Hospitality industry ups its game to deal with COVID-19

At a time when hygiene is our biggest concern, hospitality brands, who are among the hardest hit, are doing their best to assure patrons about their sanitation standards

e4m by Anjali Thakur & Sanstuti Nath
Published: Mar 26, 2020 8:38 AM  | 7 min read

The novel Coronavirus has already had a more severe economic impact on the hotel industry than any other event in the past. But during these hard times too, the hotel industry is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to keeping the communication going. At a time when hygiene has become our biggest concern, here’s how hospitality brands, through ads, are spreading awareness and making the best of the situation.

While several hotels near the airport have been converted into quarantine facilities, restaurants too are being vocal about their hygiene levels.

Oyo hotels and rooms offered their rooms to be set up as quarantine centres in India, the OYO spokesperson shared with us.

“We are also continually updating our customer assistance policies and rolling out several initiatives across countries to facilitate cancellation, re-booking requests etc. and ensuring high levels of hygiene and cleanliness across our properties at all times. Precautions and health advisories are also being shared with guests and customers through informative posters on-premises as well as through digital channels.”

Quick service restaurants (QSRs) including KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino's, Dunkin, McDonald's, etc. have taken to social media in order to ensure consumers remain aware about the necessary hygiene measures being taken while preparing their food. From how frequently the facilities, especially kitchens, are being sanitized to the screening of their staff at regular intervals for raised temperature or other symptoms of Coronavirus, the QSRs are taking up the challenge head-on.

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Local chain restaurants are also witnessing shutdowns. Priyank Sukhija, Owner ‘Lord of the Drinks’ and ‘Lazeez Affair’, in a statement said, “In the wake of coronavirus we can’t deny the fact that restaurants are places where social distancing can’t be practised. These are times when we need to think about our staff and patrons more than our business. At midnight today we at first fiddle are shutting down all our restaurants till 31st March across the country and we will be back with a bang once the virus goes. We also urge the govt to take similar steps for those who are open so that we can fight this out before it goes out of our hands.”

Ankit Mehrotra, Co-Founder & CEO - Dineout observed, “In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve been actively implementing social distancing, sanitisation and even self-quarantine policies since the last 2 weeks. Our teams across all cities will be working-from-home until March 31st 2020. Our sales teams have also been advised to focus on virtual training and client support for the next two weeks. In fact, our teams are also having lunch together digitally! In such challenging times, we continue to work together to overcome operational hurdles by leveraging technologies like Google Hangouts, Slack and Google Meets to stay connected virtually and ensure continuity of work." 

With the increase in positive cases in the country, the government is looking to set up more quarantine centres. For now, the government has set up paid quarantine facilities at three hotels including Lemon Tree, Red Fox, and IBIS located at Aerocity, New Delhi for passengers coming from Coronavirus-affected countries.

 According to reports, people using quarantine facilities at these three hotels will have to pay Rs 3100, excluding taxes, per day. The orders have been issued under Delhi Epidemic Diseases COVID-19 Regulations, 2020.

Zomato, Swiggy, McDonald's, Domino's and Chaayos have also come up with a contactless home delivery option. If the customer opts for this option, the delivery person will keep the food on a clean surface outside your house, and stay at a safe distance, guarding the food till the customer picks it up. The consumers are also encouraged to make digital payments so that utmost hygiene is maintained.

Not just that, Pizza Hut is running a campaign called #qualitytimenotquarantine, where it is asking consumers, who are working from home, to order food from them and enjoy quality time with friends and family.

KFC has also stated their own free-food delivery service to ensure customers that their food passes through minimum and trusted hands, while they stay at home to practice necessary isolation.

Zomato went a length ahead and has introduced hygiene rating of restaurants in its app. Consumers who are concerned about cleanliness could refer to the rating while ordering food.

While destinations like Goa, Pondicherry is one of the biggest tourists haunts in the country, we asked Club Mahindra about their plan of action and how they’re communicating with their tourists. A Club Mahindra representative told us, “First and foremost, we are making sure our consumers get the utmost hygienic environment and sanitized stay with us. We are following all the government’s safety mandates and communicating with our members the same thing.”

“We are reaching out to our members through personalised e-mails and call to communicate that their well-being is first and foremost for us. We have rolled out the initiative across all our properties in India to facilitate cancellation and rescheduling requests. We are encouraging our customers, through both e-mails and phone calls, to reschedule their holidays, but in case they decide to cancel the reservation, refunds are being made. We are providing self-quarantine facilities for travellers (as advised by any state/ central govt authority) in few of our properties, like one in Goa and Karnataka, and offered the same for our property in Pondicherry,” he said.

The hotel and restaurant association of eastern India in a letter wrote that because of Coronavirus scare, the footfall is almost zero. Also, people instead of rescheduling are opting for cancellations. Therefore, hotels have to face huge losses. On top of that, they also have to pay the salaries of their employees. In this situation, the association is requesting the state government to waive the loans of hotel and restaurant owners. They have five main demands which include a waiver of 50% property tax for the year 20-21; waiver of 50% of the electricity charges of year 20-21; relaxation of excise licence fee up to 50% for the year 20-21; extension of the payment for excise licence renewal fee till 30-04-2020 and comply GST holidays for 6 months (state level).

Commenting on this, Garish Oberoi, (President- Hotel and Restaurant Association of Northern India) said, “We have been giving out literature to our members on e-mails and Whatsapp, on various advisories coming out from the government about the safety precautions that need to be taken.”

“On the consumer front, hotels are sending emails to their consumers to reassure them about their safety on the property. For all the cancellations that are happening, a mail is going out to the members, we are sending out emails to reassure them that every hotel is taking every precaution to ensure their safety in these difficult times and we are trying to encourage them to reschedule. In case they still want to cancel the booking, we are refunding their money.”

Oberoi also pointed out that Digital definitely came out as a medium of utmost support at this turbulent time. Restaurants are using social media more to reach their consumers. Hotels can only do one-on-one communication, so they are putting up relevant information on their websites and communicating through emails.

He also added, “In case government mandates hotels to convert into quarantine facilities, the outcome will be debatable. If the consumer gets to know a certain property was used for quarantine, there will be apprehension about using the property in future in fear of being contaminated.”

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