'Technology is imperative as we move forward'

In conversation with BW HOTELIER, Victor Chen, General Manager, Le Meridien, Goa, Calangute discusses the launch of staycation package, arrangements and measures rolled out for the same, future of hotels, role of technology and much more.

The Goa Government’s decision to restart tourism in the state has been welcomed by the hoteliers. As the hotels get back to reopening, many of them have put stringent protocols in place as prerparedness to welcome the guests. Like them, Le Meridien Goa, too, has resumed operations. In an exclusive interview with BW HOTELIER, Victor Chen, General Manager, Le Meridien, Goa, Calangute discusses the launch of staycation package, arrangements and measures rolled out for the same, future of hotels and much more.

How do you look at the Goa government’s decision to restart tourism?

The Goa government has been cautious in ensuring that tourism resumes into the state in a slow and safe manner with permissions and testing pre-requisites for over 5 months. With the necessary Standard Operating Procedures and Covid-19 handling infrastructure in place, the authorities have provided us with guidelines towards operating hotels and other tourism related endeavours. 

The Goa government has removed the testing pre-requisites and given permission to open bars from 1st September, 2020. This is a positive development in welcoming tourists in the state. Le Meridien Goa Calangute is also prepared to welcome our guest from 15th September, 2020.

How do you see the response to staycation in tourist destinations like Goa at a time when people are reluctant to travel? 

Contrary to our understanding that tourists would be reluctant to travel during this period, we are seeing sustainable demand from key cities and shorter driving locations for our staycation and other attractive package offerings. 

Please tell us about some of the new contactless and on ground arrangements made by Marriott to ensure the safety of the guests as it launches new staycation packages? How do you plan on implementing the new hygiene and sanitation protocols that have been rolled out? 

Our Marriott Commitment to clean stands as the foundation of our new normal processes at the hotel. We have revamped all operations to ensure a safe and contactless experience for our guests right from mobile check-in and cashless checkout. We have also introduced mobile key access to our rooms and QR code accesses to our Food, Beverage and other menus; all this whilst still ensuring that our warm service and hospitality resonates throughout each guest’s stay experience. The entire CTC process is mandated by Marriott globally and detailed SOPs towards implementing the same are already completed at all of our hotels. 

What new strategies will be adopted by Marriott for the way forward to garner business?

Ensuring sanitisation and guest safety is our current focus towards garnering business combined with flexible cancellation policies and engagement with customers through digital initiatives. 

We have also curated memorable experiences for our guests keeping safety and social distancing in mind. This will be our competitive edge.

Tourism, weddings are some of the key drivers for revenue generation in the hospitality industry. How do you plan to recover the revenue gap in those areas?

With the revised minimum gathering permissions now at 100 guests, we see this segment ramping up faster than the corporate segment. All our hotels have revisited their minimum banquet capacities keeping social distancing norms in place and our hotel continues to be popular in the social and wedding related event space- birthdays, reunions, family getaways and intimate weddings.

Fine dining which is the very heart of hospitality is now moving towards contactless dining. How is Marriott ensuring that the glamour and sheen of it remains intact whilst the new health and distancing concerns?

Pre-plated and set menu dining is now emerging as the preferred option for those guests looking for a fine dining option. Our Marriott on Wheels initiative has taken contactless dining to the next level, offering guests our renowned menus in the privacy of their own homes.

With no signs of Covid 19 subsiding anytime soon and people’s reluctance to step out from their homes, knowing that hygiene is more critical than it has ever been, when do you expect the hotels to bounce back to normalcy?

We have already seen an upward trajectory in occupancy for our city and resort hotels in the country over the last few months and are cautiously optimistic for Goa as the travel restrictions are eased out month by month. Consequently, Goa market occupancy has seen a growth since July and number of reservations for staycation packages have increased from September onwards. I am cautiously optimistic that we will have an average occupancy of 50% + in November and December this year.

Whilst the general consensus is that travel will gradually resume, starting with domestic demand, followed by international markets, as the skies reopen globally, our hotels have been prepared to welcome travellers since May and assure guests of their safety through our stringent Marriott Commitment to Clean protocols in place.

As new hygiene norms and standards have come into play, what training model did Marriott devise to instil the same in the staff for their everyday working?

Marriott’s Global Cleanliness Council has been focused on developing the next level of cleanliness standards along with mandating that each hotel appoints a Cleanliness Training Champion to ensure compliance to the new processes. Surface area, guest and associate contact and food safety training are imparted to all associates via a multi-pronged training module with specific emphasis on practical training.  

During the current global health crisis, what role do you think technology plays in helping hotels in their recovery? Thinking long term, do you believe that hotels should invest more towards technology in the post Covid world?

The easy access to information allows for travellers to be more informed of how our hotels have adapted and are following through in ensuring safety and security of our guests. The current crisis need is of contactless processes and that’s where technology is bringing that safety shield such as mobile key, QR codes, contactless payment methods, etc. 

I believe technology is imperative as we move forward however the aspect of human interaction in imparting hospitality and warm service will be sought hand in hand.

What are some of the key lessons and learning that the pandemic brought with it for the industry?

I strongly believe that this pandemic has allowed us to reassess the way we do business and has trained us to be prepared to take on each day at a time. It has copiously tested our adaptability, agility and human resource management. We have emerged more patience and wiser, for the same.

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Victor Chen Le Meridien Goa Calangute


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