A Lockdown Trend in Gujarat City Hotels (May-June-July2021)
Fig 1: Depicting the spread of Covid-19
The Covid-19 emerged in March 2020 in India and spread rapidlyall over the country to disturb the country’s economy. Every business sector was affected in India. Hospitality and Tourism was the worst affected. In the first wave, the hospitality&Tourism sector was severely hit as the Government forced the closure of the Hotels and the restaurants (all categories). Theclosure of the sectors too saw restricteddomestic travel by Buses, Taxis, Trains and the Airlines. The domestic travelling was totally halted in the country resulting in the zero activities in the Tourism and hospitality business. Majority of the hospitality Jobs were lost. This closure and lockdown continued from April 2020 to November 2020.From December 2020 Government relaxed the rules of Lockdown and allowed the opening of the Hotels during the day, till 7pm in the evening and the night curfew continued. The Government allowed to hotels to book banquets with 50 persons with strict riders. The Hotels and the Banquet commercial halls started operating with the 50 numbers with difficulty and a higher priced menu.
Fig 2: Depicting the Covid Scare among tourists
This practice continued in many hotels and the domestic aviation sector opened slowly in few select routes. The Room occupancy in the hotels increased and was hovering around (20-30) %. The Hotels were finding it difficult to operate the hotels with such less than minimum occupancy. The general public became very casual in their behaviour and the hell(covid-19) brokeout again in form of its second wave from the Mid of March 2021.This was probably the deadliest period in the covid-19 history so far in India. Many lives lost. Streets were lonely and only Police personnel could be found guarding the empty roads. The constant threatening and chilling sirens of the Ambulance was spreading the fear of impending death amongst the residents in all societies. Few hotels became the hotels for the covid-19 medicalstaff including the Doctors. The Doctors and the nursing staff stayed in such hotels in quarantine mode to serve the Covid 19 affected people. They did not go to their homes for months. Their accommodation and food were arranged in the hotels with maximum care. Such hotels could earn little revenue to manage their survival. Few other hotels undertook the food supply to the Covid -19 hospitals starting from Breakfast, lunches, evening snacks and dinners. Many five stars’ hotels remain closed till end of May 2021 without commercial operation andmajority of the hotels retrenched their staff or the hotel staff left their jobs, fearing death to theirlife. But few reputed and branded hotels continued their operation in the Major cities of Gujarat.
In themeantime, almost all the societies were in despair with the loss of the lives of their near and dear ones. Almost every person or his relative was affected in covid-19. Every society saw deaths with the impending fear. The mental condition of almost every person was in its lowest. Everyone was forced to stay inside his house and the same repetitive news in the Television and social media channel was so frustrating& scaring that people were looking helpless within their homes. People were not allowed to even walk within their society in the morning hours. Even Children were not allowed to play inside their societies as the vaccine for the children is not available. Lives of the people were arrested forcefully within their own houses.
By the mid of May 2021, in Gujarat the unlocking process started mildly. Incame June 2021, the numbers in Covid -19 infections started reducing and so were the deaths. The restrictions were lifted. The hotels were allowed to open fully and the restaurants were allowed to operate during the days till 7 pm in the evening and subsequently till 10pm. People started coming to the hotels and restaurants for eating out to break their monotonous life style. The hotels too saw few of the business travellers back. Generally, it has been observed in the past that the hotels introduce new schemes for the consumers from time to time. But during the unlocking period it was observed that a new trend was set by the consumers in the hotel accommodation division. As the states were not connected by the public transports, people started moving by their own vehicles to the destination hotels to spend time and break their boredom as a result of which the destination hotels were found packed with full occupancies. As suchthe destination hotels were understaffed during the locked down period. But the sudden rise in the travellers to the destination hotels did not allow time to the hotel management to mobilise their adequate staff strength to run a full occupied hotel. The hotels were busy in recovering their lost revenue during preceding financial year. Such hotels never refused their guests for accommodation and instead they accommodated. By this process many hotels severely compromised the cleanliness and hygiene aspects. More importantly the safety protocols were to not followed. The hotels followed this unethical practices to recover their lost revenue during the year. Slowly these destination hotels were viewed as the super spreader of the virus.
Fig 3: Depicting family fun time in hotel holiday activities during lockdown
Meanwhile the cautious families were too curious about breaking their monotonous long home stay. Few families decided to move to the quality hotels in the same city which can provide them safe environment, safe accommodation and safe food. In this case the families preferred good and reliable brand for their stay in the same city. The families stayed for (4-5) days and the working members too worked from the hotels. Few families in groups from same locality or a group of relatives in an extended family booked up to 10 rooms in one floor of a good classified hotel and enjoyed their stay together with lots of fun and enjoyment. This select consumers found the hotel rooms tariff low and affordable. Even the kids played in the corridors with different facilities like carom, Ludo etc. without disturbing the hotel facilities. Songs were a common practice during this fun stay in the local hotel stay while few played cards. Ordering special local menu was a nice feature of this period. Many city hotels in Gujarat especially have observed this trend during June, July and August 2021. This trend happened primarily in Gujarat as it is known that the Gujarati are the leading travellers in the country. They could not travel during the lockdown nationally and internationally since almost one and half year. Hence they preferred to move to the hotels in the same city and spend few days and some quality time with their families and known people.
From academic point of view, there are a few takeaway from this new tourism trend.
- • The Tourists preferred the safety aspect of driving their own vehicles to the local hotels for staying.
- • The tourists preferred their local, trusted city hotels for stay during the period.
- • Such tourists were sceptical about driving long to destination hotels, where the occupancy level were extremely high and the hygiene safety protocols for were grossly violated.
- • The Tourists found the room tariffs of their preferred, trusted local city hotels are cheaper and affordable during that period.
- • The tourists’/Guests families from the same society/colony, booked adjacent rooms in the same floor & wings of the same local, trusted city hotels and enjoyed it as convenient as their colony gatherings and meetings.
- • The tourists/guests even requested the hotel management to serve the food for their families in a separate lounge which too took care of the overcrowding SOP during Covid-19.
- • The Guests families too played Ludo and carom in the selected areas of the hotels which the hotel management too accommodated, as the occupancy level of the hotels were not so great.
- • The Hotels too realised that their dependence should not only be on the food & beverage but also room after seeing this new trend. Hence they started thinking about the new existing segment of room business from the same city.
- • The most notable feature of this trend is that, in most cases the hotels generally introduce the new attractive schemes and tariffs for the Guests/tourists, but in this trend the customers drove the scheme and made the hotel operators realise the local potential for room business.
I have interacted with many hotel guests, who stayed in branded star hotels in selected major cities of Gujarat during the period of the pandemic. I also have interacted with few General Managers of these hotels, to confirm the trend which came out matching. Butsuch guests/Tourist insisted that their names need not be published in the report. So the names of the hotels and the guests are not referred here.
This trend is an eye opener for many hotel operators.I am sure this trend is going to stay for few years. Probably, till now the hotel operators had never realised the existence of a potential local room business in their respective cities or this trend can be the resultant of the contextual lock down for the local affordable income group. Now the hotels will be eager to explore this segment of room business for their hotels in all cities. I would prefer to refer this trend as the “Local Hotel Tourism’’ which has been triggered by the lockdown.This tourism may have future potential.