In May this year, the Japanese government installed high-speed Internet and bolstered other infrastructure at certain tourist areas to make them into ‘work-cation’ destinations. As part of the plan, they converted structures like abandoned school buildings and traditional kominka homes into work stations and offices. The concept of treating overworked employees to a workation isn’t new to the Japanese work culture, but it might be a trend worth witnessing here in India. Fuelled by the pandemic, staying ‘switched on’ will be the new way to spend time away in the hills or on a beach. Hotels and homestays are hoping that concepts like ‘extended stays’, ‘workations’ and ‘long term rentals’ at a drivable destination might coax people to step out of their months of confinement and get some fresh air.

WORK FROM WHEREVER

Will workations open up tourism?

Ever since Covid-19 disrupted work ethics and made WFH the norm, it was only a matter of time that people looked for a workstation beyond their bed and couch. Vaibhav Aggarwal, Founder & CEO, FabHotels, feels that given the near-to-mid term flexibility of working from anywhere outside the office, once the travel and quarantine restrictions across states are eased up a bit, people will seek more scenic, open, clean, less crowded areas for longer durations. He adds, “Our hotels are equipped with high-speed WiFi, comfortable work desk, and in-room dining service, to offer the best remote working experience in 50+ Indian cities. Several leading companies like KPIT, Praxair India, HCL have found value in asking their employees to work from FabHotels, which protects the teams as opposed to crowded offices.” Shoba Mohan, Founder Partner of RARE India feels the stress on slow travel will be the perfect recipe for rejuvenation after such a long lockdown but the numbers are yet to trickle in, “We have been speaking of remote work locations — work in the mountains, work from a forest/work from a farm, work by the beach, work by a river, work from a palace, even before the virus happened, but I won’t label them popular options just yet.”

SAFETY, HYGIENE, PERMITS

Will workations open up tourism?

‘Why stay put when you can work on-the-move’ is a tagline by Not on Map, a sustainable, community-driven organisation generating alternative livelihood for traditional villages. With homestays in over 250 communities across the country, they are too hoping to revive tourism through ‘long stay’ offers. Founder Kumar Anubhav says the endeavour is first to boost confidence amongst the homestay owners and help them get their livelihood back. “A lot of them were on the brink of converting their space into cold storage or shops. That needs to change,” says Anubhav, who has come out with a comprehensive ‘Hygiene and Cleanliness Guidelines’ for homestays in India. He plans to publish these guidelines in 26 regional languages in the coming months.

Every hotel has the responsibility of not only ensuring a safe and hygienic space for its guests, they have to ensure that the guests who come in are also healthy, symptom-free and Covid safe. Leading hostel brand Zostel has been continually getting queries for workstations, has already limited dorms to 50% occupancy to ensure sufficient physical distancing. Additionally, all Zostels are equipped with contactless check-ins to ensure minimum contact. The entire staff has been duly trained with new rigorous SOPs in place to ensure compliance with all safety and distancing measures. “We have reserved dedicated portions of our properties to act as buffer zones for people after arriving, and are working closely with authorities to ensure sufficient quarantine time,” says Dharamveer Singh Chouhan, Co-founder & CEO, Zostel.

Will workations open up tourism?

“Small boutique hotels located in off-beat locations where the staff is mostly from the local community, the responsibility to ensure there is no threat of the spread reaching the community is a real concern. For this every precaution like traveller’s pledges, permits, Covid-safe certificates are very valid and should be taken very seriously by the travelers, operators and hoteliers,” says Mohan. What is, however, a cause for concern is the rather unregulated and unclear quarantines imposed by various states. In the long term, better clarity and accountability from all parties involved will decide the future of domestic travel.

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