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Industry may cut dependence on human presence - Hospitality at 2030
Tuesday, 03 January, 2023, 15 : 00 PM [IST]
Gladvin Rego
The Indian hospitality industry, with all its stakeholders, is gearing up for operational changes that will be evident in the years to come. Even though it is difficult to predict changes that may happen many years hence, some noticeable areas of change are taking root already. According to a report by Nangia Andersen LLP, "The travel market in India is projected to reach US$125 billion by FY27 from an estimated US$75 billion in FY20. International tourist arrivals are expected to reach 30.5 million by 2028."

Coupled with the rapid advances in technology making the news every day, it is just a matter of time before the Indian hospitality business undergoes revolutionary changes. Areas of the hospitality industry such as service delivery, workforce utilisation, tech-based applications and environmental sustainability will experience transformational changes.

Tech substitute for staff
With the ever-growing deficit of trained staff and the brain drain of existing trained and skilled workforce into allied areas, the hotel industry may look to reduce its dependence on human presence. This will be predominantly noticeable in areas where technology can easily substitute the positions of the staff members. As observed during the Covid-19 pandemic, the front office and food and beverage service operations are most likely to be upgraded first. Swift and contactless check-in and check-out procedures through automated consoles or mobile applications will become the norm. With the first glimpses of self-driving cars starting to surface already, guest pickups at airports with driverless vehicles and mobile check-ins in the vehicles en route to the hotels will create unique, on-the-go guest experiences. Advanced facial recognition technology will assist in all front office operations, including billing and departure regulations, with a touch of personalisation.

With digital marketing replacing traditional marketing channels, guest data protection will be a top priority for hotels. Hotels will heavily invest in developing and maintaining a robust cyber-security infrastructure, creating a demand for a talented workforce with a wider range of skillsets encompassing IT skills and an understanding of hotel operations.
Service automation will play a much larger role in F&B ordering and service. We may witness mobile applications replacing food menus for order placement and robotic and chute-based delivery systems in-built into the hotel infrastructure to deliver food and beverages directly to the rooms will become a norm rather than an exception. The industry will likely move to outsource food and beverage operations which will be seen as a profitable option as it will enable hotel businesses to focus only on lodging operations leaving the catering business to field experts and food and beverage specialists. The Indian spirits industry will come of age, with home-grown wineries and distilleries producing some of the finest spirits and liqueurs. Indian-flavoured liqueurs will dominate the mixology scenes worldwide, offering an innovative and modern option to complement traditional Western flavours.

With the positive growth in awareness concerning climate change, environmental health and sustainability, eco-sensitisation will be at the heart of operations as sustainable practices will continue to remain crucial to hotel operations. This will lead to the development of innovative solutions in the cleaning and hygiene segments to tackle issues such as water shortage and will give birth to alternative laundry and cleaning procedures. A pronounced utilisation of renewable sources of energy will be observed in all core areas of operations. Food production methods will focus on waste reduction, optimising water usage, and using locally sourced or garden-grown products with improved supply chain traceability. The efforts of the Jal Ministry in providing clean drinking water to remote areas of tourism will bring back confidence in the travellers and reduce the occurrence of sickness. Health infrastructure, safety logistics, better waste management mandates, and excellent sanitation facilities at tourist destinations will make India a prime spot on the global map. All this, topped with the cultural ethos of the country, will make it a must-visit destination.

Expansion to remote and unexplored areas
Domestic tourism will surge, and so will the Indian outbound travellers. Those who had started working in the 1990s when India’s economy opened up would have retired by 2030, creating a big market of travellers with the appetite to explore supported by the financial ability to do so. The Indian tourism market will have expanded to remote and unexplored areas of the North East creating numerous thriving avenues for adventure tourism. The millennials, who will dominate the demographics, believing in the here and now, will consider many short breaks a year to unwind opening up bright prospects for moving away from seasonal tourism and creating continuous revenue streams throughout the year.

Market segmentation will further diversify, as even hill and beach resorts will vie for corporate clients offering health and spa retreats, well-being events and activities to develop varied client bases. According to the Tourism and Hospitality Report by IBEF, "Travel & tourism’s contribution to capital investment in India is projected to grow 6.7% per annum during 2018-28. Enhanced air and sea connectivity with excellent rail and road infrastructure will assist the boom in tourism activity and also offer additional niches to develop curated services, increasing the scope of hospitality operations. Guests will be spoilt for choices as multiple offers will be available for a similar destination. The homestay concept is one section that will receive professional growth and become better organised as opposed to today's scenario. As the hospitality industry gets sensitised in the use of resources marked for the host population at the destination, the locals will be more open towards the growth and development of their region. "By 2029, the tourism sector is expected to account for about 53 million jobs", according to the Tourism and Hospitality Industry Report. Employment of locals will reduce big-city migration and mitigate the woes of aspiring youth and skilled human resources.

On the human resource front, India will align with worldwide labour regulations and strictly enforce the Minimum Wage Act. This will create a workforce which gets paid a due wage for every working hour spent extra at the workplace. This will ensure effective manpower utilisation, and improved workplace cultures with the active involvement of leadership in operations to justify the extra labour bill with the volume of business. For the workforce, it will create a better work-life balance.

(The author is principal, Lexicon Institute of Hotel Management)
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