With the COVID 19 pandemic bringing human mobilization to a standstill the tourism and hospitality industry is the worst hit and is said to face the biggest doom periods ever. This manpower based service sector industry does not only relate to human mobilization but is also directly connected with the key economic factors such as foreign exchange earnings, employment, health and hygiene. In this context World Trade Center Bhubaneswar organized a Webinar on Strategizing the Survival & revival of Tourism & Hospitality Industry amidst COVID 19. The webinar witnessed a moderated panel discussion which discussed the existing scenario of the industry as well as came up with strategies and ideas for reviving the industry post the pandemic.
Mr. Benjamin Simon, Managing Director, Travellink Ltd moderated the discussion. While setting the context for the panelists Mr. Simon shared information on the magnum of losses and the challenges that COVID 19 has posed before the tourism & hospitality industry. While stating that the industry players stand alone will not be able to face the outcome of this crisis he urged for a collective effort to be put in by all the stakeholders such as the aviation industry, the hotel industry and the tour operations industry to link up with each other and plan for a quick revival strategy and also have an inclusive dialogue with local and national governments to play a vital role in providing relief to its members.
Mr. J.K. Mohanty, Chairman cum Managing Director, Swsoti Group in his address highlighted some of the critical issues faced by the fraternity such as being financially able to manage the administrative costs, fixed expenses, regular payment of remuneration to its employees etc. during this crisis time as well as post COVID 19. He shared that the hotel industry members have collectively submitted recommendations to the State Government for wavering off bar license fee, minimum electricity charges, ground water charges and other municipality fees for upcoming months of crisis in order to enable the industry to survive. Speaking on the revival aspect Mr. Mohanty urged that the government should put ambitious projects such as Samukha Project at Puri on fast track for completion. Highlighting the state’s tourism potential of possessing beaches, back waters, wild life & eco-tourism as well as religious tourism he advocated that due importance should be given to market the State as a tourism hub and develop a robust tourism policy loaded with incentives in order to further attract investments and make the sector lucrative.
Mr. Debasish Patanaik, President, TiE Bhubaneswar, an Hotelier as well as an Angel Investor, in his deliberation spoke about the survival of small players such restaurant owners and highlighted the operational issues which has emerged due to spread of the pandemic. “Takeaways are short term arrangements but can’t survive the industry beyond few months” said Mr. Patanaik. He also expressed his concern over handling manpower issues not only in terms of remuneration but also in terms of retention of skilled manpower as well as appropriately training them on the adaptation of new safety and precautionary practices to be followed post COVID 19. He further deliberated that the revival of the industry must be strategized in terms of developing new tourism products and creating a robust branding of the State’s tourism offering.
Mr. Gagan Sarangi, Chairman, IATO Chapter Odisha spoke about the existing plight of the tour operations. He highlighted the huge risk involved in tour operations getting materialized given the uncertainty of flight operations getting resumed and reset. He advocated that the local government needs to announce a financial relief package for the tour operators as it would otherwise have a negative impact on a number of small tour operators who shall succumb to the financial pressure eventually being forced to shut down and quit the industry. Revival of the industry is feasible only with the increase in the number of tour operators who shall further jointly engage themselves in selling the different tourist destinations post COVID 19. He also highlighted the importance of creating new tourism products and packages in order to enhance inbound tourism.
Mr. Abhijnan Talukdar, Consultant & Founder of Hotelelimentary.in while sharing his insights advocated for a bailout package from the government and liberty from statutory payments. While highlighting the challenge of massive loss in revenue he also mentioned about the huge pile of hidden assets which the industry is compelled to maintain. Speaking on the post covid scenario he shared insights about the operational changes which would have to be brought in. “Revival of the industry indeed needs to be a collaborative effort to create a confidence in the prospective tourists on the safety to travel to the State. A revised marketing strategy and producing greater experiences for the tourists will only way for revival. Reworking the business model and the decision of reopening of the unit to be taken accordingly” he said.
Earlier in her address Mrs. Nimeshika Natarajan, Assistant Director, World Trade Center Bhubaneswar while highlighting the importance and the potential of the sector in the state spoke about the objective of the webinar and welcomed the moderator and the panelists to the discussion.