Indian entrepreneur and founder of Oyo Rooms Ritesh Agarwal. Photo: AFP / Chandan Khanna

After the Indian government issued new guidelines allowing hotels to resume operations on Monday, hospitality startup Oyo Hotels and Homes reopened its properties in select cities in 13 states and four union territories, Financial Express reports.

The Softbank-backed group runs around 18,000 hotels in India and has a presence in 28 states and nine union territories.

The company has now restarted operations in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Haryana, UP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Bihar, West Bengal, Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Chandigarh, Puducherry, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Daman & Diu.

Oyo will accept bookings for properties that are cleared as per the company “Sanitized Stay” initiative launched last month. It involves the sanitation of properties along with use of masks, gloves, sanitizers, practicing social distancing among workers and guests, requesting that guests carry their own luggage, and temperature checks of staff and guests. Oyo plans to implement this policy at all its properties in India.

Oyo Founder and CEO Ritesh Agarwal tweeted, “It has been a long wait, but we’re delighted to welcome our guests once again to our select hotels across India.”

Along with other hoteliers, Oyo had to down shutters on March 25 after the Indian government announced a countrywide lockdown to stop the spread of the virus.

In a video message to employees, Agarwal reported a 50%-60% decline in revenues due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Even before the lockdown began Oyo was beset with woes. As part of its restructuring exercise the company had laid off 5,000 staff in China, India and the US and had exited from around 200 cities in India. In April, the company had reportedly furloughed thousands of employees in the US and other markets for two to three months.

Oyo last month resumed operations in China and now more than 70% hotels are operational. The company’s India and South Asia COO Gaurav Ajmera expressed hope that Oyo will recover faster than other hotel chains. He added that its operations in China were showing signs of recovery.

The global travel curbs had taken a heavy toll on the company, which has a presence in 80 countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal and the UK.

Last year, Oyo was valued at US$10 billion, one of the highest in the SoftBank portfolio. But now it is turning out to be another problem startup like WeWork.

India’s travel and hospitality industry has suffered a heavy blow due to the lockdown. According to an estimate, the sector is staring at a revenue loss of 5 trillion rupees (US$65 billion) over the next year, while 35-40 million jobs, both direct and indirect, are in jeopardy.

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