Cautiously optimistic about 2022
The roller coaster ride through 2020 and 2021 gave the industry a fair share of lows with lockdowns, job losses and business freeze followed with the highs in form of the silver lining of the vaccine development, worldwide inoculations and possible containments, but then the low struck us again with the catastrophic second wave, we suffered but braved that too! Now when we were about looking at the trade winds blowing for us all in 2022, Omicron appears to be playing spoilsport, so what does 2022 hold for us? We cannot go into a state of paralysis, the world is changing and it will no longer be business as usual, get prepared.
– Vasudha Sondhi, Managing Director, OMPL Group
2020 caught us unawares and stopped us dead in our tracks, but as the year progressed, we picked up the threads of our lives to think and react differently. 2021 was a paradigm shift from just about how we had done everything in the past: our learnings, processes, systems, client-supplier interactions, and so on. Most of our clients came back to the OMPL Group regularly. While we did maintenance activity for them in 2020, we started the regular business, especially to Dubai and Maldives, in Q1. Our clients continue to invest in us and the market, for which I am intensely grateful.
The second wave was heart-breaking as we lost many friends and colleagues to COVID. After it ebbed, we picked up a serious amount of business for our European hotel client. Almost at par with 2019 (and that’s saying a lot), and for Dubai and some months, we surpassed 2019 figures. After some initial hiccups, South Africa showed a great pick-up with business on the books. Somehow, Asia remained elusive. There were new learnings with our Indian wellness client, and it was a good opportunity to give the clients what they wanted: good health, immunity, and a great offering next to central Delhi.
I could keep most of my team, for which I am grateful. I took this opportunity to keep them motivated with a sense of routine and went back to kickstarting our week with Monday sales meeting, of course, virtually, and our end of the week Friday wrap-up meetings. At least for me, this provided some semblance of normalcy. We rebranded ourselves as the OMPL Group with Outbound Marketing, OM Tourism, OMTH Hospitality, and Annapurna Charitable Foundation under this umbrella.
In all this, opportunities knocked at our doorsteps. It remains to be seen whether it came because it was supposed to or we saw it at the opportune time. Parvada Bungalows, our first venture in owned, responsible and sustainable hospitality, took off from 2020 and did some impressive numbers in 2021. It also allowed us to find our space for our foundation to do some legacy work in the hospitality industry. We took ahead our rural homestay project by creating rural homestays in Parvada and going the whole nine yards with training and audits and, of course, driving business into the homestays. When I look back, I did not make a lot of revenue in 2021, but it was a year of fulfilling deep-rooted desires of building a community project.
For 2022, we have business in the books even if some groups get postponed with the third wave upon us. I am fairly confident that we will do good business this year. Hotels are hiring again in India. It will be fabulous to see the travel industry hiring in big numbers again. When we open up all of our offices, the industry will hopefully be processes driven by using technology better. We will see the old guard making way for the youth, leading the way and heading up businesses in the travel and hospitality space. We also have newer hotels and destinations reaching out, setting up their representatives in India. All this is very positive for our industry. We should continue to focus on people to have the most professional and qualified young people wanting to join the workforce. In the industry, though, most of us have accepted that some form of this virus will continue for some more years, as history has taught us too.
There should be no policy paralysis in the decisions the government takes. Eco-sensitive zones in India should have a different policy for land acquisition for any commercial activity. The Ministry of Tourism should very quickly identify such zones, and it would also be a huge shift in the proper direction to include “controlled tourism” initiatives for such zones. Sustainability will be more than just jargon, with travellers and sellers opting for products and destinations that care for the environment. OMPL Group is sure to include sustainable strategies in all our plans.
So, I am optimistic…cautiously optimistic about 2022 (I never thought I would use this term).