Outdoing Others And Winning Friends

The Park Hyatt Hyderabad's General Manager Thomas Abraham speaks with BW Hotelier about dealing with competition and growing the market for the hotel. He's optimistic about the new year and what it holds for his hotel as well as the hospitality industry.

THOMAS ABRAHAM has been in the hotel industry a long time. Twenty four years, to be precise. And during his long tenure there is hardly any big hospitality brand that he hasn’t worked with. Oberoi, Marriott, Taj, Leela, Hyatt and Movenpick, have all employed Abraham in different capacities at different points of time. For the last seven years, Abraham has been with the Hyatt group of hotels having joined Grand Hyatt, Mumbai, in 2009 as Resident Manager. After a brief stint, he moved to Park Hyatt, Goa, as the General Manager. Abraham completed four years there, before joining as General Manager of Park Hyatt, Hyderabad, earlier this year.

The 209-rooms hotel (including 24 suites) is a beautiful property in the heart of Hyderabad at Banjara Hills. Besides the rooms, the hotel has 42 fully-serviced luxury apartments catering to long-term guests. Park Hyatt which opened in April 2012, has an amazing collection of art with the 25 ft sculpture, ‘The Becoming’ designed by John Portman in the atrium lobby being its highlight.

“This hotel opened at a very difficult time when the state was splitting into Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. There was no business. Occupancy was as low as 10-12 per cent. It was only last year that we got occupancy up to 38 per cent. So it has not been an easy journey for us. But the road ahead seems promising,” says Abraham.

Abraham expects to close his books in December with 50 per cent occupancy. “Next year we are aiming at another 10 percentage points growth. So that’s a big jump,” he says.
Things are now settling down in Hyderabad and the government is hungry to develop the state. More business is coming in which is positive for the city as a whole. “While there is more growth in the newer part of the city – Gachibowli and HITEC city – there is a fare amount of growth in this part of the city as well,” says Abraham.

Growth also means more competition. While nearly every big hospitality brand is already present in Hyderabad, some such as the ITC are expanding their footprint.

Abraham believes that every big brand hotel in Hyderabad is competition whether it is in close proximity to Park Hyatt or is an hour away at Gachibowli. “At the end of the day, distance doesn’t really matter. Competition is competition,” says Abraham.

“This is a market which is very price driven. So even if you look at the STR you will see that the rate growth has not been significant. It has been very notional in terms of increase. We don’t expect rates to grow tremendously over the next couple of years. It is occupancy that will catch up now,” explains Abraham.

Park Hyatt’s core market is the transient business traveller and corporate groups. “I don’t see us as a major MICE player though we would like to increase the groups. There are bigger hotels and larger convention centres in that side of town. But it works for us when that part of the city fills up because then the secondary business that comes to us is also at a much higher rate. We will grow some group business but not MICE as our meeting spaces are not very large,” says Abraham.

Abraham quickly realised that for the hotel to be successful it had to be accepted by the locals. “What we have done well this year is to be able to reach out to the local market. It has been our biggest strength.” There is now a lot more footfall in all the restaurants –The Dining Room, Tre-Forni Restaurant and Bar and Oriental Bar & Kitchen. “We have seen a major growth in our non-resident business. Which is a good sign. It means the locals are accepting us. Acceptance is key in a city like this. It is a very well-knit community. People talk. You don’t advertise events or banquets. It’s all about word of mouth.”

Today 50 percent of the revenues of the hotel are coming from F&B. Abraham has evolved the restaurants to make them more popular. Chef Michele Prevedello joined a few months ago and one of the first things he did was to expand the menu at Tre-Forni.

The hotel’s oriental restaurant, The Oriental Bar & Kitchen will also soon be revamped.
Park Hyatt Hyderabad has also introduced a buffet for lunch and dinner at The Dining Room, the multi cuisine restaurant. “It’s not something done in Park Hyatt but we felt there was a customer need. We realised that the local people wanted a buffet. To get more customers in we needed to be able to provide that offering,” says Abraham.

The Tre-Forni Bar is now hosting DJ nights on Fridays and Saturdays. “There is a lot of club hopping that happens in Hyderabad but there are very few places to go to so this was a good opportunity for us. We have had good footfalls,” explains Abraham.

Abraham and team are also focussing a lot on banquets and events. Nearly 30 percent of the F&B revenue comes from banqueting.

“We find there is a lot more opportunity in events and banqueting etc,” says Abraham.

“We are already seeing the changes that are occurring. Of course, it will take time. Rome was not built in a day,” concludes Abraham.

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'Green Issue'

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