Hospitality industry on alert mode amid Omicron threat

Indian hospitality industry, Omicron variant threatening, UK government, Indian Tourism and Hospitality.

FHRAI Vice-President Gurbaxish Singh Kohli said there has been an impact already with states imposing restrictions on the number of people who can gather.

The Indian hospitality industry, battered by the pandemic, is on alert mode but not panicking yet in the face of the Omicron variant threatening to derail prospects of winter holiday season business, according to industry players. With states imposing restrictions on gatherings for Christmas and New Year celebrations, hoteliers and restaurant operators are, however, staring at possible booking cancellations even as they hope for some support from the government like what the UK government has done for the industry there.

Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH) Consulting CEO Aashish Gupta said there is uncertainty within the industry about the impact of the Omicron variant with different inputs coming in from different places regarding its severity and speed of spread.

“The first scene is that everybody is on alert mode but there is no panic mode because the information itself is not creating panic. The information is like a wait and watch,” Gupta told PTI. Terming the situation as dynamic, he said in terms of reservations around Christmas and New Year, there isn’t much of cancellation as yet as the “information is not creating those states of panic”.

“If the information changes overnight, over the next 24 hours to 48 hours and then the whole action around the holiday and the New Year will immediately change. All of a sudden you’ll see a bit of cancellation. So, everyone is very alert. It is a wait and watch the situation,” he said.

Commenting on states putting restrictions on mass gatherings for Christmas and New Year in the wake of the emergence of the Omicron variant, Gupta said the governments have put caps based on whatever information that they have and the hospitality industry will agree to it but “actually it will put a damper on their business”.

If the caps around celebrations on the number of people who gather come in across the country, he said, “Business and plans which everybody was waiting for almost 20 months will get really impacted”. Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) Vice-President Gurbaxish Singh Kohli said there has been an impact already with states imposing restrictions on the number of people who can gather.

“These can have a very huge impact, because last week, we were seeing some resurgence, some kind of hope for survival,” he said, adding “Omicron is there and we are really confused as to what is going to happen”.
In terms of the hotel room bookings, it never picked up. There was only 30 per cent occupancy and there is no pickup whatsoever, he said.

Seeking help from the government for the sector, he said the UK government has already announced a 1 billion pound package for the industry there but in India “there is no such or any fraction of an announcement over here”. Lamenting the lack of support from the government, he said, “Whatever little we were looking forward to is lost again”.

In the wake of the emergence of the Omicron variant, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) has directed district magistrates to ensure no Christmas and New Year gathering takes place in the national capital although restaurants and bars are allowed to operate with up to 50 per cent of the seating capacity, while marriage-related gatherings are permitted with a maximum of 200 people in attendance.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has also said that prior permission is now mandatory for any programme or event to be attended by 200 or more people. Indoor halls can operate at 50 per cent of their total capacity, while open-to-sky venues shall operate at only 25 per cent of total capacity.

Similarly, the Karnataka government has banned parties or mass gatherings in the state from December 30 to January 2, although clubs and restaurants will be allowed to have only 50 per cent of the capacity.

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