Focus on guest’s holistic wellbeing, now and in the future: Sunjae Sharma

Every Hyatt hotel in India and across the world has at least one person on the property trained as the Hygiene and Wellbeing Leader, who ensures adherence to the new operational guidelines. All their hotels are operational right now and have been for a while. Sunjae Sharma, Vice President & Country Head, India, Hyatt Hotels Corporation shares how the group is showing gradual signs of recovery.

What all steps has Hyatt Hotels Corporation taken in India to instill confidence, build trust and care for the customers?

Hyatt’s path forward focuses on welcoming back guests and customers to Hyatt hotels, helping them once again experience the joy of travel. With a focus on safety first and wellbeing always, we are reimagining the hotel journey with new amenities and offerings and taking comprehensive steps to implement enhanced protocols that help colleagues feel comfortable and confident at work. 

At Hyatt, the well-being of colleagues is core to advancing care for guests and customers. In response to COVID-19, Hyatt has also reimagined the colleague journey to include new work procedures, colleague resources, and reorientations, in an effort to ensure colleagues’ safety and wellbeing. Every Hyatt hotel in India and across the world has at least one person on the property trained as the Hygiene and Wellbeing Leader, who ensures adherence to the new operational guidelines. In addition, daily colleague surveys have been introduced to measure colleague comfort and wellbeing, enabling hotel leaders to address opportunities, make adjustments as necessary and meet colleagues’ needs in real time. 

From listening to our guests and customers, we know that we need to go beyond clean and safe and focus on their holistic wellbeing, now and in the future. Globally, we have announced the requirement of face coverings or face masks within indoor public areas, which include meetings and events spaces, restaurants and bars, and fitness centers, and while moving around in outdoor areas, with some exceptions, based on local laws or guidance. All Hyatt hotels provide face coverings to the guests who do not have one. 

We have also enhanced digital amenities through the World of Hyatt app allowing guests to manage preferences like scheduling housekeeping, choosing between pick-up or knock-and-go food orders, mobile key entry, contactless check-in and checkout, and more. We are already seeing wonderful examples of our hotels reimagining the guest experience in India and across the world. This includes: 

Hyatt Pune has converted two of our garden suites – which include rooms that open to private gardens – into a premium dining facility

Hyatt Place Hyderabad Banjara Hills offers individual buffet-style meals that are curated and proportioned for each dining table

Alila Fort Bishangarh and Grand Hyatt Mumbai offer virtual site inspections to guests while selecting event venues at Hyatt

Hyatt Centric MG Road Bangalore, Hyatt Hyderabad Gachibowli and many other of our hotels are offering comfortable, luxurious and safe environs for guests to relax and work by introducing a new workspace concept 

Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya offers socially distanced hammock-making classes

Ararat Park Hyatt Moscow offers guests private in-suite dining and in-suite spa treatments

The Confidante Miami Beach streams curated workouts from local fitness studios

Grand Hyatt Hong Kong created a summer academy with experiences for the entire family

Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe offers hybrid (in-person plus virtual) wedding celebrations

What has the revival been like for Hyatt Hotels Corporation in India? How many of your hotels are operational right now?

Hyatt is in a solid financial position for the future. We have planned for extended recovery, and we have enough liquidity – cash plus ability to borrow on our line of credit – to operate at very low levels of demand for well over three years. We believe this gives us a longer runway than many of our competitors and we expect demand levels to increase over the recovery period.

While the pandemic is ongoing and many regions are seeing a second wave of infections, it is widely believed that both the travel and the hospitality industry will experience an accelerating recovery in the demand for hotels globally. The next several months will continue to be bumpy, but we are well prepared to navigate these times and emerge in a position of strength. All our hotels are operational right now and have been for a while now. 

In an effort to care for our local communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic while also reimagining the hotel experience for guests, we have introduced Hyatt Loves Local, a worldwide effort to collaborate with and uplift small businesses while delivering local culinary, wellness, fashion and art experiences to Hyatt guests.

Being an international conglomerate, how do you compare revival of hospitality in India vis-a-vis other international markets? What learnings can India imbibe from other countries?

This is and has been a crucial time for Hyatt and the entire hospitality industry, and every experience is learning. We are highly encouraged by what we see in China and throughout Asia where case numbers have been consistently decreasing and occupancy levels have been consistently increasing at a significant pace.

For India too, our way forward focuses on welcoming back guests and customers to Hyatt hotels and assisting them in every possible way to, once again, experience the joy of travel without compromising on safety. We at Hyatt believe that the industry is at an inflection point and our expertise and innovation could go a long way in normalising travel and hospitality in the new normal.

Our teams have been working with utmost dedication and as we rebuild through recovery, we continue to be guided by our purpose – to care for people so they can be their best. Every business decision has and is made through the lens of this purpose and it determines how we have and will continue to support our guests, employees and communities.

How do you hope to bring revival in business meetings and MICE events? Have any innovative concepts been introduced to help the same?

The recommencement of domestic air travel is a positive indicator for the hotel industry. Given that India is a large market, this could lead to a significant surge in domestic demand. Businesses are ramping up their operations in the new normal, especially after the national lockdown has been relaxed. The focus is on being prepared to welcome guests who are looking for safe, comfortable yet luxurious stays. 

We have reimagined places and spaces to strike the right balance of connection and space. Hyatt hotels are exploring audio-visual technology that will help offer customers hybrid meeting options – on-property and remote – for large-sale events with social distancing in mind. We shall continue to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of our guests and colleagues. We believe that technology would be a crucial instrument in driving our mission to serve our guests safely. We are focusing on contactless menus and transactions yet remaining artisanal in most of our ways.  

We are also expecting significant growth in the wedding segment which we have noticed has not been impacted greatly by the pandemic. Weddings continue to be a key demand area for hotels. In fact, we are highly encouraged by the queries and bookings we have been receiving for both weddings and corporate meetings.

What will be high on the agenda for Hyatt Hotels Corporation in 2021? What kinds of developments & challenges are you expecting in 2021? Any new openings scheduled for 2021 in India?

This is an exciting time to be at Hyatt. We believe that the industry is at an inflection point and our expertise and innovation could go a long way in normalising travel and hospitality in the new normal. We also have the agility and purpose to seize recovery opportunities. Our expertise has never been more appreciated, and our innovations have never been more welcomed. In the coming months, we will have the opportunity to define the next chapter of Hyatt, and the hospitality industry at large. Our diversified pipeline (the number of new hotels expected to open over the coming years) provides even greater confidence in our ability to weather the recovery and come out stronger on the other side. 

We have more than 950 hotels today and over 500 hotels in our global pipeline. Hyatt is focused on the mindful growth of the Alila, Hyatt Centric and Thompson Hotels lifestyle brands with nearly 20 new hotels planned to open in the Americas over the next three years. Fuelled by the 2018 acquisition of Two Roads Hospitality, the investment in our lifestyle brands satisfies our guests’ desire for hotels located in top destinations with rich narratives and elevated and captivating programming reflective of each locale. 

What do you feel can be done to grow the brand ‘Incredible India’ especially post Covid-19?

The attraction of India as a tourism destination – both for local and international tourists – is undisputed and often unmatched by any other country. We are known for our hospitality, cultural experiences, beautiful locations, and luxurious hotels. India is and will remain Incredible as a tourism destination – in spite of Covid. The perceived hesitation to travel has nothing to do with the country, but everything to do with the pandemic. With the arrival of vaccines across the globe, it is only a matter of time before India opens its borders and welcomes tourists across the country to experience Incredible India once more.

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'BOUNCING BACK - FROM SURVIVAL TO REVIVAL ISSUE VOL 6, ISSUE 6'

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