More than coronavirus itself, the lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19 is adversely impacting Pakistani businesses and economy. With most businesses closed, massive layoffs are feared across Pakistan. After the aviation industry, perhaps the worst hit is hospitality industry – with all hotels across the country now closed for the past several days.
Hashoo Group is Pakistan’s largest hoteling and hospitality chain with its prestigious properties and brand names like Marriot, Pearl Continental and Hotel Ones all across the major cities, northern areas and in the Azad Kashmir. Apart from Muzzafarabad, a new hotel was coming up in Mirpur over the Mangla lake. However now all hotels and properties are closed. “Hotel Ones”, across the country, have been volunteered by the Hashoo Group for quarantine purposes – to help government provide separate room for corona patients.
Hashoo group: Protecting its employees during COVID-19 Lockdowns
One of the main employer in the hospitality industry, the Hashoo Group has ensured practicality of having a disaster preparedness and business continuity plan by ensuring safety of its employees and mitigating possible risks to them in these challenging times.
Hashoo Group has therefore taken proactive actions to ensure safety, and in compliance with Government directives, Group has implemented the closure of most hotels. It has also postponed all non-essential projects.
Haseeb Gardezi, Chief Operating Officer Hashoo Group Hospitality Division, explains to GVS that in addition to steps taken to protect the interests of its own work force, Hashoo Foundation has been mobilised to provide practical support for the most marginalised people. Hashoo Foundation has responded with emergency and relief activities through its humanitarian outreach programs.
Hashoo Foundation has also launched an awareness campaign to mitigate the risk of virus outbreaks. Through its women empowerment program “Hashoo Hunar” it has trained women on stitching masks for law enforcement agencies.
Several Hotel One properties, as mentioned above, are being used as official Quarantine Centers. Meanwhile, Haseeb Gardezi firmly refuted the news regarding laying off the employees and assured the staff that no such decision has been taken.
#Pakistan Converts Hundreds of Hotels Into Quarantine Centers. 1,795 3-star and 4-star hotels, with 42,000 single-bed rooms ready to use as #quarantine centers for #coronavirus suspected cases. Also locked 6 hotels with 5-star facilities. #Covid_19 https://t.co/XtRIGHo3zK— Riaz Haq (@haqsmusings) March 28, 2020
Gardezi has explained that keeping in view the current scenario, the management of Hashoo Group has decided that all the associates in the Group shall be paid as normal this month, and in line with the Government directives throughout the lockdown period.
The group’s senior executive team has voluntarily taken a cut in salary. Work from home policy, as being practiced world over, has also been approved to facilitate associates. The group is trying to manage the impact of COVID-19 on its employees.
COVID-19: Impact on Hospitality Industry?
Bloomberg Economics estimates that world GDP growth in the first quarter of 2020 has slowed to 1.2% year on year—the weakest on record. Australian economists believe that coronavirus can cost $ 2.4 trillion to world economy. $5 trillion have already been lost in stock markets across the world.
Hospitality industry is one of the worst hit industry by the coronavirus. Business analysts argue that to hospitality industry Coronavirus & lockdowns across the world present an existential threat. Globally, the hospitality industry could lose 4 million jobs, according to the Oxford Economics study. In nearby region, in Dubai, hundreds of hotels are now closed and countless thousands of workers have been sent home or sent on unpaid leave. In November of 2019, Dubai had more than 600 hotel properties operating, now only a few are functional.
The airline sector, part of hospitality industry, is completely at standstill, and many airlines are at risk of collapse especially PIA which is already running deficits.
Provincial governments in Pakistan have imposed a ban on hotels and restaurants. A huge economic blow is feared as services compose 60 percent of Pakistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and hospitality industry is major part of it.
The hospitality industry is a major employer and many big groups are supporting their employees amid lockdown. However, they can not continue to pay salaries for months to come. Therefore, the federal government must come up with a package to rescue this industry.
How hotels can gradually come back during lockdown -and in post-corona phase?
Hotel closures have not only created problems for employees but also for consumers. People who work or study away from home are in trouble as there is no food available.
Most hospitals in the country have no cafeteria and now with hotels closed, many patients and their attendants are unable to get meals.
The government should allow the opening of hotels and restaurants in a controlled manner. Standard operating procedures can be provided to the hotels and restaurants to contain the virus as well as to fulfill demands of consumers and employees.
Probably, this is about time we fixed our food regulators and food safety laws. The government may ensure standards in the entire process; from food to the hotel industry, and from meat and poultry to food handlers.
Currently, there is no evidence of food or food processing being associated with the transmission of COVID-19 – in Pakistan. Although it is possible that the infected worker may touch the food. This problem can be solved by testing the staff of hotels and restaurants. Guidelines be also laid out to ensure the cleanliness of the kitchen.
The above guidelines to hotels will not only stop corona spread for the short term but will also ensure that households get safe foods in the long term.