‘Business is starting to come back’
Jai Chugh, General Manager, DoubleTree by Hilton Gurugram Baani Square, talks about the transition phase at the property during the pandemic, plans to re-energise business and the segments likely to drive the performance of hotels in near future
With over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry, the General Manager of the recently transitioned DoubleTree by Hilton Gurugram Baani Square, Jai Chugh, is responsible for the overall operations and commercials of the hotel with his team. He has been instrumental in the recent transition of Hilton Garden Inn, Baani Square to DoubleTree by Hilton Gurugram Baani Square. Committed to delivering warm and exceptional experience synonymous with the DoubleTree by Hilton brand. Prior to Hilton, Chugh was the Director of Operations at Marriot International and made a remarkable growth at Hyatt Hotels where he worked for a decade. An excellent communicator with fine interpersonal skills, he is highly knowledgeable and experienced in overall hotel operations with an inclination towards the F&B segment. Being in operations all throughout, his priority has been seamless guest experience.
Decision for the transition during the pandemic
We, as a hotel, were always suitable for a DoubleTree brand, keeping in mind the size of the hotel, mix of rooms, F&B offerings and the level of services. Now, we are carrying the right brand identity and it could not have been a better time for the transition as we have now started seeing a positive sentiment in the market and business is starting to come back. Welcoming our guests at the revamped property is definitely making an impact. DoubleTree as a brand has its own share of market recall and the Signature DoubleTree cookie that is offered to each and every guest upon arrival in itself creates a huge difference. We have started witnessing change in guest perception as they enter our hotel as they are able to see the refreshed product. This definitely is helping us get out of the pandemic mode faster.
Transformations in hospitality sector during Covid-19
The most important transformation is the change in consumer habits and expectations. While earlier business decisions used to revolve around services, offerings and prices, it now revolves around cleanliness and hygiene. In addition, all key aspects of hospitality have become contactless, forcing all of us to find new ways of engaging with our guests in order to provide the same level of authentic hospitality.
Business at DoubleTree by Hilton Gurugram Baani Square
The strength of our hotel is food and beverage, be it outlets such as Vibe – the highest rooftop BAR and has its own food and service concept, Pose – the fashion BAR surrounded by lush green lawn and is a perfect place to unwind, Glasshouse which serves world cuisine and the new refreshed buffet spread or Café O Lait – Patisserie which is known for its coffee and cakes along with local finger food such as vada pao, kachoris, footlongs and more. Catering is another key business driver because of multiple venues we have, with a healthy mix of indoors and outdoors that makes it an ideal choice for both corporate and social clientele, well backed up by food and beverage.
Plans to attract more guests
We are emphasising a lot on spreading the word and are actively involved in repositioning ourselves and marketing individual aspects of the hotel, be it the rooms or the outlets. Even though we have started seeing an uptick on the traditional corporate business, our immediate focus still remains to be staycations which is definitely driving occupancy at the hotel. We are leveraging heavy on “Great Small Breaks” promotion being executed pan-India by Hilton and is centred around families with kids. Under this, there are multiple activities and surprises that are being done for kids while they stay with us.
Segments likely to drive the hotel’s performance
The change in guest expectations and modifying our offering and services accordingly would play a key role. Our immediate focus in terms of rooms has been staycations and retail business while for catering, it has been the social segment and it has helped us sail through the initial phase of revival. As we move ahead, we expect corporate travel to come back sporadically. Even MICE business will come back but will be more hybrid in nature. And the size of residential conferences might not be as large as earlier.
Role of technology in market revival
Moving with the current trying times in a highly competitive industry, we have started to adapt few trending technologies but not limited to contactless payments, QR (quick response codes) based menus, chatbots for basic pre-arrival or post-departure queries, auto attendants for hotel main phonelines and call queues for all in room guest errands requests. There also has been a start of AR (augmented reality usage) for virtual show around in property. Whether it is dining or home delivery from our restaurants, faster services with contactless interactive visual menu showcasing pictures of few signature dishes goes long way and all of it is extremely important for the market revival as that is the key essence of the change in consumer trends. This is what the consumer expects from a hotel brand like ours in the current scenario. The more technologically equipped the hotels, the better will be the consumer trust.
Changes in guest demands in present times vis-à-vis pre-Covid era
As compared to the pre-Covid era, guests have become extremely conscious about cleanliness, health and hygiene. Guests are okay to compromise on certain services and offerings (which used to be common before) if it assures them of better hygiene. They are more conscious about letting the staff make up their rooms while they are out which used to be extremely normal earlier and are also comfortable if food is served in the rooms on time in biodegradable packed boxes and not with regular cutlery and crockery.
Transformations in F&B segment during Covid-19
We ensured all our outlets and venues are compliant as per the social distancing norms laid out by the local government. As a brand, we had implemented the Hilton Clean Stay initiative all across. We have heavy signages, social distancing markings floor decals, cross signs for seating restrictions implemented at the restaurants. All menus are now QR code-based and opens up directly on guests’ mobile phone. For events, we follow the Hilton Event Ready initiatives which outlines the complete process of running a successful event with all protocols such as Event Ready Door Seals. Social distancing signages and tent cards, buffet area floor decals, placement of sanitisers and masks. In addition, we have introduced healthy items in our menu such as immunity boosters. We have also introduced the all new Vegan Menu along with homestyle cooked food under the name of Apni Rasoi.
Views on popular trends in holidays this year
I feel the guests would refrain from visiting far-off places for a longer duration and would rather continue with staycations till the situation is completely under control as every state and city has its own set of guidelines which might impact the plans of a guest midway.
What it takes to be a successful hotelier
Passion, perseverance and positive attitude.
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