As hotels and resorts gear up to welcome visitors once again after three months of lockdown, staycation, workcation and quarantine tourism have become the new buzzwords. From hotel chains like Trident and Hyatt, to luxury cottages and hillside resorts, everyone is rolling out a slew of confidence-building measures for visitors — including discounts and special packages for long stays, designating hygiene managers, and tying up with healthcare professionals in case of any eventuality.\
“Each of our hotels has a dedicated hygiene and safety manager … None of our team members has tested positive for COVID-19”, commits Trident Agra on its website, along with offering up to 60 per cent discount on staycations, since moving around in the city and visiting public places/tourist sites is still a big no-no.
Travelling by road — by far, the only practical option — comes with its own set of ifs and buts. For instance, the booking team at Trident say that if one is travelling from outside Uttar Pradesh, “visitors should preferably be armed with an e-pass and corona negative certificate, so that they don’t suffer inconvenience at the border, even as “the hotel only mandates a ‘safe’ status on Aarogya Setu app before check-in”.
The Hyatt group, which has 32 hotels in India of which 13 have reopened, is collaborating with medical experts from US-based Cleveland Clinic to fine-tune its reopening and operating procedures for guests. Besides offering staycation packages to win back consumers, “the hotels are reimagining places and spaces to make social distancing not feel that way,” says a statement from the group.
Places like Jaipur and Udaipur in Rajasthan, which closed its borders to outsiders last week, are registering a keen interest among locals for staycations. Akhil Anand, director of Tree of Life Resorts, which has properties in both places, says, “Our Jaipur site — located in a village 30 km from the city — registered a 65 per cent occupancy last week, with many from Jaipur planning their first getaway post lockdown.” Even the Udaipur resort is witnessing a footfall of local tourists, who feel relatively calmer and safer in a secluded rural environment, and can go out for walks.
In Uttarakhand, where tourists from red zones aren’t allowed yet, hospitality chains like Taj, Jaypee and Savoy, among others, are still awaiting government nod for touristic travel before they could reopen. Praveen Nagpal, who runs Banlekhi Resorts near Nainital, a set of cottages in a small village, says, “Most of our visitors come from places like Delhi and nearabouts, which are currently red zones, so the state doesn’t even consider them for e-passes. Till that changes, I don’t think it’s any point thinking of opening up and formulating future strategy,” he says, adding, “However, if at all hospitality has to open up, we have to think beyond weekend tourists who are interested in sightseeing, and focus on those who want to stay in for longer durations.” He says they have got some such queries from Delhi and are keeping their fingers crossed that state borders open up next month.
Hotels associations are also getting together to brainstorm on their prospects and SOPs for reopening in the post-COVID world. In Himachal Pradesh, representatives from standalone hotels as well as from five-stars met earlier this week to discuss tourist sentiment and plan a strategy to win back tourists as more unlock measures kick in and borders reopen next month.
Anand says he hasn’t got any booking for their Binsar and Dehradun properties as yet, because Uttarakhand has stricter rules for outsiders, but has a lot of enquiries coming in for July, when inter-state restrictions are expected to be completely lifted. Even Anil Thakur has received a lot of enquiries for July for his Kasauli hotel.
Meanwhile, the Tree of Life team is working on “workcations”, since most people may have to work from home for the next two months. The idea, he says, came to them after one of the startup CEOs sought a 30-day booking in Jaipur for the month of July, provided he gets a quiet independent space, armed with a study table and uninterrupted wi-fi.
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