Optimistic about revival of the hospitality sector, noted hotelier VIJAY WANCHOO has some practical suggestions to lure the traveller
As the hospitality landscape re-emerges from the lull caused by the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, hotels are bouncing back with new learnings, trends and expectations. I feel that the hotel industry has adapted to the current limitations on the operational front. As the world scripts new stories in these transitional and challenging times, industry standards are seeing churn with higher and different benchmarks, especially in the luxury and ultra-luxury segments.
We saw how the business segments — leisure, corporate, conference, etc went for a toss during the pandemic. The revenue losses were huge and hotels suffered greatly. However, hotels like The Imperial were quick to grasp the importance of being flexible while reinventing for new streams of revenue. To bring back the guests while embracing a new survival path, we must adapt, align, and strategize.
The way forward is to grab every single business opportunity and stay flexible. As one of the ultra-luxury properties in Lutyens’ Delhi, for instance, we opened our venues, like the pool and other areas for elite and residential weddings. We are even allowing movie shoots at the hotel, which wasn’t the case earlier, while maintaining all Covid protocols under the I Care program at The Imperial. Sustainability has become imperative for survival and is the need of the hour, even more than before. Energy, in essence, is always going to be a limited resource even if rendered free, and as an environmentally conscious organisation, we pay attention to how we can use it optimally. Saving energy and thereby reducing cost, and providing environmentally responsible amenities are crucial for every hotel. Better air quality systems, efficient hand hygiene standards, less water wastage and reduced use of plastic are now operational must-haves. Creative solutions in technology and ground-level green initiatives to optimise operations are part of the renewal strategy. As guests seek enhanced experiences, impeccable and personalised services are essential. These can be achieved by customising staycations with wellness value-add and revisiting business modules by serving local, pitching to the domestic traveller, curating local experiences with bespoke stay and dining packages.
The time is ripe to initiate bleisure — business and leisure — trips, workations, staycations, drivecations. Phygital, a recently coined term that combines both physical and digital meetings, is the new avenue for revenue.
User-generated content, credible testimonials and reviews are crucial to tap the online segment. Strengthening and capturing online and domestic business in tandem with companies and tour operators is the way forward.
Food & Beverage will remain one of the biggest earners for hotels. Getting the regulars back with attractive offers combined with unrivalled safety standards, is the core of recovery.
As an important sector driving the Indian economy, hotels should continue to give back to their teams in terms of monetary benefits. In order to sustain operations during periods of low occupancy, multi-skilling should be introduced in all departments, helping save manpower costs while not compromising on service standards.
These two years have been an immense learning and I strongly believe that with our continuous efforts, the industry will emerge stronger with new processes, new guidelines and new experiences, keeping our famed Indian hospitality and warmth intact.
The writer, a dyed-in-the-wool hotelier, is the Sr. Executive VP and GM, The Imperial, New Delhi. He has worked with The Lalit Hotels, and with Bharat Group of Hotels, was awarded the H&FS award for F&B Manager of the Year in 1994. He is also the winner of the Inspiring Hotel Leader Award at the Versatile Excellence Travel Awards in 2019.