‘We may well be on the road to recovery’

In a conversation with BW HOTELIER, Sascha Lenz, General Manager, Park Hyatt Chennai talks about the hotel’s experiences, F&B, guests and weddings in the hindsight of the pandemic

With an illustrious career spanning over 22 years, Sascha Lenz, General Manager, Park Hyatt Chennai has been successfully performing major operations at the property for the last two years. His area of expertise is F&B and his career with Hyatt began in 2007 as the Assistant Director of Food and Beverage. He has also assisted with the opening of Hyatt Regency Ekaterinburg in Russia and then moved to the brand’s first Andaz brand hotel at Liverpool Street in London during the Summer Olympics in 2012. Before joining the brand in Chennai, he served at Grand Hyatt Goa where he was responsible for hotel operations. 

The lavish and exquisite Park Hyatt Chennai is located at a stone’s throw from Valluvar Kottam and the Consulate General of the United States. It also offers a pool of activities within the area to embrace the beauty and history of the city. In a conversation with BW HOTELIER, Lenz talks about the hotel’s experiences, F&B, guests and weddings in the hindsight of the pandemic. 

What makes Park Hyatt Chennai special 

“All hotels that I have worked with will always remain special to me however, Park Hyatt Chennai is my first assignment as General Manager so that makes it extra special,” said Lenz. 

Park Hyatt Chennai gives you a sense of calm as you enter. Even though located in the heart of Chennai, one remains disengaged from the chaos of the city. Every aspect, from the public spaces to rooms, restaurants and bars is purposefully designed to give guests an experience reflecting the Park Hyatt brand. It is that world-class contemporary architecture, matched by luxurious residential interiors, expertly curated contemporary art and earthy details. It is truly a home away from home with highly personalized and fully engaged service; renowned art and design; a profound reverence for culture and exceptional food and wine. 

The Lily Pond

Revamping F&B during a pandemic 

In the wake of the pandemic, we really had to explore new avenues for revenue generation and with little to no room business available in the market, we were focusing our attention to take away, delivery and how we could conduct safe caterings at people’s homes 

“I have a very strong team in the Food and Beverage department, so we took time out to really dive deep into this opportunity. What are our guests looking for and how can we deliver the same quality of F&B and a little extra in the comfort of their home? This really helped us to build a sustainable revenue stream throughout the pandemic, that lasts till today,” he said. 

The Dining Room

Ensuring safe experience for guests 

Guests’ preferences as travellers have become more conscious of hygiene and safety protocols. Keeping that in mind, Hyatt Chennai has been certified by GBAC (Global Biorisk Advisory Council), which is the gold standard of prepared facilities. 

All signages, guest communications, and menus are now digital and QR code-based. Online payment gateways have been introduced so that physical payments can be avoided, should the guest prefer that. Face masks are mandatory for guests and colleagues. Sanitization stations have been put in various public spaces of the hotel. Besides all of these trends in regards to a safe stay experience, there is a clear trend towards wellbeing, self-care and indulgence. Many of us have spent considerable amounts of time in our homes without access to leisure facilities like gym, pool, spa, bars and restaurants. Many of our guests are telling us that they are staying to break their usual routine and enjoy the restaurant, bar and room service at leisure.  

The Living Room

Performance driving segments 

Chennai historically primarily attracted corporate travellers, so most of the guests are still from the corporate sector. In the last two to three months, the hotel has seen a surge in local and domestic travellers looking for weekend getaways. Due to the ease in restrictions, a lot of previously held up social events are now taking place, so social groups also form a substantial part of the current business mix. Many weekend/ staycation travellers are also pet parents and since we allow canine companions to stay with us, we are a preferred option. In recent months, our in-house food and beverage outlets have been performing well while take away and delivery has always performed very strongly for us.

The Lobby

Weddings- A thriving market in Chennai  

The Weddings market is currently thriving in Chennai due to government relaxations. Since June 2021 we have hosted a very large number of weddings and related events. The Event spaces at Park Hyatt Chennai mirror a residential style design and therefore are suited mostly for pre-wedding events and intimate wedding receptions that can accommodate up to 400 people. Our Food and Beverage offerings are quite popular among the locals and we attract clients on repeat. We have recently participated in a virtual wedding fair to promote our spaces and regularly run digital campaigns on our social platforms. We also heavily rely on word-of-mouth marketing as the hotel is prominently positioned in the Chennai market. 

The Banquet Area

Getting back on pre-pandemic numbers 

The travel rebound post the first wave took almost six to eight months. After the second wave, the revival came in a shorter period of two to three months. The current travel sentiment seems positive and we already see a slow but steady return of corporate travel. With the easing of restrictions for gatherings, the events segment is also performing. The average rate is steadily increasing and if nothing untoward happens, we may well be on the road to recovery. There is a shift in the market segmentation with more domestic guests than International. As expected, demand for staycations and leisure travel has increased since coming out of lockdown. We anticipate exceeding the 2019 business levels by 2023 but an earlier resurgence may yet catch us off guard, also in a very pleasant way.

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