#Voices of Travel: Dheeshana Ameresekere says prioritise employee wellbeing

The travel and tourism industry worldwide is facing an unprecedented tragedy with the outbreak of COVID19. How are travel businesses reacting? In this series, hear it all from the people that matter. Dheeshana Ameresekere, Theva Residency speaks to us. 

The Theva Residency Team

We run a 15 room boutique hotel in the mountain area of Sri Lanka. The Easter attacks that happened last year in Sri Lanka affected our business. It certainly took a while for us to recover. Still, we managed to work with local clients, even though we mostly cater to foreign clientele. We had just picked up again around Christmas time until February and this Coronavirus pandemic happened.

We are a standalone property run by the family, so it is easy to make decisions. 90% of our staff at the hotel has been with us for over 10 years. Early on, we started taking precautions like temperature checks, etc. before the country went into lockdown. The health and safety of our staff and guests are so valuable to us that eventually, we stopped operation. Since we are a single property hotel, it was easier for us having everything in one place. The staff stayed at the hotel, there was so much food and an opportunity to work together to build community activities. Also, an opportunity for us to build the trust of our staff.

We got all the departments together, they usually do not get to see each other with different duties. We asked them to wear casual clothes, no uniforms. We started deep cleaning the hotel together, it was a great way to bond together in this crisis. We kept a vegetarian diet for all, arranged Yoga classes and went for a very holistic approach together. In fact today we decided that everyone should go home to their families and shut the entire hotel.

Number one priority for us is to keep the employees happy as they are our main asset and we care for their wellbeing. We have now made a WhatsApp group to keep communicating and boost everyone’s morale. I also have been posting on social media to keep our followers and clients engaged. We are making sure the staff is safe and not worried about salary cuts. We are not going to do that as it’s 25 people team. We need to support them as much as we can. We have even distributed food from the hotel to the staff so they do not have to worry about that when they are home. 

The situation is so new for everyone, the authorities must try to give us extensions on loans perhaps and implement policies that are different for large and small hotels with consideration of the revenue and turnover. Drastic measures have not been taken but at this time everything is closed and we cannot even contact the offices to get any information until 15th April. We will just wait and see.

Everybody has different goals in their business but you should take care of your employees first. Even when everything comes back to normal. We cannot do it alone. If we have our team, we have strength. 

I am not thinking of profit or revenue right now, just looking after the people and their personal wellbeing. Make sure you are doing everything to keep their physical and mental spirits up through this time. This too shall pass.