'Definition of Hospitality has undergone a complete Paradigm Shift'

"As hoteliers, adapting to change is something that we are used to doing with agility and speed in our daily operations. But this pandemic has turned on its head everything that we knew to be true and fast tracked our learnings in all aspects of health and hygiene."

We are living through truly unprecedented times; the world has been at a standstill for over 150 days and counting. The COVID 19 pandemic is here to stay and contrary to what most are hoping for, it does not have an end date in sight. Things that were once deemed a luxury, are now a necessity and the very definition of ‘hospitality’ has undergone a complete paradigm shift. 

With early signs of states in India reopening, there is a ray of hope and optimism for the hospitality industry. While the preparation for this has been ongoing over the last few months, we are eager to resume in the new normal. Keeping in mind the redefined priorities today, our brand and service standards have been refreshed in readiness to offer the highest levels of safety and comfort to all. The new standards are in line with the stringent guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, the World Health Organization and Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). 

As hoteliers, adapting to change is something that we are used to doing with agility and speed in our daily operations. But this pandemic has turned on its head everything that we knew to be true and fast tracked our learnings in all aspects of health and hygiene. IHCL has always held the guiding principle of Tajness in all its dealings, be it with guests, partners or associates; a promise that is now restrengthened to take on the new world order in every way. We have had the good fortune to be in a position to offer aid to migrant workers through our charity the Taj Public Service Welfare Trust - 2 million meals and counting to this date. Our hotel in particular has opened its gates to the health care workers, doctors and repatriation guests.

The New Normal

While there are several changes in our operations today, I firmly believe that this is a dynamic situation that will continue to evolve over time. However, some of the enhanced precautionary measures that are here to stay may include non-invasive thermal screening of everyone who enters the premises, health declaration forms, frequent deep sanitisation of areas as well as new contactless processes and physical distancing measures across the hotel and restaurants. In the current scenario the areas within the hotel are demarcated and classified based on risk due to the frequency of traffic and human interactions. Cleaning protocols within guest rooms have as many as 70+ touchpoints that are sanitized daily. Associates use prescribed personal protective equipment or PPE basis their job role - with masks and gloves being mandatory for all. The Arogya Setu mobile application is also running on all handheld devices as per Government directives.  

Dining and Celebrations Redefined

For a country that thrives on social connections and evenings out, weddings and events are a definite fixture in our lives. We identified the need to take our dining experiences to the guest early on in this pandemic helping to jumpstart the dwindling F&B revenues. From offering gourmet hampers through Hospitality@Home, to launching our own food delivery application (QMIN), we have been able to take our speciality fine-dining to the residences and offices. While these alternate business initiatives evolved rapidly to ensure a great top of mind recall, our aim has always been to deliver truly memorable experiences within the confines of this pandemic. We offer curated “virtual dining experiences” that are perfect for Zoom Conferences or Celebrations in the comfort of your home. The hotel also has unique dining concepts ready for guests to enjoy small gatherings in private spaces within the luxurious settings of the hotel. 

Travel – A way of life

The travel industry has seen its share of challenges over the last few decades; from the global markets crash, to other world events but none that have affected us to this extent. What we are confident about, though, is that the human need to explore is paramount and countries will open their doors soon.  In India, the challenges do remain with state borders being closed for safety – though it is certain that domestic travel will bounce back as soon as it is permitted. Guests who are used to spending the summers in exotic international destinations will now look for unique locations and experiences nearer to home. With hotels located within drivable distances from one’s home, low on holiday planning time, cost and carbon footprint, staycations are ideal for travellers of all generations. At the Taj, this opportunity has been identified and met with attractive offers, value additions and meal credits that will suit the eager traveller perfectly. One thing is for certain that this is the time for the hospitality industry to stand together and work towards a common goal as one. It is our collective responsibility to instil the confidence in our guests to travel and dine out once again.

It’s all about the People

People are at the centre of our business and no one knows that better than the flagship hotel - The Taj Mahal Palace, Mumbai. If walls could talk, there would be much to hear. Sir J. N. Tata built the hotel to provide employment to the people of Mumbai during the bubonic plague of the late 1800s. 117 years later, our employees through their actions embody his spirit in every sense - 'In a free enterprise, the community is not just another stakeholder in business, but is in fact the very purpose of its existence'. Time and again, through every adversity, our associates have shown us the true meaning of Tajness and selfless service. Our fabulous front liners, now a close-knit team, stay in-house at the Palace to ensure we can provide a safe experience to our guests. We organize many physically distanced engagement activities, from movie nights to open-air yoga and online housie and quizzes. We have also ensured that they had access to mental health experts who could guide them and their family members through any anxieties or fears introduced by the pandemic. 

People keep asking me when will the world go back to the way it was - my answer is always the same - this is the ‘new normal’; this is the world now. We are living in a world where the most agile and process oriented companies will thrive. Every crisis presents an opportunity and those that recognize these opportunities the fastest, will be the first to come out of it! 

While the world may be a different place today, we at the legendary iconic Grande Dame of Mumbai will always remain eager to welcome back our guests with the warmth and sincere care that is synonymous with the Taj! 


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