I believe that the travel industry will spring back earlier than the tourism industry. The reason I believe this is because travel decisions are largely reliant on the NEED to travel, whereas the latter's decisions are on WISH to tour. Yes, travel will pick up speed, but my bet is more on roadways, than by airways or railways.
Most hotel and travel operators are getting an increasing number of calls from their earlier / regular clients who are concerned about the mandatory restrictions imposed by the law of the land, such as inter-state rules, flight and train bans, and also to seek clarifications on permits and quarantines. In my opinion, an interactive state portal that provides real-time answers to queries on ease of travel restrictions and mandatory procedures to protect oneself and prevent contaminating others is the desperate need of the day. One understands that decisions on both travel and tourism shall be mostly preceded by an exhaustive inquiry through known agencies, and from other reliable sources. What better way that an official response that assuages concerns and at the same time nudges the public to shed their anxiety and take abundant precautions, rather than allow rumourmongers have a field day.
Further, handheld control of adaptable technology shall be game changers of the future. It is time for AI minute-to-minute enroute guidance that monitors one's travel and provides search engine connected tools to navigate through non-contaminated areas while giving deep insights on where to find services or necessary help such as midway toilets, chemist stores, hygienic restaurants, etc.
Hotel and resort owners need to reinvent themselves or will slowly perish in the long-haul situation that they are presented with. A series of brainstorming with their teams, networked friends in the industry, independent consultants, well-wishers, relatives, and family is the need of the hour. The pandemic has forced all of us to collaborate and not think independent of each other. My strong belief is that a way forward will emerge to navigate through the crisis.
Rather than attritioning staff, a diametrically different thought paradigm needs to be adopted. For example, instead of laying off assistant cooks or waiters, restaurant owners should train them to go out and deliver in an enlarging ripple-effect area around their business location. Similarly, all HODs and non-operations staff of hotels should buckle down and get upskilled on engagement through social media and bring their collective resources to reach out in sending out a clear message – we are open for business, do get awesome never-before and never-again deals on pre-booking and easy payment mechanisms.
This has been heard in many circles before, but the present reality has driven home the concept of an interconnected and shrinking world. I have had friends from several countries calling me and praising India's efforts in fighting back with vigour and steam in pushing back from what could have been a dreadful situation. Several friends are asking post January travel inputs to states that have shown peerless records of Covid19 control – Kerala, Goa, Orissa, and the North-eastern sister states, amongst others.
Without a shred of doubt, short trip road travel to safe resorts that are close to nature are the most likely beneficiaries of group movement of families and small groups. Those who broadcast a detailed campaign of efforts to ensure a guaranteed safety (doctor-on-call, contactless dining, hyper-sterilised housekeeping services, etc.) will get the early bird's worm. Rented self-driven people-mover passenger car sales are bound to shoot up.
Author Sunny Sriram is Director – Arrow Hospitality Consulting and member advisory board Better Kitchen. He specializes in conceptualizing unique dining concepts, realizing ROI faster than expected, and chain-store strategizing.