By N.K.A. Ballal, Retd. Sr. Vice-President, ITDC
Omicron, a variant of Corona, has delivered a knock-out punch to the hospitality industry. Though this industry was crippled by the earlier Corona, a small recovery was seen in the horizon aided by the revenge travel undertaken by the people who were suffocated by the two years of semi- detention. But unfortunately the third wave decided to make its appearance exactly in the peak period of January to March.
I was just listening to an office-bearer of fhrai [the official hotel body] who claimed that nearly 5 crore people in the hospitality industry were unemployed or to put it mildly, had lost their jobs! One third of small restaurants and small single hotels had closed down.
Imagine this figure, quoted, is only for registered establishments. For example in Kodagu, only 500 to 600 establishments are registered and about 3,500 establishments are non-registered. I am talking about just one tourist hub. Multiply this to all over India. Mind-boggling figures of unemployment and shut-downs stare at us.
Everyday one hears many a theories going around, saying that this virus will vanish in a short time. Just today I was reading an article talking about the 4th wave coming by about June this year! Anyway just as we thought that Corona issue is receding, another issue has come forth. Russia invading Ukraine. Net result, the crude has crossed the 100 dollar mark. The gas prices are going haywire all over the world.
As usual, our Tourism Department is in deep slumber. Just switch on your TV and see for yourself how other States like Kerala have started to advertise. The Ministry of Tourism is considered a low priority Ministry in Karnataka and as such dynamic officials are not even posted there. The officials are only interested in attending international marts and exhibitions. One look at the quality of our brochures, it will tell the story.
Mysuru is the topmost tourist destination of the State. Does it have a decent map brochure which is freely available for all tourists [domestic or international]? I am sure the Ministry does not even have any decent recent video films of the State destinations. Is it rocket science to appoint a top-notch photographer to go around all the tourism destinations and videograph them ?
Once you have a good collection of videos and films, one can easily plan out a campaign for the whole year in advance. Unless this “chaltha hai” attitude goes, we will be in this mess forever.
I was talking to a hotelier and he informed me that the weekend traffic has increased and they are all having good occupancies thankfully due to the location advantage of Mysuru. But the weekend traffic is dismal. This is where some innovative and out-of-box marketing gimmicks have to be implemented by local stakeholders.
Basic problem for all hoteliers at Mysuru is filling up of the hotel from Monday to Thursday. I recollect many years ago there was a similar problem in Rajasthan. All the stakeholders joined hands and worked out a plan to attract the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions [mice] from Delhi. All of them agreed to give upto 80 to 90 percent discounts on room and the advertisement ran like this “pay for the food, room free.”
This campaign worked wonders to the city of Jaipur and the rooms started to fill up on weekdays too. All the hotels only gave a percentage of rooms for this campaign. This ensured that the hotels at least covered up the basic costs of electricity and salary. Of course, this campaign was a success only because all the stakeholders [travel agents, hoteliers, transporters, shopkeepers] joined hands and shared the costs of the advertisements. When the stakeholders are one and act, they can probably wake up the sleeping Tourism Department to join the effort. Is anyone listening?
This is just a random idea. I am sure the brilliant minds in the industry can come up with something better too. But time is now. With summer approaching, the business can go from bad to worse. Time to act.
To conclude, Omicron has given the knock-out punch but I am sure the travel trade of Mysuru can still get up and punch back. Let us take advantage of the revenge travel mood of the public. Even the companies in and around Mysuru would be open to this idea for their employees. Do you agree ?
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