How Aviation & Hospitality Corp Comm keeps hopes high despite COVID-19 crisis

With the aviation & hospitality industry bearing the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic, industry experts rethink their communications to build a stronger relationship with stakeholders & customers

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Apr 3, 2020 9:52 AM
aviation

People are quarantined in the four walls of their homes during this lockdown phase. Unable to even move out of their houses, travelling seems a farfetched dream currently. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted businesses and economies globally, with travel and hospitality business bearing the maximum brunt.

This bleak period has created a catastrophic situation for the travel and hospitality industry. Experts believe that even after the lockdown, it will take at least 12 months for the industry to bounce back to pre-COVID times.

During these unprecedented times, the role of corporate communications has become more essential than ever before. Crisis communication is the need of the hour for brands and industries to combat the situation and build great credibility and lasting relationship with the stakeholders and consumers.

National and international flights have completely shut down, and Indian railway services are also at a standstill for the first time in history. Talking about the measures taken to fight the distressful times, Aloke Bajpai- CEO & Co-founder at ixigo.com said that they had anticipated the lockdown coming and rapidly started working on plans for the unfolding crisis.

He further informed, “We started working on a plan that could potentially let us survive even if revenues were to remain zero for 3 to 6 months, and give us 12–18 months of runway in case the lockdown ends within 3 months”.

Talking about the aviation industry, Rashmi Soni- VP & Head of Corporate Communications at Vistara Airlines feels that the aviation industry is one of the sectors directly hit by COVID-19 and arguably also the most affected one. She informs,” Vistara has seen a significant impact on business. We are exercising stringent cost control and are evaluating all avenues for reductions”.

How is the corporate communication team keeping the stakeholder motivated in this time of crisis?

Rashmi explains that as the information flow has to work both ways, keeping internal stakeholders informed and engaged is as important as communicating with the outside world. “Externally, we are telling our customers how they can reschedule their bookings, why our customer contact centres are taking time to resolve queries and other important aspects are being handled diligently”, added Rashmi.

“At OYO, we are regularly monitoring the situation and advisories to proactively communicate with our employees, customers and asset partners, and engage with the community at large,” informed Prasidha Menon- Global Head of Communications at OYO. The hospitality giant has announced several initiatives in line with the Government’s exceptions for the hospitality industry supporting accommodation requirements of suspected COVID-19 patients requiring quarantine/self-isolation, providing safe shelter to local and foreign tourists, frontline medical staff, aircrew and tourists who are stranded in cities owing to the lockdown, and working with relevant state governments as well as authorities to understand how some of our properties can be leveraged for pay-per-use quarantine facilities. 

Prasidha added, “Additionally, we have also reached out to corporates and are keen to support the lodging requirements of individuals who are on the frontline of India’s fight against Coronavirus through a combination of OYO Hotels and OYO LIFE offerings.”

“To support the community at large, we recently partnered with Apollo Hospitals to offer support for quarantine facilities in six cities. We are also part of MakeMyTrip’s 'Stays for Saviours' with other hotel chains, where our hotels are being offered at special booking rates for healthcare providers”, said Prasidha.

Talking about keeping the interests of employees protected, Rashmi said, “We have doubled our efforts in bringing the entire workforce together and are running an internal communication initiative to strengthen the sense of belonging and oneness among all 4,000 of us. We’re also engaging them in a larger conversation about the impact of these times on people in general around the world and encouraging them to participate in helping those in need, thereby also strengthening community-consciousness.”

While Aloke empathized with his people and said that we cannot our people who worked hard for us in the good times. He informed,” We decided that we would not lay off anyone and ride the storm together as a united team, no matter what the cost of that sacrifice would be”.

The entire nation is hoping to attain normalcy soon and become future-ready for a post-COVID world. Prasidha urged: “As the corporate communications team, we are being extremely careful to ensure that nothing that we say or do is promotional, and we don’t miss the essence, which is about being a responsible corporate citizen and giving back to those who have loved us and supported us through our thick and thin, within the realms of the new business realities we are all grappling with.” Aloke concluded by urging everyone to remain positive as a country, as an industry and as a company.

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