The Indian hospitality market is currently in the “eye of the storm” when it comes to the Covid-19 outbreak according to Neeraj Govil, senior vice president for south-Asia at Marriott International.
While offering his support to the local government and its efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus, he said the peak of cases was not expected until mid-July.
Any recovery of the hotel market would not be possible before then, Govil said.
“From July and moving forward, we expect occupancy to grow from the single digits we see today to around 20-30 per cent aggregated across our portfolio in India.
“But things are volatile, we make take steps forward and then back, it will be a tentative approach.”
Speaking during the Hospitality Tomorrow event organised by Bench Events, he added: “In the third quarter of the year we will then be hit by the monsoons, which may slow us again.
“However, by the end of the year we might see occupancy return to around 50 per cent across the country.”
Govil said around a third of the Marriott International portfolio in India had currently suspended operations, while the vast majority of properties were only partially open.
“We are currently in a deep contingency, survival mode – we are in for a rough ride for 12-18 months, and maybe even longer than that,” he explained.
As to where the recovery might come from, Govil said he expected to see domestic demand return first.
“We expect to see people get into their cars, drive out of the cities and spend some time with their families,” he explained.
“This will be followed by short-haul flights within the country, then, as borders reopen, some shorter international flights.
“Strong brands, international brands which people trust to have taken the steps necessary to protect their safety, will benefit.”
These sentiments were echoed by Puneet Chhatwal, chief executive of the Indian Hotels Company.
He explained, similar to the situation in China, domestic travel would be vital for any recovery.
Chhatwal said: “Domestic travel will be first, as people begin to drive for a break.
“As flights resume, toward the end of this month, the train stations and highways reopen, we will see a step-by-step return of demand.
“We were already seeing Indian guests take trips in the same city, as they are bored with locked within their own houses, and this will continue.”
Chhatwal added hotels needed to be open new opportunities as they struggled.
“Opportunistic business is going to be important in the short-term, we did not know repatriation guests were segment, for example, and something else will come up as we move forward,” he said.
“Usually hope is not a strategy, but in times like this, when we have seen hotels touching zero revenue, it is all we have.
“Coming from an exceptionally low base, we have seen extremely limited green shoots during in May – outside of health workers and repatriation guests.
“Our Ginger brand, in the mid-market, has led the way, ahead of Taj, and much of the growth has really come in the past 48-72 hours as we approach the end of lockdown.”
Vijay Thacker, managing director of Horwath in India who moderated a session between Chhatwal and Govil, emphasised any recovery would not be quick.
He said some 64 per cent of respondents to a survey carried out by Horwath this week felt the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak would last longer than six-to-12 months.
Thacker added the hotel sector had been hit hard by the shutdown of the local economy over the past 50 days, despite a relatively small number of coronavirus deaths in India.
Powered by Bench Events, Hospitality Tomorrow was launched to support the hard-hit international hotel community during Covid-19, by offering a virtual conference platform that provides knowledge, facilitates information sharing and connects the industry.