How COVID-19 has blurred the boundaries between hotels and hospitals

The hospitality industry is trying to seek ways of fitting into the current scenario, and attempting to settle a fraction of their mounting losses.

Last week, the image of a luxury hotel in Hyderabad offering a vaccination package worth Rs 2,999 — including charges of the dose — went viral on social media. Later, more such images came to notice, including that of The Lalit in Mumbai and Bengaluru’s Columbia Asia.

So much so that this made the authorities sit up and take notice, and soon, the government came up with a notice seeking action against private hospitals offering special packages for COVID-19 vaccination in collaboration with hotels. Following the directive, hotels withdrew the offers.

Even as the nation grapples with a disastrous second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, for the travel and hospitality industry, it is a challenging time yet again – so much so that it is now being called “an existential crisis”.

The industry only recently began its journey of recovery from the long bout of lockdowns and loss of business in 2020, but has once again been forced to shut down. So, they are trying to seek ways of fitting into the current scenario, and attempting to settle a fraction of their mounting losses.

For instance, Zostel, a country-wide hostel chain, has converted some of its properties into quarantine and isolation centres, even as they have launched the Zostel Bubble to offer long-stay travellers and digital nomads a safe environment. “The only travel that the industry has been seeing lately is those opting for long stays to escape their COVID-stricken cities,” says Dharamveer Singh Chouhan, Co-Founder and CEO, Zostel.

While Zostel premises in Mumbai, Delhi, and Jaipur have been turned into quarantine centres with multiple facilities for patients, the long-stay programmes at places like Dalhousie, Alleppey, Mukteshwar, and Vagamon are aimed at digital nomads and stranded travellers.

There are strict regulations and night curfew that guests need to adhere to if they opt to stay in the Zostel Bubble, says Chouhan, adding, “These are certainly challenging times and people need all the support and guidance they can get to weather this storm and emerge safely.”

Meanwhile, Treehouse Hotels and Resorts have started an impact initiative to help Covid-19 infected patients and families around the Bhiwadi area with simple, nutritious meals. They have now extended this initiative to their guests or anyone who wishes to help.

Anyone booking a room at any of their participating hotels not only gets a vacation, but also a chance to contribute to the hotel company’s relief effort. Each room night would contribute to feeding 50 people in the community. “This initiative allows our guests not only to create happy memories but also makes their vacations more meaningful,” says a company statement.

Jayant Singh, the company’s managing partner, adds, “The hotel business and tourism industry as a whole has been reeling under the sharp blow dealt over the last year and a half. Our company has been feeling the pain too, but the team wanted to work and contribute but did not have any direction.”

International digital travel platform Agoda has leveraged its technology expertise to help people in India search and find quarantine or alternative stay options during this latest phase of the pandemic. For this, Agoda has curated a list of hotels from its accommodation partner network that are providing “hospi-tel” services, that is, accepting Covid-19 positive guests to isolate until recovery.

Guests who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have stable vitals can now isolate themselves within any of the listed, more than 100 hotels located in 23 cities across India. These properties, Agoda says, are equipped with amenities like COVID-19 nursing support, three daily meals and oxygen support.

‘Agoda’s second initiative is aimed at those who are COVID-negative, including frontline workers who wish to protect their families and live close to work. With more than 450+ hotels in cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Kolkata, and towns including Mohali, Raipur and Nashik, to name a few, Indians returning home, travelling between states or self-isolating can now book their stay.

“We hope to help by doing what we do best, using our tech to connect our partner hotels with guests, and making hotel bookings quick and stress-free through our platform,” said Tarik Fadil, Associate Vice President, Partner Services, Indian Subcontinent and North Southeast Asia.

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