‘Pandemic will bring a revolutionary change in the industry’
"We have always taken pride in our never-ending and booming industry but we are not invincible. There has been immense learning from this time of crisis."
In an exclusive conversation with BW HOTELIER, Faiz Alam Ansari, Complex General Manager of Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel & Convention Centre and Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park gives insight on the preparedness initiatives for reopening in the new normal. He also shares his perspective on the industry’s revival and survival strategies
With the lockdown being lifted and an almost 6 weeks of planning to prepare for a gradual reopening in the new world order, tell us briefly about some of the critical operational areas that you must, as the head of your business, tackle?
First is the hygiene and the sanitisation process in the hotel which stands out as a focal point as always. The ‘New Normal’ of social distancing, contact less service and reworking on banqueting facilities is definitely the next big thing. Health and wellbeing of our associates takes precedence in the long path of maintaining a safe and secure environment which allows us to resume the natural order of business.
How do you plan to implement social distancing and the new protection, cleanliness and hygiene protocols?
We have laid down a very thoughtfully designed safety protocol that leads our guests and associates for their movement from entry to the exit from our premises. The hygiene and the sanitisation process have been generated with the advice of experts from hygiene companies of International standards. We have temperature checks at the entry which will happen for both our guests and our associates. The Arogya Setu app helps us to further strengthen safety and security protocols. Online check-in and check out facility, Social distancing norms in the elevators and encouraging In-room dining usage are a few examples of social distancing norms.
F&B, MICE and weddings have been huge revenue drivers. They stand impacted now, at least in the short immediate run. How do you plan to recoup this revenue gap to recover and over what horizon?
The ideal revenue streams to start with would be Food & Beverage including catering and slowly ease into focusing on growing rooms business which shall be inbound. In the meanwhile, we have come up with different avenues to face the shortcomings as well. We have strongly categorised ourselves at the business of the packed boxes with proper hygiene measures. We have our very own home-grown promotions where we have seen the traction coming in. The staycation packages is another vertical we are aggressively working upon which provides our guests an escape after the lockdown and offers some time to relax.
With a revenue dent that will go beyond a few months, what are the few cost control measures you are undertaking?
Since our business is affected, this also shows on our expenses to some extent. Cost control measures hugely rely on power and electricity consumption, where we are keeping a strict eye. Our purchases have been on hold for the time being and we seek support from all our partners in form of discounts till the situation resolves. Certain immediate measure have also helped us bring cost to a minimum. Elements like clearing of privilege leaves of our associates helps us contain payroll and also ensures that we have minimum staffing at our hotels. Shutting down restaurants, making one single co-working space for the staff has helped us save power/ lighting and human capital.
Restaurants and fine dining have been a must-have for any hotel of good standing, but now it seems in-room dining will be preferred by in house guests, while walk-in diners will take time coming back. What is your view?
With the pandemic fear gripping our community, the in-room dining and packed food boxes will be the new go-to for the travellers as that ensures contactless service.
Do you think domestic tourism will be a game-changer with a likely drop in international inbound traffic for a while?
The pandemic will give a major changeover in the travel industry altogether. Travellers will preferably be choosing staycations over business travel which will be confined within the states mainly because of the travel restrictions. The largest business pool would be provided by our domestic partners and our strategy would be to harvest our co-existence to turn around a corner.
As the head of your hotel, how do you keep the employee morale up during these tough times?
Such adverse scenarios tests the ability of an organization to change gears. While we are at the suffering brunt, we utilize this time to invest back in our associates to boost morale. We are doing our trainings, little bit of trivia and some socially distant games to keep the spirit high.
What changes do you think this pandemic will bring to the Hospitality sector in terms of running a hotel?
As mentioned earlier, the pandemic will bring a revolutionary change in the industry and we have already implemented a few programs in the wake to overcome hardships. The entire service operations has been revamped altogether with 200 plus touchpoints that have been identified at the hotel. First being protection shields on front desks, then the mobile check-in/outs, and reducing banquet capacity to 50 per cent. The concept of enhanced hygiene and sanitization protocols has to reach out to our travelers.
What is your message for the tourism and hospitality industry partners, as well as to your loyal clientele?
As per our strong belief, we will overcome this pandemic by being united and ‘we will travel again’.
What has been your hotel's contribution towards the fight against this pandemic?
We always believe in contributing back to the community and hence we have been catering to lesser privileged folks in our society who rely on daily wages. We have started to provide them with packed box meal per day where the food is prepared with love by our hotel teams.
What are the key lessons for the future to be learned from fighting this pandemic?
We have always taken pride in our never-ending and booming industry but we are not invincible. There has been immense learning from this time of crisis. This lockdown has sent millions of people back home where they spend more time with their families. This reinforces the fact that family comes first.
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