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‘What are the key learnings that hospitality industry can take from current conditions?’

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The world is currently battling with the unprecedented effects of the COVID-19. With the UN claiming it to be a crisis on humanity like never before, it has put our social fabric and cohesion under tremendous stress. In the face of this fatal virus, the economies worldwide have come to a standstill, making the travel restrictions and social distancing policies the new normal.

Impact of the Outbreak: The hospitality industry has taken a massive hit around the globe with occupancy rates dropping by 59% in US hotels alone. Significant declines are also forecasted in average daily rate (ADR), occupancy, demand, and revenue per available room (RevPAR) for 2020.

Current forecasts predict a deep economic contraction in the first half of the year, followed by a bounce-back in the latter half. However, there could also be a prolonged economic uncertainty that would resist a sharp bounce-back. As hotels counter this economic crisis, there will be a dire need to assess the business continuity and operational challenges, both for the short and long term, and understand the impact on Cash, Working Capital, and Profitability.

The severe situation had stalled travel plans for the majority of the people around the world but it is expected that hotel bookings will see a recovery after September 2020. However, it is also predicted that people will be more inclined towards traveling domestic rather than international. Thus, it is imperative for the hotels to be prepared before the business starts to ramp up and use this interim period as an opportunity to overhaul their legacy systems.

THE NEED OF THE HOUR

Regain Guest Confidence: The core of the relationship between any brand and its consumers is “the trust”, and thus recapturing guest confidence should be the primary step for any brand amidst this pandemic situation. At a time when consumer confidence is at an all-time low, communication will play the lead role in re-assuring the guests of the safe environments at different hotels. Also, within the hotel premises, the way hotels empower their guests with increasingly relevant and timely information, will also hold the key to future.

Revisit Hospitality Offerings:Hotels will need to review their existing service offerings to adapt to the “new normal” and provide a touch-free experience to their guests when they arrive at the property. To achieve this, Hotels will need a transformation in their daily operations to provide an experience that would ensure that both the guests and the hotel staff are in safe hands.

Employee Well Being: A turnaround is also expected in the hospitality industry at the employer level. The current working models need to be re-evaluated for efficiency with ‘employee wellbeing’ positioned higher than ever in the hotel’s priority list. Providing them with safety kits and eliminating the different touchpoints while serving the guests are the major needs of the hour.

Regulatory Compliances Liabilities: In this new environment, hotels need to adopt new practices to regulate the environment in which the business happens. Once the operations begin, stern measures on sanitation and hygiene will be very important and hotel properties will have to not just be aesthetically clean but also clinically clean. It will also be important to ensure that the mandatory regulatory guidelines such as social distancing are being followed at their properties

OPPORTUNITIES TO UPGRADE THE SKILL SET

Up-skill: Creating opportunities for hotel employees to add value to their skill-sets could build confidence in hotel companies, as layoffs can be expected by all major and minor hotel companies. Hyper-local hotels may see the largest number of layoffs due to the popular asset-light model, where large number of operating units, scattered across countries, could be written off all at once. This will bleed out a vast number of hospitality employees into an already difficult market. Individuals who can upgrade their skill sets by way of enrolling in speciality-specific courses could benefit greatly.

Re-skill:Offering routes such as ‘Recognition of Prior Learning’ opportunities to qualified hospitality front-line professionals could accelerate the process in re-skilling individuals, hence preparing them for roles in hotels and other hospitality-related operations in an environment where lean, yet skilled operations will be required.

Hygiene and sanitation remained a recurrent sub-theme throughout the responses, be it about foreseeable consumer behaviour or learnings for the industry and educators or trainers. The issue of hygiene has been well documented in tourism and hospitality literature. However, for a developing country like India that deals with issues like over-crowdedness and congestion, it is too serious a concern to be overlooked. where the researchers have speculated presence of SARS-COV-2 in human waste water becomes more consequential if not managed effectively. The seriousness of this issue can’t be emphasised enough and regardless of the type and size of the establishment, next crucial aspect that is likely to govern the survival would be the presence of standards of waste management and effective sanitation practices visible in all forms of hospitality operations.

Hospitality management must consider wearing masks mandatory until a sustained solution, for instance the most contemplated solution+COVID-19 vaccine, is achieved. Irrespective of type of operations, managers must consider creating dedicated task forces among employees to address hygiene issues and related training and awareness creation. Basing on the responses received it seems clear now that there is stark need of formulating national standards for tourism and hospitality enterprises, and their implementation and monitoring should be effectively carried out, failing that should invite relative penalties. The need of national standards also resonate with the recommendations made by authorities/researchers. One such standard practice could be mandatory temperature checking and its record keeping at the entry and exit points of work places and institutions.

The notion of retaining optimism and hopes of revival remained highThis was particularly visible with the responses pertaining to the manpower development. This viewpoint of the experts in tourism and hospitality may be attributable to their rich experiences, where they must have observed highs and lows in the industry. Although COVID-19 presents an unprecedented case before all the sectors, in that the reduced demand and revenues are obvious consequences, which can resonate with the previous crises that also had detrimental effects. However, in previous health (e.g. SARS, Swine Flu, MERS, and Ebola) or other sorts of crises (acts of terrorism, natural calamities) travellers mostly had alternatives at their disposal. This time the entire planet has been held hostage to this severe pandemic, which has brought an absolute halt on various activities, leisure sector being the prominent casualty. From the responses it is evident that alike educators, industry managers too didn’t shy away from highlighting the human resilience and seemed hopeful towards the eventual recovery, meanwhile reassuring individuals who have or intend to pursue careers in the industry.

Budgets and Capital Expenditure:Hotel owners should consider whether the existing rights of the owner in relation to the setting, approval and variation of budgets and decisions relating to capital expenditures are adequate or should be enhanced in order to give the owner greater say on decisions relating to expenditure that is considered necessary or desirable in light of Covid-19, for instance investments towards improving the health and safety components of the hotel.

This is extremely important from a hotel owner’s perspective because: (a) they have the obligation to fund the hotel’s working capital and capital expenditure requirements; and (b) the owner’s performance termination rights will typically be linked to the level of operating profit generated by the hotel operator relative to the budgeted operating profit. If the owner does not have adequate rights in respect to the setting of the budget and approval of variations from the budget and sufficient control over the budget process, then the operator could provide for a lower operating profit in the budget and thereby ensure that it does not fail the operating profit test (this is over and above a general exclusion which an operator may include for force majeure events).

Additionally, it would also be worthwhile to consider including a mechanism thereby the owner and operator have to mutually agree to adjust the budgets and capital expenditure for a specific period in the event of a force majeure event occurring and the operator should not have a unilateral right to make any such adjustments.

Compulsory Acquisition:During recent times, there have been instances where government authorities in certain countries have taken over hotels to use them as quarantine facilities for Covid-19 patients. While these instances may not be common, it gives rise to another scenario which may need to be covered in the condemnation provisions of hotel operating contracts. Further, as the hotel owner is unlikely to receive any substantial compensation from the government, the rights of an operator to receive any portion of the compensation received from the government should also be considered and re-examined and specific carve-outs may need to be agreed. Consideration should also be given to the hotel’s insurance policies and whether any conversion of use of the hotel into a quarantine or other medical facility may vitiate these insurance policies.

Public Health Emergency Obligations:Hotel operating contracts do not, usually, contain any provisions on: (a) the procedures to be followed by the parties; and (b) the rights and obligations of each party, in the event of a public health emergency occurring in the hotel (for example, a guest or staff testing positive for Covid-19). It is important that these gaps are filled to ensure that there is no ambiguity on the roles and responsibilities of the parties and thereby avoiding the blame-game.

HOTEL MANAGEMENT REQUIRES LIFELONG LEARNING

Albert Einstein said, “Once you stop learning, you start dying”, and the saying has never been truer than in the current context. Even if you were a seasoned hotel manager, the COVID-19 crisis has likely challenged all of your past experience and knowledge about the profession. In the face of uncertainty, hoteliers have had to relearn some of the key cornerstones of the industry, such as staffing and revenue management, both of which underwent major transformations because of COVID.

As a result, web traffic on hospitality-related educational platforms nearly doubled in the past few months. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, hoteliers understood that they needed to take action in order to adapt and save their business. In a great showing of courage and resilience, most of them took the matter into their own hands and kept looking for ways to survive amidst the plethora of constraining safety measures and lockdowns. This gave birth to new innovative strategies for hotels to generate revenue.

HOPING FOR A BEGINNING OF AN END

We can say that,

Post Covid19, organisations will surely redesign/reorganise their business models based on the loss handled and market conditions for the future. Workforce reduction is a possibility however smarter organisations may look at utilising the available workforce in newer roles as per the need of the business. Its (sic) important to understand that hospitality is all about human connections and people will be at the heart of everything we strategize.

COVID-19 is pushing the industry to manage, adapt, and respond to the uncertainty and risk associated with this global health incident. Managing the guests’ & employees’ safety and delivering as per guests’ expectations will not be considered a competitive advantage, but rather an industry imperative. Enterprises in the hospitality industry should partner with the right technology solutions providers to ensure a foolproof digital transformational strategy for the future.

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Nation

Lalu Yadav criticises Amit Shah for attacking Bihar govt

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A day before he meets Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, RJD President Lalu Prasad Yadav on Saturday criticised Home Minister Amit Shah for his attack on the Bihar government coalition and emphasised the need for Opposition unity.

“Amit Shah has utterly lost his mind.  His administration has been overthrown in Bihar. The BJP will also lost in 2024. That is why he is sprinting there (Bihar) and speaking of jungle raaj. What did he do when he was in Gujarat,” Yadav said.

The former chief minister of Bihar said that “Jungle raaj” was present in Gujarat when he was there.

On Sunday evening, Kumar and Yadav will probably meet Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Congress.

We are making every effort for Opposition unity,” Yadav, who has been battling poor health, said, adding this will the agenda of their meeting.

The Bihar chief minister was slammed by Shah on Friday for allegedly betraying the BJP and attempting to advance his prime ministerial ambitions while “sitting in the laps of Congress and RJD.”

At a rally in Purnea, Shah predicted that the Kumar-Lalu Prasad jodi would be destroyed (soopda saaf) in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and that the BJP will win a majority by itself in the state assembly elections the following year.

In response, Yadav said, “Amit Shah bilkul paglaye hue hain” ( Amit Shah is absolutely insane).

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Hollywood star John Cusack supports ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, says solidarity to all anti-fascists

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Hollywood star John Cusack on Saturday showed his support to the Congress’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, a campaign to reach out to the general public. Cusack tweeted: “Indian parliament member Rahul Gandhi is walking to Kashmir from Kerala.” This was written weeks after the march, which intends to go over 3,500 kilometres across the nation, began.

Expressing his support for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra on Saturday, Hollywood actor Cusack stated that he stands in solidarity with “anti-fascists everywhere.”

Cusack, the leading man in blockbusters like “Serendipity,” “High Fidelity,” “Con Air,” and “2012,” has been outspoken on social media regarding a number of international issues.

Jairam Ramesh, a Congress’s spokesman, shared the post of the Cusack’s tweet.

The actor posted on Twitter that Indian parliament member Rahul Gandhi is walking from Kerala by foot to Kashmir. Cusack responded to a user who complimented him for backing Gandhi’s cause by saying, “Yes – solidarity – to all anti fascists everywhere!” The actor has previously offered support to the farmers’ and students’ demonstrations against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and three agriculture legislation, respectively.

Rahul Gandhi began his march from Kanyakumari, the southernmost point of the nation’s mainland, and he is currently travelling through the southern states. A verbal battle between the BJP and the Congress has been ongoing since the yatra got underway.

Gandhi has often emphasised that the Yatra is a fight against the BJP’s poor leadership. He has brought up concerns including unemployment, inflation, and women’s safety. However, following numerous polling failures over the past few years, the party is also focusing on the 2024 national elections during the mass contact programme.

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Assam CM’s three-day Chintan Shivir to start today

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Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma

The three-day Chintan Shivir, which is due to start today, will be attended by the Cheif Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma as well as all other ministers and senior secretaries of various state government agencies.

The state administration will talk about the departments’ ongoing activities during the brainstorming session. In the shivir, it is probable that the departments’ five-year plans and road map will be prepared.

In August of this year, a cabinet meeting presided over by the CM decided to organise the three-day shivir.

Around 2 pm, the Chief Minister of Assam will attend the Chintan Shivir’s opening session.

All of the BJP’s ministers and legislators from its ally party are likely to attend the Chintan Shivir.

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News

Resort of BJP leader’s son arrested for 19-year-old’s murder demolished at midnight

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Chief Minister Pushkar Dhami ordered the demolition of a resort owned by the accused amid outcry over the reported murder of a 19-year-old woman in Uttarakhand by a BJP leader’s son.

Abhinav Kumar, special principal secretary to the CM, said that demolition was underway at the Vanatara Resort in Rishikesh owned by Pulkit Arya on late Friday night on the orders of Dhami.

The son of Vinod Arya, a prominent BJP figure from Haridwar and a former leader of the Uttarakhand Mati Kala Board, is Pulkit Arya.

Three individuals, including Arya, were arrested on Friday for the alleged murder of a woman who worked as a receptionist at his resort on Chilla Road in the Yamkeshwar region. In Pauri Garhwal, Uttarakhand, the woman went missing earlier this week, according to authorities.

Arya was arrested along with Saurabh Bhaskar (35) and Ankit Gupta (19) and all of them have confessed to the crime, police added.

Bhaskar was a manager at the resort, and Gupta was his assistant, according to senior superintendent of police (SSP) Yashwant Singh of Pauri Garhwal.

The senior police officer said Arya on September 20 had approached police with a missing complaint to mislead the investigation.

But once the victim’s father was approached by the woman’s friend with a WhatsApp message implying the trio’s involvement, he began to wonder about Arya and the staff’s involvement.

“During the course of investigation, police learnt the accused and the woman had gone to Rishikesh on Sunday. While on their way back, Pulkit and the woman entered into an argument following which the accused threw her into a canal in Chilla,” the SSP said.

The victim’s body was found in the Chilla Canal, and her relatives were contacted to identify it, according to a representative for the State Disaster Response Force (SDRF).

The BJP leader’s son had pressurized Ankita to enter into prostitution, a police officer said who did not want to be named.

The accused have been booked under Sections 302 (murder), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

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Policy & Politics

20th Meeting of Prosecutors General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Member States organized at Astana, Kazakhstan

Tarun Nangia

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20th Meeting of Prosecutors General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Member States organized at Astana, Kazakhstan

The 20th Meeting of Prosecutors General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Member States was held on 23rd September, 2022 in Astana, Kazakhstan. The Indian delegation attended the meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan under the leadership of:-
Tushar Mehta, Learned Solicitor General of India, Department of Legal Affairs
Dr. Anju Rathi Rana, Additional Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs
As precursor to the event on 23rd September, 2022 Dr. Anju Rathi Rana, Additional Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law & Justice attended the Meeting of the Experts Group for the 20th Meeting of the Prosecutors General of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Member States on 8th and 13th September, 2022. The Meeting of the Experts Group reaffirmed strengthening of cooperation at bilateral and multilateral levels between SCO Member States. The Experts group discussed issues pertaining to the growth of transnational economic crime in the world and thier experience of recovery of proceeds of crime from the states. The discussion between the Member States was held in a constructive and friendly atmosphere fostering the spirit of mutual trust and understanding.
The 20th Meeting of Prosecutors General was attended by the Solicitor General of the Republic of India Shri Tushar Mehta, Prosecutor General of the Republic of Kazakhstan Asylov B.N., Prosecutor of the Supreme People’s Procuratorate of the People’s Republic of China Zhang Jun, Prosecutor General of the Kyrgyz Republic Zulushev K.T., Additional Attorney-General of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan Rashdeen Nawaz Kasuri, Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation Krasnov I.V., Prosecutor General of the Republic of Tajikistan Rakhmon Yu.A., Prosecutor General of the Republic of Uzbekistan Yuldashev N.T. and the SCO Secretary-General Zhang Ming.
A Protocol incorporating the deliberations of the 20th meeting of Prosecutors General of the SCO Member States was signed and adopted by the SCO Member States. The salient features of the Protocol are as under:
To strengthen cooperation between the Prosecutor General’s Offices of the SCO Member States with respect to the recovery of the proceeds of crime particularly in money laundering.
To develop cooperation between the prosecutor’s offices of the SCO member states at international institutions and forums on issues related to combating economic crimes like money laundering, search, seizure and recovery of the proceeds of crime from states.
To use the forums of bilateral and multilateral gatherings to discuss about ways to strengthen the systems in place to combat economic crimes particularly money laundering.
To continue the exchanging of information on domestic laws governing seach seizure and recovery of proceeds of crime. State’s experiences in their prevention as well as references, methodological, information-analytical, scientific and other materials in the field of combating economic crimes.
To develop cooperation between the Prosecutors General offices of the SCO member states in the field of training and advanced training of prosecutors and employees of other law enforcement agencies whose competence includes issues of combating economic crimes.
To conduct and participate in bilateral and multilateral events on combating economic crimes, search, seizure and recovery of proceeds of crime from states.
Addressing the eminent gathering of Prosecutors General from SCO Member States, Tushar Mehta, Learned Solicitor General of India highlighted the initiatives taken by the Government of India to address Transnational Economic Crimes internationally by the ratification of two UN Conventions; the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNCTOC) and its three protocols and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). At the national level in order to stop the threat of Transnational Economic Crimes, India has implemented a number of legislative measures over the years to prevent, detect, and penalise money laundering by specialised legislation namely Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA), Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA), The Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018 (FEOA) and the Companies Act, 2013.
Tushar Mehta also underlined the vital role of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties/Agreements for the cases where it is necessary to gather information and conduct formal investigations abroad with the help of foreign government, when the accused person(s) has fled the country after committing a crime, or when a part or the entire crime was committed outside the country.
In order to seek aid in pursuing such crimes India has signed Mutual Legal Assistance Agreements to request assistance in investigating such crimes. India has signed Extradition Treaties/Agreements with 47 and 11 countries respectively and Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties/Agreements with 42 nations to seek assistance in the investigation of such instances.
In his concluding remarks, Shri Tushar Mehta, Learned Solicitor General of India, expressed his gratitude to all participating member states and urged them to work together to broaden the scope of the activities of the forum and eliminate the threat of transnational economic crimes by enhancing mutual trust, understanding, cooperation and communication between the member states.
The next (21st) meeting of the Prosecutors General of the SCO Member States will be held in the People’s Republic of China in 2023.

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Policy & Politics

India’s Rice availability position is comfortable

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India’s Rice availability position is comfortable

With the amendment in export policy of Broken Rice from “free” to Prohibited”, Government of India has successfully ensured domestic food security, availability of domestic feed for poultry and cattle feed, while keeping a check over inflation as well as domestic price of rice.
Export policy of broken rice has been amended in order to ensure adequate availability of broken rice for consumption by domestic poultry industry and for other animal feedstock; and to produce ethanol for successful implementation of EBP (Ethanol Blending Programme) program.
Due to various reasons, there was need for amending the Policy.
Domestic price of broken rice, which was Rs. 16/Kg in the open market has increased to about Rs. 22/Kg in States because of exports due to higher international prices. Poultry sector and animal husbandry farmers were impacted the most due to price hike of feed ingredients as about 60-65% inputs cost for poultry feed comes from broken Rice and any increase in prices will be reflected in poultry products like Milk, Egg, Meat etc. which resulted in food inflation.
There has been a rise in global demand for broken rice due to geo-political scenario which has impacted price movement of commodities including those related to animal feed. The export of broken rice has increased by more than 43 times in past 4 years (21.31 LMT exported from April-August, 2022 compared to 0.41 LMT in the same period in 2018-19).
The export share of Broken Rice significantly increased to 22.78% as compared to the 1.34% corresponding period of 2019. From the year 2018-19 (FY) to 2021-22 (FY) export of Total Broken Rice increased by 319%.
Some countries (who never imported broken rice from India) have tapped into Indian market to exploit the situation at the cost of Indian consumers.
The government has not made any changes in the policy relating to par-boiled rice (HS CODE = 1006 30 10) and Basmati rice (HS CODE = 1006 30 20).
Parboiled Rice and Basmati Rice constitute around 55% of total rice export from India. So, the farmers will continue to get good remunerative prices and dependent/vulnerable countries will have adequate availability of par-boiled rice as India has significant share in the global rice export.
In domestic production, 60-70 LMT estimated production loss was earlier anticipated. Now, production loss of 40-50 LMT is expected and production output is not expected to be higher this year but only at par with previous year.
Notably, 217.31 LMT rice is in Government buffer stock which is higher than the buffer stock norm. In the upcoming Kharif Season, 510 LMT and in Rabi Season, 100 LMT of rice will be procured. The buffer stock maintained by the country is more than enough to meet the demand for the public distribution system. The Government intervention by prohibiting export of broken rice and imposing 20% duty on the export of basmati and non-par boiled rice will further help in containing the situation.
India commands 40% share in the global rice trade, exported 21.23 MMT of rice in 2021-22 fiscal as against 17.78 MMT in the previous year. Due to the current geo-political situation, the international price of rice was lucrative leading to high export of rice as compared to previous year.
Due to surplus stock of rice, the domestic price of rice will be under control as compared to international market and neighbouring countries where the price is comparatively high. The percentage increase in the MSP of paddy in last year was 5.15% (Rs.2040/qtl. in 2022-23 and Rs. 1940/qtl. in 2021-22). The actual increase in price of rice is around 3%, due to increase in MSP and other input costs. The domestic price of rice is in comfortable position and the prices will remain well under control.
All India Domestic Wholesale prices of Rice and Wheat decreased by 0.08% and 0.43% respectively over the week. Retail price of Sugar is showing a decrease of 0.19% over the week.

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