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Leadership challenges for Indian hospitality industry during COVID-19 pandemic

Balvinder Shukla (Amity University, Noida, India)
Tahir Sufi (Amity School of Hospitality, Amity University, Noida, India)
Manoj Joshi (Centre for VUCA Studies, Amity University, Lucknow, India)
R. Sujatha (Amity Business School, Noida, India)

Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Insights

ISSN: 2514-9792

Article publication date: 7 January 2022

Issue publication date: 4 September 2023




The COVID-19 crisis has affected almost all the global sectors. The hotel industry, however, was hit hardest challenging the leadership. This study, therefore, attempts to explore the challenges hospitality leadership in India face to navigate the crisis. The study additionally addresses how leaders manage the expectations of key stakeholders; communicate hard decisions with employees, pursue strategies for revival and explores the role of technology to survive the crisis.


The study adopts a qualitative approach involving structured interviews with 16 senior hospitality leaders consisting of CEO, vice president, general managers, directors, entrepreneur and general managers from various organisations like hotels, restaurant chains, food services and facilities management services. Data were content analysed involving coding techniques.


The leadership challenges included making customers and employees feel safe, optimising operations, agility and resilience of leaders, maintaining a balance between stakeholders, managing employee stress and ensuring cash reserves. The study found that leaders manage the expectation of various stakeholders by maintaining balance, demonstrating empathy and agility. The hard decisions are communicated with the employees through involvement, empathy and alleviating stress.

Research limitations/implications

The study contributes by identifying twelve themes from the participants' responses under five major themes-labelled as leadership challenges, managing stakeholders, communicating with the employees, the role of technology and best practices of surviving the crisis. Future research can be conducted on such sub-themes in different countries.

Practical implications

As the tourism industry in India is recovering after the second wave, the governments along with all stakeholders, must launch special events for promoting the tourism sector. Safety measures like making vaccination certificates for all tourists and employees of the tourism sector should be made mandatory. Further, special certification following the COVID-19 protocol needs to be introduced for hotels and catering establishments. A fund generated from the sector's direct tax contribution needs to be established to support the employees.

Social implications

The study has several social implications. The study results can unite all industry stakeholders to shape the post-pandemic era through collaboration. Empathetic leadership can take the industry out of chaos by balancing the interests of the various stakeholders of society. The pandemic has proven that we all are vulnerable to risks and challenges; leaders have a vital role in taking proactive steps to ensure that such uncertainties do not cause unprecedented damage.


This study expanded the research on the hospitality leadership challenges in managing crises in the backdrop of the crisis caused by COVID-19 pandemic. The conceptual model, variables, themes and sub-themes utilised are original contributions to the hospitality literature.



Shukla, B., Sufi, T., Joshi, M. and Sujatha, R. (2023), "Leadership challenges for Indian hospitality industry during COVID-19 pandemic", Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Insights, Vol. 6 No. 4, pp. 1502-1520.



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