It began in early or may be mid February when we all started feeling the signs of the effects of corona pandemic coming up. There were murmurs on difficult times ahead for travel trade people. With Italy suddenly reporting cases, travelers were getting jittery and were reconsidering plans to especially fly out to Europe. Our travel planner friends were talking about receiving cancellations or postponements of trips. Other EU nations were panicking and cancelling events.
Meanwhile, we were planning, and packing for our trip scheduled to Germany to visit the largest travel trade fair- the ITB Berlin to be held from 6th March to 11th March 2020. We were spending most of our time scheduling appointments with possible buyers and bloggers who could promote our properties in Jaipur. We were happy with the responses coming up and were really looking forward to attend the fair.
February last week, the talks came up in news that the ITB Messe is being asked to cancel the event, but the organizers were seemingly not keen and were probably thinking, THIS as not a real threat. 5 days passed and we were packed and ready to leave for Delhi to catch a flight to Berlin when they announced the cancellation. It was a blow and we thought we lost an opportunity this year to meet so many people who were showing keen interest in our products.
We believed international travel is going to take a big hit this year.
Next, came the news of an International travelers group diagnosed positive for the virus, had just completed a 10 day trip in Rajasthan. They had stayed in 3-4 star hotels across the state.
Panic started to settle in, the hotel industry in the country is going to take a toll.
How are travelers going to risk staying in Hotels?
We decided we have to put our best foot forward and in light of these cases, we need to put across to our guests that enough measures have been taken to sanitize the place, staff and fellow guests as well.
New guidelines were set to ensure sanitization of everything entering the premises. The guests were to spend minimum time at the lobby reception area with tech based pre-check in and checkout facility. Immunity boosting drinks were offered to guests and staff as well.
With numbers increasing, the government passes a ruling of banning any international travelers to enter the country, the existing visas cancelled.
It was the hardest blow, we thought, how would we survive without the potential international clientele. It was the hardest blow, we thought, how would we survive without the potential international clientele.The domestic travelers were also starting to cancel confirmed bookings. We were having meetings on how to keep the business going in these lowest times when the prime minister announced the lock down.
On 22nd March, two of our four properties were shut down, the guests and staff asked to leave.
The scare of the pandemic was so high, we did not want to operate at all. It was exposing ourselves, our families, and our team to the virus. We wanted to close all operations.
The story was not over...
There were guests who could not leave.
There were guests who did not leave.
There were guests who did not want to leave.
A few international travelers could not go back to their countries, because there were no flights now. A few of them could not, as the risk in their country was higher than here. A few guests were on government duty and could not go back to their families.
It was a difficult decision, we could not have turned them out and yet we did not know how to ask any body on the team to come...
Finally everyone were shifted to Om Niwas, with new measures in place.
These were tough times and the decisions we took were tough as well, but the guests as well as our team were extremely receptive.