'Hoteliers should be open, flexible & innovative so that disruptions can be minimised'

BW HOTELIER talks to Kunal Shanker, General Manager of Holiday Inn New Delhi Mayur Vihar Noida, about the new norms of the hospitality industry due to the current crisis. Shanker gives insights on the new business models adapted by the hotel keeping the safety of guests in mind.

What, in your view, does the next 6-12 months look like for the hospitality industry? What should hoteliers keep in mind? 

The next sixth months for the hotel industry in large is to survive and adapt to the new normal which would have restrictions due to both external and internal conditions. The business and leisure travel uptake is linked to the travel restrictions in the local market and from key feeder markets (geographic regions where clients or business originate), MICE and Social business will be dependent on guidance on group and meeting capacity maximums from local and national authorities and health code ordinances and licensing requirements from local and national governments as advised in future unlock phases. The next six months are critical to stabilize and revive their business with base levels of demand returning and most of the restrictions having eased and possibility of the vaccine been launched. The emotional and mental well-being of the work force will play an equally important role in the journey of bouncing back to normalcy. In my opinion hoteliers should work with all stakeholders and be open, flexible and innovative so that disruptions can be minimised. · 

Keeping in mind that 'touch less hospitality' is the future; hoteliers are remodelling their standard operating procedures with special focus on safety of their guests. Tell us briefly about your SOP. 

The ongoing health crisis has brought about a change in the consumer behavior where the baseline is the highest levels of cleanliness and hygiene at all touch points in the guest journey. Some of the highlights of what IHG has implemented in all their hotels globally are the IHG Clean Promise in collaboration with Cleveland Clinic and our partners Diversey and EcoLab. The General Managers in all our hotels are also the designated Clean Champion accountable to bring all the aspects of cleanliness, sanitation and hygiene under his direct purview and build this culture in the team. Our new brand standards involve quarterly onsite or virtual quality evaluations by external auditors to ensure that safety of our guests are maintained to the highest levels possible. IHG has developed some of the best in class guidance's and SOP to be implemented in our hotels in conjunction with country specific laws like the Coronavirus Hotel Response Toolkit, Cleaning and Disinfection Guide, and Prevention and Control of communicable diseases so that we are able to deliver the highest levels of cleanliness and safety to our guests and colleagues. ·

 What all on-ground arrangements can be made to ensure contactless and touch less experience to your guests? 

The current guest journey in our hotel minimizes guest contact starting from arrival, in house stay and departure. The valet service is available on request so that contact is limited; likewise the guest baggage handling is also on request. At the reception counters we have screen guards and social distancing signage's to maintain safe distance in all interactions. The Food & Beverage outlets do not offer buffet services currently and we have QR codes on our menus by which guest can access the menu and place orders. Room Service is encouraged and guests are given option to make prior reservations to avoid congestion. There is a huge focus on consistent training of colleagues as per IHG Culture of Clean before resuming operations in the new normal and work environment. · 

What role do you think technology can play in helping hotels in their recovery? 

Technology would be an enabler to supplement and automate the all the new process and guidelines that hotels would deploy in line with consumer expectation, market needs in the most seamless and consistent manner. We will see rapid change brought in with technology like the predictive intelligence of guests needs, enhancements in BMS technologies, Mobile and Remote Check in, Parking Management Systems and Workforce Optimizer. Introduction of attribute based pricing will be a great technological advance in terms of empowering the guest to his specific needs and preferences. These innovations in technology will enable hotels to operate increased levels of efficiency and also bring long term cost benefits. · 

How do you manage both the staff working from home and in the hotel? What are the activities rolled out by you to engage with your staff?

The hotel has been close to Guest Arrivals since April with only the Business Continuity Team working. Frequent and open communication with the team and checking on their well-being is something that has helped us keep spirits high in these challenging and unprecedented times. Virtual calls with the teams on discussions on new ways of working and brainstorming creative ideas has been done frequently to keep the team engaged, involved and motivated. Training on the most relevant topics and areas of interest for team member’s self-development like courses on Harvard Manage Mentor has kept the team engaged. IHG Learning team has consistently remained innovative in engaging colleagues with knowledge concepts like involve and Evolve, Leadership Training's and 'I am Here' wellness program for our people. · 

What are the measures adopted by you to engage with your regular guests? 

The hotel sales team is in regular contact with our guests, corporate houses and travel agencies so that all channels of communication are open and frequent with all the updates what Holiday Inn New Delhi Mayur Vihar is doing to be a solution provider to our business and leisure travelers in the new normal along with the global initiatives taken by IHG. · 

F&B has been among the important departments in a hotel. How will F&B be remodelled in the new normal? 

I am positive that a quick rebound and turnaround in the Food & Beverage business with steady footfalls due stabilization and demand build up in each successive month ahead. The F&B business has been re imagined keeping the customer behavior and expectations and working out products and services to match the same. Contact less menu options with QR codes, safe distancing between tables and seating arrangements would be the bedrocks. Guests will be given an option to make prior reservation for dining so that crowds can be staggered during peak demand meal timings and breakfast. Food on the Go and enhanced options for Take Away orders would be some of new initiatives that the hotel would be focusing. The outlet menu will be a selection of Ala-carte menu items with selection of our most popular 30 dishes which include healthy and fresh options. The restaurant seating will be reduced by 50% and all the guest service associates will be trained to the highest levels of hygiene and will be wearing masks and gloves. Disinfection and sanitation of outlet and high volume areas will be done frequently as per the business volume to ensure highest levels of overall hygiene. IHG IMEA (India , Middle East and Africa) F&B focus team is consistently updating us on global food trends, innovation in the new normal and critical business interventions including specialized training of our Kitchen and F&B colleagues.

Weddings and MICE are big revenue earners for hotels. What is the impact of the pandemic on your business in Weddings and MICE? 

Wedding & MICE segment drive anything between 25 to 30 per cent of the total revenue for our hotel contributing to both the Room and Food & Beverage segment with high levels of profitability. With the onset the of Coronavirus pandemic mid-march onward and the nationwide lock down the hotel started getting cancellations of business already booked from these segments for the next three months and decline both in the volume of future leads and prospects with reduction in the minimum guarantee. ·


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