Hospitality- The Buck Stops Here

The first part: Technology: An Enabler for Travel Industry focused on the role of technology in the travel industry. Panellists talked about their technology, their advice to new startups, and the market. Read about it here.

The second part: Travel Experience: The Deal Breaker focused on experiential travelling and how our founders facilitate a perfect travel experience to their customers. Read about it here.

Remember the stay at the jungle resort? Or the night stay at a palace turned into a hotel? What about the time spent on the hill station lodge? No matter where we’d like to stay during a vacation, the hospitality industry has something to offer to us all. This month’s Start Up Saturday, Hyderabad takes a look at the Hospitality Industry and the enablers behind it.

The final part of the tripartite panel discussion featured Shobha Mohan, Founder & Partner, RARE India; Anubhav Kumar, Founder, NotOnMap; and Pallavi Agarwal, Co-Founder, GoStop and was moderated by Anubhav Tiwari.

RARE India is different from the usual tourist hubs as it advocates for responsible tourism in India. Their climate-conscious hotels beam with innovation and sustainability. NotOnMap is another unique hospitality business that emphasises adding new value to old heritage. It aims to reduce unskilled migration, a product of people being unaware of their rich culture by building model villages and creating a model that other businesses can also replicate. GoStops is designed to provide Indian customers who are young at heart an opportunity to go on backpack trips within India.

In response to the pandemic

The industry is finding ways to stay engaged with the customers. With social media events like ‘Rarified’ and ‘Chai and Samosa Live,’ Ms. Mohan advises companies to focus on the community and utilise this time to upgrade the skills for their staff. They celebrate every day as something unique to their own business. About the pandemic, she also feels the need to avoid creating a paranoia around the virus and instead be proactive and ‘map your green and red areas.’ There is a need for clients to be self-restrained. RARE India maintains a mandatory pledge to be taken by their client that they are “travel positive and COVID negative.”

Mr. Kumar claims that an organisation means its stakeholders, and so the business primarily focuses on their rural partners. There are three problems they face:

  • Livelihood
  • Engagement
  • Right information

As a solution to livelihood, NotOnMap came up with a direct market that connects a producer with customers.

As a solution to engagement, they realised the need to digitalise oral traditions: they introduced videos containing traditional sports and games, nature, and categorised stories. They also partnered with the government and came up with the Lok Dhaara Abhyan and a ‘folk-a-thon.’ Although it may be costly, these programs are essential for a commitment to sustainability.
To solve the third problem of providing the right information, NotOnMap connects with stakeholders on multiple sessions and translates a list of basic things to take care of in a multitude of regional languages except Hindi and English. The file contains categorised video training guidelines.

As her response to the pandemic, Ms. Agarwal also keeps her community-engaged on social media by organising gigs, Zumba, and poetry sessions as a means to interact with her team and places importance on keeping her ground team employed. On the precautions front, she gets her hostels sanitised for respiratory hygiene, steam cleaning, and fumigation as her efforts to keep her staff safe. Additionally, she uses plants as dividers in her common spaces to maintain social distancing.

Would hospitality be investor-friendly after the pandemic?

Ms. Mohan introduced her ‘Rare Touchstone,’ an idea that asks the customers to look for something different in their travels and appreciate responsible tourism. The focus after the pandemic will shift to local travel. Mr. Kumar also reiterated on adaption as being the key to sustainability in the future and the application of technology for scalability.

Sustainability and Responsible Tourism

To this, Mr. Kumar talked about how it is more about the customer having a sustainable mindset. There should be strict policies followed by the business to ensure that the customers also actively participate in environment-friendly efforts.

Ms. Agarwal asserts that most of the properties they operate in are in big cities. GoStops does not explicitly focus on the environment as its best practice. However, they do not compromise on their prices. These fair prices are responsible for their quality and staff. One thing that they do is observe a “green hour” where they limit the use of the air conditioner and save electricity.

Concluding the conversation, Ms Mohan establishes that sustainability is something that cannot be ignored. Responsible tourism is the path to reach sustainable tourism. Fair wages, local employment, and the management of water and garbage are all necessary. These initiatives are not only limited to the company following it but also extend to encourage other companies to support it. The pandemic has given a chance to travellers to see what a sustainable hotel would look like!

Key takeaways:

  • Frequent engagement of staff and clients during the pandemic is essential to a business.
  • The hospitality industry also places importance on developing the local ecosystem around it.
  • Incorporate responsible tourism to be sustainable in the long term.

The pandemic has had a devastating effect on the hospitality industry. With the Covid-19 condition worsening each day, there is a rise in the necessary steps of precaution taken up the industry to ensure the guests’ safety. The next time you visit an accommodation, make sure you thank the staff for taking care of you!

Contributed by:
V. Aishwarya Singh
Headstart Hyderabad