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Thursday, August 06, 2020

Mumbai: As hotels reopen today, owners wonder if they would do much business

While many have started putting in place elaborate safety measures to handle the flow of customers, hoteliers are sceptical whether they would do much business in the initial days, as people are still tepid about stepping out.

Written by Sadaf Modak | Mumbai | Published: July 8, 2020 2:20:54 am
maharashtra covid lockdown, maharashtra hotels, maharashtra hotels reopen, maharashtra hotels opening, oberoi hotels mumbai, indian express news Government on Wednesday Allowed Hotels to commence operations with 33 percent occupancy. (Representational)

With hotels set to reopen from Wednesday, the organised sector is finding ways to balance hospitality and safety of their guests and staff in the times of Covid-19 pandemic.

While many have started putting in place elaborate safety measures to handle the flow of customers, hoteliers are sceptical whether they would do much business in the initial days, as people are still tepid about stepping out.

At The Oberoi Group’s hotels in Mumbai, a standard operating procedure (SOP) has been put in place for staff and guests. A spokesperson said that safety and hygiene rules for each department, including front office, security, housekeeping, kitchen, laundry and security, have been laid out and uploaded on the website for guests and others in the industry who may want to take similar steps.

Apart from protective gear to be worn by staffers, all entering the hotels will undergo thermal screening, common areas will be regularly sanitised and guests will not touch any surface outside their rooms. Guests will also be encouraged to view online menus of restaurants on their own devices. To avoid a staffer serving food, the meals will be pre-portioned as per the number of people sharing a dish, the SOP stated.

The Maharashtra government on Monday had allowed hotels and other entities providing accommodation services – including guesthouses and lodges – outside containment zones to commence operations with 33 per cent occupancy from Wednesday. The notification had also listed out guidelines on managing guests to ensure there is no overcrowding in common areas like the lobby or the elevator. Restaurants within the hotels, too, will remain functional only for resident guests while the use of gyms, swimming pools and gaming areas will be prohibited.

Rohit Shetty, a partner in Indie Stays that runs Oriental Residency hotel in Khar, said while they have started working on resuming operations, lack of international flights, domestic tourists and people on business trips may mean that the number of guests will remain low.

“We have put all mechanisms in place for the safety of guests and staff. We have stopped buffet breakfasts and guests will instead be given packaged breakfast. The number of chairs and tables in the restaurants have been halved to ensure social distancing,” Shetty said.

He added that while 80 people work in the hotel, currently, only 25 are on duty as many have returned home. Other challenges remain – ensuring local transport for the staffers to commute to the hotel and building customer trust with the pandemic making people wary of traveling or checking into a hotel.

AHAR (Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association) president Shivanand Shetty said that the government notifying that 67 per cent of the hotel space can be used as a quarantine centre may also put off guests.

Soraya Postel, a resident of Mumbai Central, who has put up a room in her apartment on Airbnb since 2011, said that she is awaiting a go-ahead from the company to resume hosting guests. “We are getting inquiries mostly from those who are traveling to the city for medical purposes, given the proximity of our house to government and private hospitals. We have been maintaining the room for the last four months though lack of business has affected us financially. But we want to resume operations again,” she added.

Postel said that there will be many changes in the hospitality industry for now. “I used to love interacting with the guests and giving them a local experience with home-cooked food. I never wanted it to be a room with a key but more like receiving a stranger and saying goodbye to a friend. We may have to limit our interaction with our guests now,” she added.

Akash Rane, who rents out cottages in Alibag in Raigad, said that each village in the area will decide on how to go about reopening their units. “Most villagers here depend on tourism. Reopening of cottages, homestays and guesthouses will depend on a decision taken by the residents of each village,” he added.

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