Real Estate

How service apartments in Chennai are faring during the lockdown

At Citadines OMR, Chennai   | Photo Credit: Pascal Reynaud

In mid-March, Aartee Ramsahye — visiting Chennai from Mauritius for her husband’s medical treatment — checked into a service apartment. Plans to return home a week later fell through when the lockdown was announced on the day of her departure. “This is my first visit to Chennai, but we have been inside our room for the last two months. We miss being outdoors, but the staff has been keeping us in good spirits,” says Ramsahye, who pays the room fare every 15 days in the hope the situation will ease and they can fly home soon.

While apartments and gated communities have put lockdown rules in place — no visitors, no food deliveries, etc. — we look at what serviced apartments owners are doing to tackle the crisis.

Safety first

At Ascott, which runs Somerset Greenways and Citadines OMR, several precautionary safety and sanitation practices are in place for their 200 guests (mostly expats who work in India, people here for medical treatment, and stranded travellers). “Guests who arrive at the property are required to sign a declaration detailing their travel history and health status. They are screened for fever, cold or cough before entering the property and symptomatic visitors are sent to the medical centre for further assessment,” says Supriya Malhotra, Area General Manager – Chennai.

Taking me through additional measures, Malhotra says guests are discouraged from crowding in public areas, sanitisers are placed at several spots, and the entire property is cleaned regularly. Guests can cook in the attached kitchen or order from the in-room dining menu. “We provide grocery shopping services; our staff buys the items guests need, sanitises them and then delivers them to their rooms. Food ordered outside is collected at the gates, sanitised and delivered.” Both properties are being run with around one-third the usual operational staff. “A majority of the staff is accommodated at the property, while we have managed to obtain passes for a few others to be able to travel to work each day. All staff are provided with food, medical care, yoga sessions and the occasional movie night.

Staff morale

Two guests from Sri Lanka and Australia are stuck at Corporate Inn in T. Nagar and Anna Nagar, after flights were cancelled. “The other four guests are regular clients who work in IT companies,” says owner Rajesh N. Dave. “No one has dealt with such a situation before and it will take the hospitality and serviced apartment sector at least six months to get back to normal, albeit with heavy losses.” His on-site staff has been provided with accommodation, food and essentials, and guests are being offered a discounted room tariff.

The management of Lifestyle Residences in Adyar told guests to make arrangements to return to their hometowns/ countries. “We currently don’t have any guests staying on the property; this was a deliberate decision on our part,” says co-promoter Nalini Radhakrishnan, adding, “However, we have four staff members who weren’t able to make it back to their hometowns. They are staying in the staff quarters and have been provided with essentials, sanitisers and masks.” The management has used the lockdown to triple-sanitise rooms, surfaces and linen. Radhakrishnan, who stays close by, visits the staff regularly and has provided them with board games etc.

Bookings hit

Explaining how the lockdown has impacted Ascott’s short-stay and groups segment, Malhotra says guests have had to cancel travel plans until May end. “Over 3,100 room nights have been cancelled at both our properties in Chennai between March and May 2020. We have had to close our swimming pool, gym, bar and restaurants, and have also suspended travel desk services during this period,” she says.

For Radhakrishnan, it’s been worse obviously because they decided to close down as soon as the warning signals came. She says, “As March to June is the holiday season, followed by the wedding season, we were actually booked out for weeks. But we have had to cancel those and future bookings too in light of the uncertainty.”

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 10:18:29 AM |

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