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May 08, 2020

The Future Of Work: Abedin Sham On The Changing Rules Of Travel

“International travel seems like it will be affected for a period of 12-18 months, at least. If airlines adopt social distancing, such as empty seats between passengers, we can expect heavier overheads for those companies, so tickets will remain expensive.”

‘Work from home’ may be standard protocol now, but what happens once we resume our routines? In this series, we ask professionals — whose workplaces necessarily have to be outside their homes — what their days look like during the lockdown and how they envision their jobs and industries changing in the future. Here, we chat with Abedin Sham, co-owner, Abode Bombay and Abode Ahangama.

As a hotel owner, how has your day-to-day work been impacted?
As the pandemic began to spread, we dealt with a lot of uncertainty from guests who felt like they were going to be forced to stay in India and Sri Lanka, with flights getting cancelled. Others were unsure of whether they could make their trips as planned, with the air space being shut. Thankfully, we were able to get all our guests safely out of the country before we had to close.

What are some of the ways that you are keeping yourself occupied? Where do you find comfort?
My wife and I are currently in Mumbai, and we have just got a new puppy; she has been quite a handful. Add to that the fact that we have no help around the house (first world problems), and my days are pretty busy. It almost feels like I’m back in university—sharing chores and seeing what I can skip without getting caught. At times, even meals resemble what I ate in college, with things like plain packet noodles!

I’m grateful to have a bit of open air space to get some workouts done, and I’ve been taking time out every morning to meditate or do some basic yoga.

How do you truly feel about having to bring your work into your home environment, if at all? Are there any ideas you find yourself contemplating?
Given that my work involved a lot of interactions, it’s definitely different when I wake up knowing I don’t have anywhere to be or any people to meet. I have tried to stay on a loose schedule where I do get time in front of my laptop just to focus on growth. I’m lucky as there are three new projects that will commence soon: adding 16 rooms to Abode Ahangama, opening the Abode Beach Project and launching the new Abode Wellness Property in Alibag.

What do you think the future of your industry will look like? How will you have to rethink what you do if social distancing is still in effect?
I think basic corporate travel will be hit the hardest and social gatherings will take place only when required. International travel seems like it will be affected for a period of 12-18 months, at least. If airlines adopt social distancing, such as empty seats between passengers, we can expect heavier overheads for those companies, so tickets will remain expensive. That won’t create the right value incentive for leisure travellers.

Given how reliant my industry is on these customers, we expect to see barely, if any, international leisure travel. We will have to cater to local, national and hopefully regional travel.

I believe hotels will have to get creative with their offerings and I expect properties will become a lot more flexible, benefiting our guests. Bigger hotels will have to narrow their target markets and identify how to work with the local community. Lower room rates are expected, which means we will be operating on very slim margins.

Another avenue of creativity could be hospitality technology, which will evolve to create systems that avoid bottle-neck areas in hotels. I think room numbers will be allocated prior to check-in, allowing guests to go straight to their accommodation. Hygiene and sanitation levels will increase, hopefully giving guests the confidence to travel.

While I do believe the short is grim, people will travel again, and it’s our job as an experience provider to ensure we maximize the value-laden touch points (pun intended), during their stay.

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