‘Domestic leisure travel will fuel the first phase of recovery’: Vikas Sharma

Vikas Sharma, General Manager, Sheraton Hyderabad sheds light on the current trends dominating the hospitality market and its revival trajectory, hotel strategies to attract domestic travellers and meeting the new growing expectations of the guests.

Sheraton Hyderabad situated in Gachibowli's bustling Financial and Information Technology District, puts one close to all of the area's leading global corporations and convention centers. It offers 272 well-appointed comfortable rooms, including 17 suites and 56 fully serviced apartments.

Tell us a little about the current trends that you are witnessing in the hospitality market.

With so many brands for guests to choose from, properties are finding a way to stand out. Needless to say, ensuing safety measures have had a significant impact on hospitality throughout 2020 and will no doubt spill over into 2021. Research of the current trends in hospitality industry show that the guests’ expectations for special care and personalised experiences is increasing with time. Hotels are now focusing on planning and creating a genuinely compelling and differentiated offering, whether it’s tapping into weddings, or rooms. From initiatives like home deliveries to customised wedding packages and offering workspaces at the hotel or room; offers that promote future travelling, the approach has been unique and designed with an objective of driving immediate cash flow to the hotel. The hotels’ major contributors currently are MICE events, social groups and domestic/leisure staycations. 

What are the top USPs of Sheraton Hyderabad Hotel? How do you cater to the leisure and business travellers?

Sheraton Hyderabad offers an inventory of 272 well-appointed comfortable rooms, including 17 suites and 56 fully serviced apartments. The hotel is strategically located in Gachibowli's bustling financial and information technology district enabling guests’ close proximity to leading global corporations and convention centres making it a hassle free and comfortable experience for the business travellers. For guests staying in Hyderabad for a longer duration, the hotel‘s 56 furnished serviced apartments is designed to offer a home away from home. Available in options of Studio, Deluxe, Superior and Executive Apartments, they are all fitted with well-equipped kitchenette, spacious living and dining rooms. On the other hand, we cater to leisure travellers by offering them experiential packages that best fits their requirement. The hotel offers an exclusive and unforgettable experience for all its guests with their fitness centre, swimming pool, spa facilities and innovative dining experiences. However, the common factor for both target audiences is redefined and elevated safety program under our label – Commitment to Clean.

With the absence of the international tourists, what are your strategy to increase the domestic tourism market share?

While there’s still dubiety regarding international travel, the demand for domestic staycations has definitely witnessed a spike. The industry is slowly picking up and marching towards reasonable recovery. But, there is still a long way to go. We adopted and introduced several initiatives pertaining to curated staycation packages for locals and domestic travellers as guests now want to surround themselves with warm and delightful experiences. Millions who work from home — perhaps feel the need to take a break. In this context, staycations seem like an indulgence and hence, and the response so far has been well received. Staycations have been ideal for families and couples with their desire for having fun and relaxation. We have also successfully embraced the new normal and applied revised standards of operations to adapt to the current situation. We have partnered with experts to enhance our hygiene & sanitation protocols across all our hotels focusing on various guest touch points through our “Commitment to Clean” Programme.

How do you see the shift in guests’ preferences and how prepared are you to meet the expectations of the guests in the new normal?

What customers now look for the most is enhanced safety protocols. This is indeed driven by the team putting efforts towards creating a hassle free experience and inculcating a culture of genuine care for our guests. That includes everything from their arrival and the smoothness of the check-in process, to room cleanliness, food and beverage, to the overall anticipation of their needs, to their eventual check-out and departure. Considering the pandemic situation we are in, innovative strategic steps are anticipated.

We recognised the need of our customers looking at attractive offers for much-needed getaways. We have recently launched some interesting deals, to induce last minute demand to gain market share and capitalise on aspirational value attached to a premium brand. The room packages, designed for local residents, includes daily hotel credits, discounts on spa and F&B services, complimentary room upgrades upon availability and flexibility in terms of check-in and check-out and much many more experiential offers and curated packages. The industry has been humbled by inspiring new ideas for new ways of doing business like utilisation of open spaces for innovative F&B concepts have been just some ways to drive ancillary revenues.

When do you think that the industry will get back to pre-lockdown 2019 highs? Please explain.

2020 was a challenging year indeed. COVID-19's impact has been devastating and unprecedented for the hospitality and tourism industry. The New Year brings hope. However, the hotel industry is unlikely to have a reasonable or full recovery until 2022. Domestic leisure travel will fuel the first phase of recovery. Phase 2 and 3 will witness significant increase in small and medium scaled events with group and business travel. International travel business, a major revenue contributor for business hotels at least, is unlikely to return to a 2019 level until 2022.

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