With travel and visitors coming to a halt, UAE's holiday home businesses are going through a full-blown crisis. They are not the only ones. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

I set up a holiday home management business three years ago, which was supposed to be a side business. However, due to the growth and popularity of the category, the company quickly become our main source of revenue.

While we saw a substantial year-on-year rise in the business, we aimed to grow to about 150 properties by the end of the year. When I first heard about the COVID-19 outbreak, similar to my other industry peers, I didn’t think much of it.

However, soon after, I started feeling the brunt of the virus when we started facing multiple cancellations from Chinese visitors. Eventually, when we started receiving cancellations for all our properties from visitors hailing from around the globe, our cancellation rate hit 95 per cent. And I had to invest personal funds into the business.

At this point, my team and I decided to brainstorm some out-of-the-box solutions that we could use to overcome this challenge. That’s when we decided to pivot our business towards to medium-term guests. The idea is to provide spacious and luxurious houses to families who are stuck in the lockdown.

Falling short

While we have seen an increase in revenue, we are not going to hit our budget. Just covering our costs and salaries over this period will be a great achievement. During this crisis period, I believe that the government should support businesses, especially SMEs.

While corporate businesses have reserves and enough built-up cash to get through these tough times, the smaller companies, like the one-person start-ups, need support. Ideally, the government should look at companies with employees between 5-50 and ensure they can pay the salaries and manage other costings, to ensure no one loses their jobs.

Moreover, tax breaks and banking support also should be offered, for example, interest-free loans and other banking facilities.

‘Localised’ travel

Globally, I believe that local travel will see a rise, as it’s highly unlikely for customers to travel overseas to Thailand, Europe of the US. Hence, local travel within India or the GCC here will see a major spike. However, Dubai is still an attractive option for many Indians as it is considered to be a local destination anyway.

We know that the challenges emerged due to the coronavirus aren’t going to die down soon. During this time, I would advise other owners and CEOs around the country one simple thing; don’t try to get over this phase alone.

Right now, your employees are your strongest asset, so use them to the best of their ability. Motivate them by giving some certain perks. For example, we have promised our employees none of them will lose their jobs and we are trying to pay their salaries in advance so they can stock the essentials.

Once your employees feel valued, you need to group with them and determine the best path to put your business on.

— Vinayak Mahtani is CEO of bnbme.