Growing Back Better…Challenge and Opportunity in Indian Hospitality

A resource efficient hotel will (by definition) have lower operating costs, but it will also deliver higher returns on relatively low risk investment, as well as greater profitability.

Before COVID restrictions brought most international travel to a halt, Hospitality made up a staggering 9.2% of India’s economy (more than Construction, which is saying something): the sector employed 87 Million people (12% of the workforce), and 10 Million Foreign Tourists arrived on the subcontinent in the twelve months up to March 2021 (an increase of 5.2% year on year). But of course that’s hardly surprising: India is one of the most awe inspiring, bewitching and fascinating destinations on the planet, from the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttar Pradesh to Kodaikanal’s breathtaking Hill Station in the South (and everything in between), the subcontinent is a top of the bill draw. So you can bet your house on it: COVID will end, as all things do, and international tourists will be back in ever greater numbers…because, for India, that quite literally comes with the territory.

Which makes it worth asking, in this most difficult of years (at least the most difficult since the last one), what will all these tourists be looking for when they come back?

Challenges and Opportunities

The answer lies in that old reliable formula: every challenge brings its opportunities. Because however unwelcome it might be (and is), the global pause imposed by COVID has given us a fresh opportunity to rethink the future of international tourism: capitalising on digital technologies to make the guest experience more autonomous and secure; building sustainability into service delivery and, perhaps most importantly of all, evolving strategies to support low carbon transition as part of a new, green operating model.

The travelling public (business and leisure) have become increasingly aware of the importance of environmental compliance when it comes to choosing a hotel (and in many cases they will pay more to do so), but that means so much more than just re-branding: key eco consumption variables need to be built in from the construction phase up, incorporating water saving devices and waste reduction (for example) from the earliest stages of the project. That’s why Eco Hotels are proving so attractive at the moment (, not just because they’re much more responsive to changing patterns of demand, but because they’re more commercially viable than traditional hospitality platforms.

A resource efficient hotel will (by definition) have lower operating costs, but it will also deliver higher returns on relatively low risk investment, as well as greater profitability. That was the hard-headed conclusion reached more than four years ago in the seminal report “Green Hotels and Sustainable Hotel Operations in India” (, and if anything the report’s findings are even more relevant today, in the rapidly evolving conditions COVID has precipitated.

Long Term Sustainability and Digitisation

Unsurprising then that each of this year’s OECD Tourism Papers have taken sustainability and digitisation as they central themes ( both drawing attention to the fact that although domestic tourism has been providing “a much needed short term boost”, over the long term sustainability and digitisation will be the critical determinants of tourist choice: recalibrating, in particular, to a vastly enhanced public awareness of the issues raised by climate change and carbon reduction.

Both reports anticipate a permanent change in Traveller Behaviour: niche segments, with “a greater focus on safety protocols and contactless tourism experiences”, as well as more emphasis on safety and hygiene: so you can expect current trends in service automation to become ever more prevalent, with more virtual services and real time information provision across a full spectrum of commonplace functions, including menu creation and concierge services.

Green Recovery Strategies

Greater opportunities will also increase the scope for innovation: new business models, new destinations and better ways of getting to them. This will be at the heart of a once in a generation chance to turbo charge what the OECD calls “green recovery strategies”: pivoting towards “business practices that better balance the environmental, social and economic impacts of tourism…rebooting the economy on a stronger, fairer and more sustainable footing”.

And who’s going to argue with that?

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and does not necessarily subscribe to it. shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly.

Read our latest article also published in the Economic Times: