Nurturing Independence Around the World

Seema Roy, Area Managing Director for South Asia, Middle East & Africa of Preferred Hotels & Resorts talks to BW Hotelier about new disruptors and role of smart tech in hospitality industry.

BW HOTELIER: Your take on the current scenario in the Indian and global hospitality markets?

SEEMA ROY: The global hospitality industry is witnessing rapid changes and continues to remain resilient to the current geo-political and socio-economic scenario. The hotel industry particularly has seen consolidation of major players such as technology providers and mergers of hospitality chains. There has been a prominent shift of large hotel chains entering the independent hotels space with launches of their independent-styled brands. Furthermore, globally aware travellers are now increasingly demanding hyper-localised, more authentic experiences with a bespoke style of hospitality. 

Particularly in India, the hospitality industry has evolved considerably over the recent years. The country has been on the path to becoming a world class destination and has also seen an influx of international brands as well as expansion of regional hotel chains. India showcases a great collection of independent brands that have steadily come into prominence. For example, high-end indigenous independent brands like - The Imperial New Delhi and The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts, have carved a niche for themselves with exceptionally curated hotels providing world-class service. 

BWH: What have been your biggest challenges in the recent times?

SR: The independent hotels landscape is getting more complex than ever as large hotel groups push further into the soft brands space. As one of the original independent hotel brands - Preferred Hotels & Resorts has had a significant head start. We have developed our ideology over 52 years of championing independence, celebrating individuality and connecting travellers to their chosen destinations through a diverse portfolio of 750 distinct independent properties around the world. We place a high degree of importance on both our hotel partners and guests’ needs in this ever-evolving industry, stay nimble and engage with our customers through targeted marketing communications initiatives; and on property at our member hotels to win loyalty and retain their customer base. This sets us apart from the growing competition and stay ahead of the game. 

One of the key challenges and opportunities of the global hospitality industry also has been a growing concern around sustainability. Hotels are constantly looking for ways and means to reduce their impact, adopt tangible actions related to the property’s construction, facilities, day-to-day practices as well as community projects. Preferred Hotels & Resorts has supported the sustainable efforts of hundreds of independent hotels, providing them with a platform to share their best practices that enhance environmental and social contributions and inspire others to take action.

BWH: In your view which are the new disruptors in the hospitality industry and their impact?

SR: Evolving consumer mindsets are among the primary drivers of change in hospitality industry. As there is a marked increase in demand for authentic experiences, a trend that is starting to resonate with discerning travellers globally is - transformational travel and the desire to experience travel in a meaningful way that challenges their perspectives. This is pushing independent hotels and major brands to think outside the box to create enriching guest services and experiences. Technology has also levelled the playing field globally, impacted by Online Travel Agents (OTAs) and disrupting players such as AirBnB in the shared economy. Hotel companies are investing in the creation of evolving data-driven eco systems, similar to platform driven business models like Amazon. As another key example, residential options continue to surge in popularity across travel segments globally and luxury hotel groups have been expanding their residential-style product inventory. Our Preferred Residences collection delivers the highest level of living with luxury in the world’s most desired locations and has more than doubled in size in less than two years to include more than 100 properties.  

BWH: What do you see is the role of smart technologies in the new market?

SR: Millennials today are undeniably the industry’s most influential consumer. They have played a substantial role in technological changes through their use of mobile devices to book and share travel experiences, driving the travel industry to continuously look at innovative ways to engage them. It has become vital for hotels to make smart technology an integral part of their offering. Hoteliers are increasingly experimenting with technology to interact with guests, such as artificial intelligence and virtual assistants, facial recognition for check-ins, and mobile apps that offer local travel ideas and latest hotel programming. While these technological advances certainly benefit perceptive travellers, they are best when complementing – not replacing – the human touch. 

BWH: In your view how is the industry going to perform over next five years?

SR: s the dynamic palette of globally aware travellers continues to develop at a fast pace, the future of hospitality industry will be massively powered by digital technologies. The ability to collect, interpret and effectively utilise information will continue to be critical for hotels. Hospitality brands will increasingly need to leverage innovative technology to attract discerning travellers and retain a loyal customer base. Furthermore, we believe that sustainability focused initiatives are expected to play a substantial role in effective management of hotels around the world, with hoteliers embracing the best in industry practices to establish trust with guests that are prioritising conscious travel with immersive localised experiences. As travellers increasingly harness nature, culture, and social activities to connect with their inner self and promote qualitative life changes, transformational travel will more assertively intersect with conscious travel. 

BWH: What is your vision for 2025? How do you intend to re-energize your enterprise in the next five years?

SR: At Preferred Hotels & Resorts, we have spent more than 52 years developing our craft, helping shape the independent luxury hotel experience globally. We continue to remain passionately committed to taking what we do to the next level with a consumer focus on desires and experiences. As part of this, we remain dedicated to our brand promise, “Believe in Travel.” To us, this is a strong reminder of travel’s powerful impact on human beings and speaks to the over-arching importance of travel on people and economies. Our strategy is to look beyond the hotel experience and focus on travel as what connects the world.  As a brand, we are constantly looking to expand our footprint to offer some of the finest luxury hotel options in every corner our travellers want to go – including emerging destinations – while also offering the convenience of booking travel experiences through our website. With a strong legacy of excellence and expertise in championing the independent hospitality experience and offering a diverse range of authentic travel choices – we will consistently strive to nurture independence around the world.

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled '5 Years Young & Just Begun'

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