Softbank-backed Oyo extends furloughs for some Indian employees

Softbank-backed 9984.T Oyo Hotels & Homes is extending furloughs for some Indian employees by six months, it said on Friday, as an unabated rise in domestic coronavirus cases curbs travel and hits hotel revenues.

Oyo, once among the world’s largest hotel chains by room count, said a recovery in business was taking longer than expected following India’s nationwide coronavirus lockdown that was largely lifted in June. The country is among the startup’s biggest markets.

“The situation remains uncertain … we don’t quite know when our occupancies and revenues will recover to pre-COVID levels,” Rohit Kapoor, Oyo Chief Executive Officer for India & South Asia, said in a blog post.

Since June, the Gurugram, India-headquartered company was seeing up to 30% of its pre-COVID occupancy levels at Indian hotels, Kapoor added.

Oyo in April cut salaries and furloughed some Indian employees until August, while also furloughing thousands in its global markets. It said on Friday Indian employees affected by the furloughs could choose a voluntary separation or remain on leave with limited benefits until end-February 2021.

The hospitality sector has been one of the worst affected by the coronavirus outbreak, with global and domestic travel coming to a near-halt and picking up rather slowly.

The pandemic could cause travelers to choose boutiques and home rentals over large hotels for the foreseeable future, Oyo founder and group CEO Ritesh Agarwal said in an interview with Reuters this week.

India is poised to become the world’s second-most affected nation by COVID-19 after the United States, with total domestic cases leaping to nearly 4 million, which has hit travel and outdoor activity.