Hunkered down at home, rarely venturing into hauntingly empty streets, most of us are still at a loss at how urban life will look afterwards. Will restaurants survive and jobs come back? Come to think of it, the idea of living on a farm seems suddenly attractive.
If fear of disease becomes the new normal, cities could be in for a bland and antiseptic future, perhaps even a dystopian one. But if the world’s cities find ways to adjust, as they always have in the past, their greatest era may yet lie before them. Here are some changes which are probably here to stay.
Customer experience is not going to remain the same at shopping malls, according to industry insiders. Mall owners are charting out new rules taking into account customer footfall and building structure. The large-format stores would be advised to maintain social distancing norms, high standards of hygiene and limit the entry of people. Footwear and apparel retailer Woodland would also limit the number of customers entering the store at a time and require them to wear mask and gloves.
The company is working on plans to disinfect a product after trial by customers.
Movie-goers may also be in for a disappointment as new releases are extremely unlikely. They’ll have to make peace with some pre-released movies. Movie production has gone haywire and multiplexes are likely to resort to old movies.
it has been proposed that multiplexes would not sell more than 50 per cent of the seats to ensure the gap of one seat between two people.
Just like the cinema experience, flying will see changes too. Like most service providers, airlines also face a double whammy of low demand and higher expenses for implementing social distancing norms.
Putting each social distancing norm in place has a cost.
If the restriction on air travel is removed and states continue with lockdown, it will pose a challenge for both passengers and airlines. The industry expects some pent-up demand in initial days as people stuck at various places would avail the service. But demand would slump thereafter at least till people feel safe to fly.
This is the reason airlines would be offering fewer flights and sectors.
Similarly, hotels are also expecting the demand to pick up after at least six months of the lifting of lockdown. As certain restrictions such as on public gatherings are expected to continue even after the lockdown, hotels will not be offering space for conference, weddings and events. The hotel industry expects a sizeable cut in manpower and other costs. In the absence of lower demand, they are unlikely to provide all services at once.
Full digital transformation
The focus on social distancing has brought digital technology to the forefront in every aspect of our life. People are more open to adopting e-commerce apps that will deliver goods at their doorstep. It might also be the time when all the stakeholders within the healthcare industry from the demand as well as the supply side would be more open to digital adoption. For instance, medical assistance has shifted to telephonic consultations for all patients, excluding blood tests. This is not a usual policy move but given the circumstances, it was adopted by the authorities as well as by the public.
A similar digital transformation is being observed in the education sector. Although the online models had already disrupted the higher education landscape, it was limited mostly to distance learning courses because of the digital divide that exists in society. It is kind of a natural experiment for the education sector to examine how we can make use of online service delivery models effectively.
The challenge now is to retain the focus while allowing economic activity to start. It’s an unusually dynamic situation that the virus has landed humanity in, and our response ought to be equally dynamic.
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