COVID-19: Their jobs at risk, hospitality students are a worried lot

COVID-19: Their jobs at risk, hospitality students are a worried lot
Photo used for representational purpose only (Source : Shutterstock) Pritha Roy Choudhury | Aug 12, 2020 - 4:44 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI: In November 2019, Ritesh Bisht, a final-year student of Institute of Hotel Management (IHM) Dehradun, received two job offers in the campus placements -- one with a five-star resort in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, and another with a restaurant chain in Delhi. He had picked the first. Now, he has no offer at all.

In early July, he received an email from the Agra resort asking him to "hold on till 2021" when they will re-start the recruitment process, he told Careers360. The final exams are on hold as well due to the spread of the coronavirus. “I am confused and don't have either a degree or a job," said Bisht.

Lockdown and travel restrictions imposed across countries to control the spread of coronavirus has impacted most businesses but the travel, tourism and hospitality industry is among the worst hit. Some students have had their job offers rescinded or deferred; many have been simply unable to join and are now anxious about their futures.

Rohan Mishra's training at a top-tier resort in Goa was cut short by the pandemic. He had already delayed his training due to medical reasons and missed the campus placements at IHM Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. He has been unable to find employment in hospitality but has put the skills he picked up in the course to use on a website listing rental properties. When free, he polishes his animation skills. “One can easily be sad, but I felt I should make myself happy and decided to devote this time working on things I love to do,” he said.

Placed but couldn’t join

Ritwika Bakshi studied hotel management to become a chef and aspires to study further and learn more about cuisines across the globe. But COVID-19 has put her plans on ice.

Bakshi, in her final-year of BSc in hotel administration at IHM Gwalior, was placed in a five-star hotel in Agra and was to join in July 2020. She wasn’t able to. As campuses emptied in March, she left for Kolkata where she still is and hoping she has a job to come back to.

Shivangi Verma, from Chhattisgarh, faces a similar problem. A student of the same institute, she was placed at a five-star hotel in Jaipur, Rajasthan, but was unable to join. Now home, she is anxiously wondering if she needs “to get the confirmation letter again for joining”.

Worried about job cuts

Mishra wants to get back into hospitality; Bakshi and Verma hope their job offers still stand.

“I am scared because a lot of people in our sector are losing their jobs, especially those who are senior,” said Bakshi. She and her batchmates hope to be spared “because [their] pay is less compared to those at the senior level”.

Still, all students agree things won’t improve for them until the fury of the COVID-19 pandemic abates. The Ministry of Home Affairs’ Lockdown 5 guidelines allowed hotels to reopen from early June but several states that had high numbers of positive cases chose to keep them shut. Some, including Delhi, even co-opted hotels into the fight against COVID-19, converting several into quarantine centres. Restrictions on domestic travel were relaxed by late May but ones on international travel continue.

“I am keeping my fingers crossed,” said Bakshi. “I am hopeful that a vaccine will be there soon and I will be able to join my first job.” Her long-term plan is to move to the United Kingdom after completing two years in her job, to specialize in international cuisine.

Verma, who was really keen on the front-office position she was offered, is wondering if hospitality was the right career track for her. Still, she chooses to be optimistic: “Once restrictions on travel are eased, people will move, businesses and work have to go on and so the hotel and hospitality industry will have to be back on track.”

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