Domestic Tourism key to the revival of the tourism sector: Dr. Ankur Bhatia 

Domestic Tourism key to the revival of the tourism sector: Dr. Ankur Bhatia 

In an exclusive interview, DR ANKUR BHATIA, Executive Director, Bird Group, explains the impact of the COVID-19 on tourism and strategies to deal with the crisis.  Dr Bhatia sees a grim chance of an influx of foreign tourists in the October-December period, therefore, the key to reviving tourism will be an expected increase in domestic travel. 

By Prem Kumar

Q. In the testing times, what are the initiatives being undertaken to help the community cope with the pandemic?

We have been actively communicating with the local government and administration to supply the daily meals to the nearby area of our properties. We have been targeting to supply food for 1000 people per day. Our focus right now is on making hot cooked meals available to the poor and downtrodden that have been impacted by this crisis. Hospitality has a new meaning for our employees at this time of the pandemic.

Q. What do you think will be the long-term effect of COVID-19 on the industry? How long do you think will it take to recover? 

The long-term effect will be the social distancing norm. I don’t think we will have cramped up restaurants in the near future. I don’t think people would like to go to cramped up places in the near future. It depends upon how the contamination is contained. Yet things can be expected to start recovering in nearly six months.

As inbound travel has come to a halt, there is a negligible booking being made for the future. There is a grim chance of an influx of foreign tourists in the October-December period, which we witness every year. The key to reviving the slump-ridden market will be an expected increase in domestic travel. We should see some bit of silver lining in this period of the chasm.

We should upgrade ourselves as much as possible during this time. We should maintain a thread of communication with our customers through social media channels.

Q. How many quarters do you expect the business to be depressed?

The shut down will lead to a slowdown for a period of at least six months. Hence the October-December season will see a muted growth in numbers. The winters that are usually our prime succour will be followed by a spell of the off-season. The industry is expected to see cash flows rising only by somewhat in  November 2020 and perhaps get to normal levels by January 2021.

Q. Where do you see the next round of demand coming from, such as business, leisure, domestic, international?

We shall be focusing on driving the business from the domestic market. Since we have luxury resorts we will be driving our business from the resorts by catering to the domestic tourists. Operations in international properties depend upon the containment of the pandemic in the specific countries and the government directives.

Q. Is it finally the time for India to focus on domestic tourism? 

We have always been focused on domestic tourism which has helped us to save our country. Yes, after things start normalizing we plan to remarket ourselves and service the domestic market.

Q. Have you done any retrenchment or salary cuts yet? How do you plan to take care of the bottom line employees whose earnings are merely enough for survival?

The times are trying. We will take all measures necessary to tide over the situation. At the same time, the steps will be accommodative of staff welfare. As of now we have not done any retrenchment or slapped the salary cuts. The bottom line employees have been kept guarded from the cuts. The staff has been encouraged to take the leaves now so that we can be geared up with the upcoming period wherein we might see the surge as we used to have earlier.

Q. What innovative solutions, process and guidelines did you come up during this time which you plan to continue even after the crisis is over? 

  1. Food deliveries as we were not doing it earlier
  2. Manpower optimization
  3. Cost Reduction: Keeping the cost to a minimum