We take a look at Aerocity as a hotel zone, revisit some of the large format hotels that had begun successful forays into weddings, banquets and conferences. Small would appear beautiful, again, as the industry gears towards a slow start to business again.

We have so many opinions going for what will become the new face for hospitality into the immediate future, I am venturing to share mine. I will not look too far, I will only go as far as Aerocity for a drone perspective of what may unfold over the next few months and beyond. Whether it is May 3, or two weeks hence, the doors will open, indeed, and business will start, with very small steps.

Give social distancing norms, and every hotel will want to enforce them strictly, there are no banquets, no weddings, no corporate launches of any big magnitude, no anniversary parties. Which means banquet halls will have their air conditioning levels switched to bare minimum, only to keep the moisture out, and all the smell that mustiness brings with it.

Knowing that spas are going to be a strict no-no for some time, that is another immediate closure one can see. Multiple meeting rooms and spas closed, means a bye-bye for some time for the large format hotels. These also filled their rooms, while negotiating banquets and weddings, so that is going to demand a change in selling strategy for rooms. Overall, it means loss in revenues, and a concentration on rooms only for some time.

Knowing that corporate sector across verticals in the economy have taken a beating, purse strings will remain tight for some time. As and when air traffic begins, it would be small steps to begin. The emphasis will be to take day trips, spend minimum on business travel. With air travel likely to become costlier, pressure will be on hotels. Cheaper accommodation will be sought. Smaller format hotels, brands like Ibis and Holiday Inn will be in demand. But as the premium hotels bring down their rates, to offer value for money deals, rates will be squeezed across all price points. Open they must, but business will be lean, and so would be rates. I see this continuing for the next one year. Till social distancing norms exist.

Considering this scenario, TourismFirst met with Biswajit Chakraborty, General Manager of the Pullman and Novotel combine, running between them some 650 rooms, and along with IBIS, their group hotel, with close to 1000 rooms. That’s a large inventory and a significant chunk of Aerocity.

Biswajit believes safer brands will recover faster. Pricing will have to be competitive. He sees a new drill in the workplace for associates, to ensure their safety first. Wash basins at entrance of the admin block, strict distancing norms, powerless glass masks to keep the eyes covered, among other such, will become the new norms. He believes Aerocity may take another two years to come back to 2019 revenue levels. He sees a new manual for associates where multi-tasking will become the new order. He sees payrolls drop, reduced staff as offerings will reduce. He sees limited buffets, but with more fresh and organic spreads. Seating is likely to reduce by a third. The new SOPs will not come cheap, he says.

With lockdown 3.0 in motion, the hotels remain closed. Meanwhile, across the country, the industry gets the new house in order, and looks forward to getting back to business.