The last few weeks, every sector of the economy has come under acute stress. Undoubtedly, the travel, tourism and hospitality vertical has been more hit than others, being in the front end, with all transport closed, effectively closing all streams of businesses possible to this sector. Social media, WhatsApp group chats, print, and every other communication channel is replete with suggestions to government. These have followed a similar pattern, that this sector has remained ignored for the yeomen service they render to the country. There is an expression, a manifestation of failed expectations, as some key fountainhead industry association heads have brought certain missionary zeal to sharing how the fraternity should watch and wait, so much has been achieved and how they are engaged in lobbying with the highest in the land. Often, this has assumed over-zealous proportions, with the level of engagement and lobbying, often threatening postures, that their lives depend upon support and that businesses will close.
All this is decidedly true, that the travel and tourism sector is largely small companies, many of them are mom and pop shows, small family businesses running for generations. Experiential products that have become new touchstones for domestic tourism, small travel agents and tour operators, many of them start-ups in new segments like heritage and culinary. These are decidedly under threat, gasping for breath.
The entire travel and tourism industry is affected, as is the entire economy. The entire retail sector of the small businesses is shut, the entire restaurant business in the country is shut. Just watch the plight of the thousands of migrants walking back home, suddenly rendered homeless and without jobs. There is concern writ large all over! And everybody is doing his or her bit, supporting in every which way they can. In the overall economic framework, every sector is reeling, and every sector creates jobs.
Tourism does have bigger multiplier effect, rippling through the social fabric, more than others. Can we be singled out, given that extra treatment, over and above others? Indeed, we should, and this remains a matter of concern across industry verticals.
It is in times like these, we need to be cautious, ensure that we do not appear, as an industry, of being insensitive. Which indeed we are not. In Times Like These, we believe there is the window to equally share that “Indian Tourism Cares”. We have seen in the past, criticism of our industry as not always shouldering its responsibility, as a combined fraternity. As most recently, when GST rates were lowered! Some in government felt that the benefits had not been passed onto the consumer proportionately. We have also suffered, seen as elitist, as having little relevance with the common man; how much we might dispute this, and bring statistics of how many we employ, etc.
Right now, the need of the hour is to bring this to the table, before the nation, that Indian Tourism Cares? We are aware that many of the industry’s big boys are doing their bit on the side, and probably doing plenty. Some of this we are aware of, some we may not, as many of them may prefer to do their bit without making much ado. Most of the small players are fighting for their survival, leave along having a thought of giving. It’s paying salaries that are playing on their mind. And yet, quite a few of them are doing their bit. Many hotels across the country have reached out to their respective communities and been the good Samaritan, more as duty of the hour! We have complied some industry figures, of packed food being offered across the country. These go into several lakh meals, quantified run into not only several crores of rupees but also personal effort and outreach.
It is in Times Like These, we suggest the industry adopts a common motto, a shared mission across its verticals, a slogan that says Indian Tourism Cares. And use it across every individual effort to give it a strong industry message. An association like HAI or Experience India Society can create a logo that can be adopted by all – the design can be shared between as many corporates and individuals from across verticals. This would establish a strong sense of fraternity, and as an industry, some united industry response would get manifested.
An agency like FAITH, apart from its strong push to get benefits can also adopt this slogan, distribute it among its constituents. In fact, FAITH can go one step further. It can do positive PR for the industry – become the communication channel to share with media and other public opinion makers how individual efforts are being made by all segments of the industry, how Tourism is giving and caring! A website can also be created to show, in text and pictures, how industry is contributing to the cause, how Indian Tourism Cares.
In Times Like These, it is important that while we plead our case, share best case examples from across the world on how governments in other countries have understood and supported the tourism sector, we are not perceived as only asking and not caring and giving enough. That we are doing our bit also needs to be shared with the country at large, the sentiment made known that Indian Tourism does Care.
Recently, CII initiated a panel discussion on needs of the sector, aired on CNBC-IBN channel. A similar program would be a great beginning, with reports from across the country, on how Tourism Cares and is giving across to local communities. So, while privately and individually we keep doing what we are doing, but also get together as an industry in all humility to show “we are united and stand by the government and the people of our country!”
How some efforts are going on, individually and collectively; Tourism Cares and How, read on:
- As a TATA company, IHCL is keenly aware of its responsibility towards our immediate community and the people within it. In 2008, it created the Taj Public Service Welfare Trust (TPSWT) to provide relief and support to victims of natural or man-made disasters. The Trust is distributing nutritious meals to medical staff in key hospitals/COVID-19 centers in Mumbai, Bengaluru and New Delhi. The meals are prepared and delivered by TajSats, which is an IHCL company and India’s market leader in airline catering.
IHCL has partnered with Chef Sanjeev Kapoor for Mumbai, Bangalore and New Delhi for this initiative. In Mumbai they are working closely with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to offer approximately 8,000 meals a day to medical fraternity at the Kasturba Hospital, The King Edward Memorial Hospital, Lokmanya Tilak Municipal Medical College and General Hospital, Nair Hospital and J J Hospital. 64,000 meals will have been delivered by the end of the day today. This initiative, started on March 23, 2020 will continue for the current period of the lockdown till April 14.
IHCL is distributing meals to medical staff in Victoria Hospital in Bengaluru in partnership with the Taj West End (250 meals). As of 30th March 2020, they started serving meals at Lady Harding Medical College in New Delhi (200 meals). The scope has now widened to include 7 hospitals in New Delhi – these are Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital, Lady Harding Medical College, Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality H, G B Pant Hospital, Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, Deen Dayal Upadhyay and Dr. Ambedkar Hospital. They will be delivering 1700 meals daily in New Delhi.
An additional initiative was flagged off on March 31, 2020. In partnership with Tata Sons, TPSWT is providing meals to migrant workers in Mumbai. This is also handled by TajSATS. 5000 meals were delivered the first day,10,000 the second day and 20,000 from the third day onwards. 55,000 meals have been delivered till today.
Five IHCL hotels in Mumbai are offering rooms to the medical fraternity during these challenging times – they are The Taj Mahal Palace, Taj Lands End, Taj Santacruz, The President and Ginger MIDC Andheri. Ginger MIDC Andheri is also available for guests for quarantining purposes.
Three other Ginger hotels across the country are also being used for quarantine purposes – these are one wing of Ginger Bhubaneshwar, Ginger Faridabad and Ginger Inner Circle Bangalore. Ginger Bhubaneswar is under the directive of the Odisha state Government. The last two are in partnership with Apollo Hospitals.
- Chalet Hotels in Mumbai offered 300 rooms across two of their hotels for quarantine facility to the city administration. They have helped out with meals to police stations of local areas and to the on-duty employees of the municipal corporation.
- In the Radisson family, putting together various initiatives, the number of beneficiaries is approximately 16,000 per day, with one-time dry ration kits provided equivalent of 2,450 Kg. Box meals provided approximately 16,000 per day; GRT Group (owners of Radisson Blu GRT Chennai) contributed ₹50 lacs to Chief Minister’s Relief fund and serving food packets to underprivileged and street animals; VVA Hotels Private Limited (owners of Radisson Blu Hotel Chennai City Center) – contributed ₹50 lacs to the Chief’s Minister’s Relief Fund and serving 1500 box meals per day to underprivileged; AB Hotels Limited (owners of Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi Airport) – contributed ₹10 lacs to PM Cares Fund; GHV Group of Hotels (owners of Radisson Mumbai Andheri MIDC) – contributed ₹5 lacs to CM Relief Fund and dry ration to Mumbai police; The Atria Foundation (owners of Radisson Blu Atria Bengaluru); serving 1,50,000 free meals every day to the needy in Bengaluru; Sri Venkateswara Exports (owners of Country Inn & Suites by Radisson Bengaluru, Hebbal Road) – serving 200 box meals per day to underprivileged; Arpit Projects Limited (owners of Radisson Udyog Vihar Gurugram)- serving 750 box meals per day to the underprivileged; KJS Group (owners of Park Inn by Radisson IP Extension, New Delhi) – serving 200 box meals per day to the underprivileged; Neel Sarovar Buildtech Private Limited (owners of Radisson Lucknow) – offering dry ration and 750 box meals per day to underprivileged and Radisson Salem – serving 300 box meals per day to medical professionals
At India corporate level, the group has made contributions to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund (35 lakhs ) and also assisted United Way Delhi for some of the COVID-19 related initiatives.
- The Lalit Group is supporting the Delhi Government’s initiative of feeding the needy by donating 1000 kgs of wheat flour (Atta), 300 kgs of refined wheat flour (Maida) and over 700 kgs of vegetables from their own gardens over the last couple of days to the Daily Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB). The other 11 hotels of the group are also providing more than 1000 kgs of wheat flour, 500 kg of refined wheat flour, 200 litres of oil, food supplies, fruits and vegetables to the relevant local authorities involved in food distribution. Under the banner of Keshav Suri Foundation (KSF), they are reaching out to support the extremely marginalized and worst affected transgender people through different NGOs in Mumbai, Bengaluru & Chandigarh with over 500 kgs of wheat flour, grocery, fruits & vegetables. They have made available 100 rooms at their Delhi hotel for doctors serving at Lok Nayak Hospital and GB Pant
- ITC Hotels is offering 1000 daily meals through their hotels in New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad & Lucknow. In Jaipur, their hotel has donated 1000 shower caps to an NGO for a requirement at SMS Hospital. In Chennai & Hyderabad, their hotels are accommodating families of expats and of US embassy during the lock-down. In Bengaluru, Mumbai & Kolkata, rooms in their hotels have been offered for quarantine facility and for medical officers, paramedical staff & other hospital staff on the frontline. Their hotel in Goa is offering beach umbrellas and hygiene products to Verna Police Station.
- JW Marriott New Delhi, over the past one week, has been sending 500 meals daily to the Delhi Health Department. With a limited team of only 30 associates, they have already sent 1750 meals till date and will continue the same till the end of April.
Lemon Tree Hotels, in partnership with state/central governments have provided quarantine facilities for asymptomatic guests in Delhi, Gurugram and across India. They have offered deep discounts at many of their hotels, for people engaged in essential services such as medical/para medical professionals, police/paramilitary forces etc. They are keeping their hotels open and providing safe shelter to those Indian and international guests who have been unable to return home during the lockdown. Apart from the government requirements, they are providing clean and comfortable isolation facilities under Project Stay I (Stay Isolated), in partnership with Apollo Hospitals over & above the government requirements. In some cities, their hotels will be serving as the quarantine centre for medical and para-medical staff involved in the treating corona patients. This tie-up is being handled by state/city governments and other bodies.
Hotel Association of Jaipur has unified the efforts of all its members and set up a fund for contribution which they will then utilize collectively for relief measures.
The Leela brand, in a statement to TourismFirst, said they were privileged to lend a helping hand to those adversely affected by the COVID 19 crisis. They have collaborated with local authorities to provide ‘care packages’ consisting of daily need food provisions and personal hygiene products, for more than 200 under-privileged families. They remain grateful to their team members who have participated in this initiative and extend their gratitude to the front-line police officials who are helping to distribute the packages to the families who need it the most. This initiative reinstates their commitment and ‘Leela dharma’ to work for the welfare and betterment of society, with courtesy and consideration for everyone.
- Sarovar Hotels & Resorts have through their hotels in Mumbai, Rajkot, Haridwar, Jaipur, Gorakhpur & Pune are preparing upto 250 meals each on a daily basis for distribution to police stations, poor & daily wages, government hospitals and others in collaboration with local authorities. Their hotel in Mumbai is distributing groceries to old age homes while their hotels in Mumbai & Delhi are running daily yoga sessions for their inhouse for keeping them engaged.
- Independent hotelier Kishore Kaya, who owns The Savoy in Mussoorie, has opened a kitchen in his house in Civil Lines. Between him and his wife Madhu, they are personally overseeing the cooking, serving some 250 meals a day, which they hand over to the local police department to deliver across affected communities. Back in his hotel, he has retained a significant proportion of his staff to stay back on the premises, and they are doing so at the hotel’s expense.
- Under the banner of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), the fraternity has taken upon itself to provide 10 million meals — each meal being a 450-gm food pack cooked fresh and served hot twice a day — for people desperately in need of this sustenance in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata as long as the nationwide lockdown lasts. Our restaurants face a cash crunch and a grim future of shutdowns and job losses, yet they are pitching in with the funds, food ingredients and labour required for this Himalayan effort.