India’s second Covid wave puts hospitality recovery at risk

Green shoots sprouting in India’s domestic tourism market has been curtailed by renewed restrictions to stem a resurgence in Covid-19 cases, leaving hospitality players bracing for a fresh blow to their businesses.

With destinations like New Delhi imposing a night curfew and Mumbai announcing a weekend lockdown, business sentiments have nosedived.

Renewed lockdowns and curfews derail India’s tourism recovery; tourists thronging Taj Mahal in April 2021 pictured

“The domestic market that had started to pick up is going to witness a downturn again,” said Sanzeev Bhatia, vice president and general manager, The Metropolitan Hotel and Spa in New Delhi.

“Restrictions like night curfews mean that besides a loss in room night business, the banqueting business will also take a hit. In fact, a lot of hotels are already seeing cancellations of some booked banqueting business.”

Maharashtra reported 63,294 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday (April 11), its highest spike since the onset of the pandemic. The state government is mulling imposing a full lockdown across Maharashtra from April 14.

“Whenever there is a rise in Covid-19 cases, the hospitality industry is targeted and victimised, (despite us) operating in the safest of environments and following all the mandated compliances,” said Sherry Bhatia, president, Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India.

“A majority of the establishments have mounting debts and face threats of insolvency. With fear of losing jobs like last year, many workers have begun to leave for their homes again. After last year’s lockdown, the hospitality industry is in turmoil and is just not in a position to bear any more losses.”

However, a section of hospitality players remain bullish about the future prospects of the industry.

“After almost a year, the last couple of months saw domestic tourism enabling the hospitality sector to slowly get back on its feet. Though the recent increase in Covid-19 cases has created a dent in that growth, it is still faring well,” said Sarbendra Sarkar, founder and managing director, Cygnett Hotels and Resorts.

“We are better prepared to manage the situation. While all tourist spots and public places have been closed, people are still opting for staycations. Besides, the vaccination drive has instilled a sense of safety among people. While they are cautious, they have no fear of leaving their safe spaces.”

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