Industry Update
Opinion Article28 April 2021

A Time For Reflection

A Plea – please give Hotel industry staff priority for vaccines. They are at the front-line, actively helping the fight against Covid-19

By Vijay Thacker, Managing Director Horwath HTL India

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Spring has sprung a spiked surprise, second year running. And sadly caught us napping again. Lockdowns abound, soaring hopes have been negated; frustration and despair are rising – in different measures and pressures, depending on a person's station in life, and business responsibility.

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In 2020, it was a challenge to be endured and overcome; in 2021, it threatens to be an energy-sapper. We assumed we had it beaten; that the raging waves in Europe and America were continent bound. As a people, we failed to distinguish between boldness and over-confidence; fearlessness and carelessness – the differences between these positive and negative behaviour aspects are stark, and no amount of spin can dilute the impact. When these negative behavioural aspects become a collective pattern, the results are damaging. We are paying the price of the resultant indiscipline and extravagance of behaviour.

Let me be clear that I am not attributing such naivety to our industry, but to the community at large. Hotels, resorts and restaurants responded to demand – for the large part, they were careful but some sections did allow business opportunities and cash flow needs to permit dilutions. Having struggled all on their own for several months, hotels, restaurants and bars picked up whatever revenue succour they could get from renewed demand. It is well nigh impractical to discipline or curtail people who are coming to you for recreation and relaxation; the guests' sense of entitlement (rising with authority) is impossible to curtail.

To put a number or time-period to this second wave would be futile – a gut feel that this may have a shorter span, is only an inner belief, possibly even a hope. The words of Mahatma Gandhi give confidence, and direction – "I have found that life persists in the midst of destruction. Therefore there must be a higher law than that of destruction".

The country is vast, with varied timing and intensity of impact; overall recovery can only be hoped before onset of the monsoons. And yet, the recovery will likely be speedy although we may see diluted spending power to some extent – not at the top, but certainly in the middle. The last few months have affirmed that the will and need to travel has not diminished; the desire and joy of celebration has not reduced; that people seek change, and have propensity to spend. Most importantly, larger numbers of Indians have woken up to India, and its attractions.

The industry has made several changes in the last year – some temporary, some long lasting. Unfortunately, on a wider scale, changes are more procedural and even opportunistic. But in the quiet of the mind, we need to make a more fundamental change – we need to inculcate Humility; while also having a seemingly opposite attribute of Pride. This attitudinal change is required at all levels, and across all sectors and segments of the Hotel, Tourism and Leisure industry.

Humility is not servility or meekness; nor subservience or submissiveness. Pride is not arrogance and ego. Let's look at some possibilities

  • Pride recognises that India has many attractions; Humility acknowledges that India must effectively compete with other international destinations – on price, quality, tourist infrastructure and visitor experience
  • Pride in our heritage, culture and diversity; humility to recognise that these need proper packaging and facilitation to draw visitors
  • Pride in our hospitality; humility to deliver this consistently and with genuineness
  • Pride in brand standards; humility to create value and efficiency
  • Pride as owners and operators; humility to act with mutuality, respect and trust
  • Pride as consultants and advisors; humility of fairness and genuineness in advice
  • Pride in architectural and ID skills; humility to blend these with operating practicality
  • Pride of being a valued guest in a hotel; humility to treat hotel staff with respect
  • Pride of being a hotel employee; humility to constantly endeavour to learn and deliver quality
  • Pride of having and using luxury and premium hotels and services; humility to recognise their relevance, contribution and value
  • Pride of developing hotels and unique features; humility to recognise that sustainability is paramount, not commercial interest
  • Pride of doing your very best, your all; humility to accept that there is a power above, that things go wrong only for an obvious or deep reason.
  • Truly delivering Atithi Devo Bhava is humility; merely talking the concept without substantive delivery is misplaced pride, even ingratitude to the principle.

The examples are many and endless – something for each person to analyse for oneself; for each entity to develop for its people.

We are in the midst of a crisis, partially wrought by misplaced arrogance. Sooner than later, the tide will turn and we will see brightness – whether this will be lasting sunshine or quick yield psychedelic lights, is up to us. If this crisis does not engender a deep change within us, it is an opportunity lost.

Humble Pride creates lasting joy. Humbled Pride can be devastating.

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