'Be prepared for the unknown, build resilience in strategy and flexibility in system'

Meena Bhatia, Vice President and General Manager, Le Meridien New Delhi, shares the learnings from the pandemic and the way to move forward for the tourism and hospitality industry

For over three decades, this successful and skillful hotelier has been responsible for the strategic planning, brand management, operations and business development at Le Meridien New Delhi. At present, as the Vice President and General Manager, Le Meridien New Delhi, Bhatia ensures that her team works in a motivated environment with the safety and welfare of guests being the most critical aspect. 

In an interview with BW HOTELIER, the seasoned hotelier talks about the learnings during the pandemic, challenges women face in hospitality industry and future plans. 

Three decades plus of excellence marked by change and growth 
In New Delhi’s hospitality space, we have always been the newsmaker, ever since our stunning atrium caught the imagination of the elite at its launch in 1988, with our beautiful glass wall exterior and an outstanding lobby chandelier. The brand, born in 1972 to its parent company Air France, gained a reputation for its innovative approach of European hospitality. Its footprint grew, parallel to the Air France distribution and the brand leveraged on its Parisian hospitality. After multiple changes, the brand today is part of one of the largest global hotel companies, The Marriott Hotels. The brand retains and grows on its European heritage, attracting the creative-minded travellers to properties that are inspired by art & design, celebrating the local cuisine and culture of its destinations. 

Team spirit and passion for work 
Le Meridien New Delhi’s pride is its outstanding team. We work in a happy and motivated environment where each of our associates is endowed with wealth of talent, a spirit of camaraderie and an appetite for delivering excellence. I would rate the feeling of togetherness and loyalty as our more powerful distinction, this is what can create the predominant difference. 

Learnings from the pandemic 
The world has witnessed a never like before and hopefully once in a lifetime disaster that literally has put the entire world on hold. Hospitality and tourism have seen and felt the worst jolt, crashing down to pieces. We have had learnings that could have never been ever taught in any school, college or university. We have had to navigate our path, each day with new hopes, new challenges and new directions. While safety and welfare of guests and our team was the most critical aspect, the path to survival and living with the fear was also domineering. We explored various avenues of opportunities, more importantly we had to rebuild business on basis of low operating costs. The one and the foremost important learning is that always be prepared for the unknown, build resilience in your strategy and flexibility in your system. 

Challenges for women in hospitality 
A women’s place is everywhere, even in this world of male supremacy. It is unfortunate that we stay outnumbered and always lag behind as far as ascending to higher positions is concerned. On a positive note, however, I must admit that things are changing, although we are far from the realm of equality. We were faced with not only lack of opportunities, but lack of social acceptance for careers in hospitality. The role of women in hospitality was often misconstrued; the space was male dominated with the exception of some trivial positions that could be occupied by women. Majority of the women entered the industry for its offering of a good atmosphere and good people. However, disillusioned and faced by the severe gender imbalance and bias, they left before climbing the ranks. While many of the women made an exit from an active career after having withered under the pressure. Proudly, many of us stayed, struggled and achieved. The journey was not easy, for each one step that a man took towards his success, we had to match it by a mile.  

Survive. Revive. Thrive 
In a nutshell this is the mantra for 2020, 2021 and 2022.
2020: It was the year of survival, all sectors of hospitality and tourism globally struggled to survive, many perished.
2021: Only the survivors will see the face of 2021 and then work hard to revive the business. This will be challenging, the looming fear of Covid, recession-plagued economies, shrunken business opportunities leading to low demand and excessive supply. We will need to collaborate and work together as an industry that is in stress. The Governmental support and impetus will be much needed. We will also have to innovate and readapt our business models and strategies to create a completely new way of working, one that will make our customers confident, willing and comfortable.
2022: Revenge tourism will switch on its button. People will start travelling again, not just for business but for leisure. Hopefully, we’ll see new developments, new projects, new hotels and new technologies in place. The world will be a different place, but we would be ready and would have met the needs of the new normal tourism and MICE industry.

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Meena Bhatia Le Meridien New Delhi


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