With no intention at rhetoric, we are truly amidst one of the darkest episodes humankind has faced in recent times. With over 2.3 million cases and over 160k deaths worldwide, at the moment as I am writing this, COVID-19 is dictating gloom and doom at an unprecedented scale. Countries have resorted to partial and complete lockdowns to tame this relentless beast. As a result, economic progress has come to a halt. The hit is so severe that the International Monetary Fund(IMF) forecasts the world economy to shrink by 3%. To put that into context, the world economy had shrunk by only 0.1% due to the Global Financial Crisis. This COVID-19 induced economic downturn is the worst since the Great Depression. The recovery will take time. Gita Gopinath, the chief economist at IMF says, ‘the global economy may not fully recover from the coronavirus crisis by 2021‘.
As much as I can write about how these are testing times, I will spare my readers as many of us are already showing signs of anxiety and we don’t want a full-blown mental health crisis at this point in time. Also, generally speaking, too much negativity is already prevalent in our lives. This article isn’t an addition to that I assure you.
There is no denying that the biggest loss due to this global pandemic is human lives. However, the business world reeling under the effects of the coronavirus can’t be ignored. The travel and tourism industry is one of the hardest-hit sectors by the coronavirus lockdown. The hospitality industry in India alone might be staring at a loss of over $4 billion in revenues. The travel, tourism and hospitality industry in India accounts for almost 9% of the country’s GDP and is one of the biggest employment generators with over 41.6 million people being employed in the industry in 2017. Surely then, this severe hit to these industries will impact many lives and livelihoods.
So what does the travel and hospitality industry do when nobody’s traveling and nobody’s staying out? It continues to function and serve in whatever small ways it can. I have chosen to call the various corporate players in this burdened industry as the bruised heroes. Why? Let’s find out!
One of the largest and fastest-growing hospitality chain, India’s hotel unicorn OYO Hostels & Homes, despite looking for help at the moment from its prime investor Softbank, has stepped in to combat the coronavirus pandemic. It is offering free stays to the frontline warriors- doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers. Not only that, but OYO has also started a new program ‘Donate a night‘ through which interested people can donate a safe and sanitized room to the doctors, frontline heroes and migrant workers.
As part of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Govt. of India initiative ‘Lifeline Udan‘, Air India and private airlines like IndiGo and SpiceJet, have all been operating to transport COVID-19-related reagents, enzymes, medical equipment, testing kits, personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, gloves, and other accessories needed for emergency workers. IndiGo is operating relief flights at own cost in service of the nation.
The Oberoi Group has shown a big heart in this hour of need. Providing packaged meals to the local district officials for the distribution amongst the needy, supplying dry ration to NGOs and opening its door for the accommodation of doctors and govt officials working round the clock- Oberoi Hotels are doing it all! Taj Hotels is not far behind, providing meals to healthcare and migrant workers in Mumbai, Bengaluru, and New Delhi. In Mumbai, the Taj is providing 20,000 meals for free every day. Besides pledging to donate Rs. 150 crore as COVID relief, ITC through its ITC Maurya and Sheraton hotels in New Delhi, provides 1500 meals to the migrant workers. The Park Hotels across India are doing Neighbourhood Services for all neighbors and especially for senior citizens. The locals can directly call these hotels for any emergencies or any pharmaceutical needs. The Lalit group and the Marriot group have also shown tremendous humanity in stepping up to help those who are fighting the corona battle.
I am sure there are numerous examples of courage and kindness that I couldn’t cover. In these trying times, the travel, tourism & hospitality industry has exhibited exemplary Servant Leadership. Despite staring at huge financial losses, these companies continue to serve. Coronavirus might have bruised these companies’ financial statements, but surely hasn’t been able to dent their ability to care for people.
No wonder I have chosen to call them the bruised heroes in COVID-19 times!