the current scenario, if you with to travel anytime soon, you should keep an eye on these regulations. Who knows, you might just find them quite interesting as well!
Some key guidelines:
While these are the basics that hotels have to follow, there are several added details that may come in handy, should you wish to travel in the near future.
There are some regulations that many of you may not know about till now or have not heard of the same. Here’s taking a look at these crucial pointers that you should absorb without fail as a hotel guest:
There are some other specific guidelines for hotels as well. These include the following:
Of course, it goes without saying that one of the prime experiences at most hotels pertains to visiting restaurants and feasting on sumptuous food and beverages. However, in the current scenario, restaurants have temporarily lost their buzz and are busy adapting to the new normal, attempting to come up with preventive measures to safeguard patrons.
Here are some of the key guidelines that have been issued for restaurants:
These are some of the new guidelines recommended for restaurants in hotels and things that you should keep in mind before visiting one.
While the personal touch and physical contact might be absentees from the new list of operational protocols at hotels and restaurants, something that will ultimately work is the sense of cooperation between guests and hotels. You as a guest may have only a mask or gloves although the hotel staff will remain physically distant from you, wearing PPE kits and attempt at being invisible as much as possible. There are innumerable surfaces or touch points at hotels for visitors including reception areas, lobbies, lounges, restaurants and pubs, rooms, gymnasiums, business centers and other areas.
Touching will be the new taboo and hotels will be frequently sanitizing surfaces as well. You, as a guest, will have to furnish more information than ever before along with undergoing temperature checks on a regular basis and will be expected to abide by stringent restrictions. You will have to install the Aarogya Setu app while maintaining social distancing even in outdoor areas. This requires cooperation on your part and understanding of the rigors that the hotel staff has to go through for your sake.
You will be surprised to see restaurant tables at sizable distance from each other along with staff members wearing PPE kits and protective equipment. You may order from your mobile app and undergo temperature checks when you enter the establishment. Getting room service means you will have to open doors and take the trolley inside the room once the staff member has departed post delivery. All these measures may seem tough initially for both guests and hotels alike. It will require a little understanding, empathy and carefulness on everyone’s part. With time, once we have all adjusted to the new normal (the next big Dictionary addition for sure!), you will ultimately realize that you can start having fun again, only in a different way than before.
Leaving the lockdown, financial impact and other hurdles in the past, the Indian hospitality industry is looking forward to a brighter future. Hotels and all establishments are taking extra care to abide by all guidelines and safety precautions for the wellbeing of their patrons.
With Governments opening up hotels in various parts of the country, it is only a matter of time before the tourism industry starts reviving albeit under a different paradigm altogether. Workations (packages fusing work and vacations), higher emphasis on technology and contactless procedures, a new model of invisible service (physically invisible or hidden staff members as much as possible) and innovative staycation packages should keep the hospitality industry chugging along until things return to normal.
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