As the usual profiteering time for homestays and hotels saw zero sales, businesses pivoted to newer models
By Devendra Parulekar
Six months back, we would discuss where we would like to travel; now, it’s all about where and whether we can travel. Summer, which was officially time for the otherwise busy parents to bond with their children on a vacation, still turned out to be a bonding time, albeit at home — doing household chores, clashing over board games and taking up online classes together. Not talking numbers here, but this has been one of the worst times for most industries, largely for travel, tourism and hospitality.
Times are a-changin’
As the usual profiteering time for homestays and hotels saw zero sales, businesses pivoted to newer models, much like showbiz producers. While earlier, one would look forward to a movie’s theatrical release, OTTs have brought them direct to your television and handsets. Similarly, hotel chains like Taj and Marriott have developed food ordering apps so as to make up for their restaurant losses.
Hospitality networks have resorted to similar measures. They have acted on the principle that if one can work from home, they can very well work from elsewhere, too. And hence, an offshoot of the work-from-home trend, workations have seen a rise. After all, who wouldn’t like to stay at a fully-serviced home for a month, to enjoy a dip in the pool post a hectic day at work!
For a while, international holidays will move to domestic destinations all over the world. And so, the focus has shifted to road trips and locations that are at drive-to destinations from the feeder city. This will be true from the supply side as well. Hospitality chains will sign homes that are closer to the city.
Celebrations of all kinds, too, have been largely affected — be it weddings, birthdays or large-scale events. Kerala has already announced that public gatherings will be limited to a conservative 50 until July, 2021; and other states may follow suit. In a scenario like this, hospitality networks will have to be prepared to host smaller, more intimate celebrations. Celebratory gatherings will finally move from boring banquets to gorgeous villas with beautiful backdrops and personalised, memorable set-ups.
Prior to Covid-19, hygiene in hospitality was about ‘show, don’t tell’. But things have changed, and it has, in fact, become a deal-breaker. Any brand that falters even slightly is sure to lose the guests’ confidence for good. Guests’ focus will also shift to safer, more hygienic private vacation homes, as they will avoid sharing common spaces with strangers in hotels.
Partnering: The way ahead
Marketing initiatives like social media challenges, remote influencer marketing, innovative billboard advertising and PSAs on TV and other digital platforms came to the fore in keeping with the changing preferences. Cred’s tie-up with stand-up comic Rahul Subramanian is one such instance. Zee TV’s billboards with varied brands talking about something special happening on July 13 (fresh episodes resumed on TV) was eye-catching, too.
Several businesses made use of the lockdown period to connect with like-minded brands, partners and distribution networks that would help them in accelerating their business once things get back to normal. For hospitality networks, this has been a good time to connect with local travel companies, agents and OTAs. They have revised their offerings to cater to those looking at intimate celebrations, small group travel and workation options. Affiliate partnerships with consumer brands to make a well-rounded offer have proven to be successful. Wish to stay at a private vacation home in Alibaug with your family? How about partnering with local tour operators for sightseeing or sanitised private car services.
The author is founder, SaffronStays