Quick responses are the need of the hour and agility will hence be critical in the industry: K. Mohanchandran

BW HOTELIER interacts with K. Mohanchandran, Area Director – Udaipur & Jodhpur and General Manager, Taj Lake Palace to understand his take on revival of the industry, performance of his hotels and more.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the rate of transition in the hospitality industry. From adopting contactless ways of exchange between guests and staff to adopting new concepts of travelling like staycation/workcation, 2020 provided the industry, a new outlook.

Taking lessons from the past, the hoteliers evolved and helped in moving the boat forward in the sea of challenges posed by the pandemic. In conversation with BW HOTELIER, K. Mohanchandran, Area Director – Udaipur & Jodhpur and General Manager, Taj Lake Palace shares his experiences.

Optimistic about hospitality market scenario

Mohandchandran believes that in this phase, the domestic tourism has helped them to stay afloat. Since the guests are looking for places that provided a safe hospitality, it is imperative that the hotels rekindle the confidence among them and respond to the changing trends of tourism. 

“In India, thanks to our large population, we are fortunate enough to have a strong domestic tourism market and a consumer base that enjoys travelling. Tourism contributes to approximately 9 per cent of our GDP and we are optimistic that domestic business will continue to be a key factor in industry’s recovery,” he said.

“This also happened to fall in place with our Prime Ministers and the Tourism ministry's vision, 'Dekho Apna Desh' a campaign asking Indians to take pledge to visit at least 15 different tourism locations in India by the year 2022. While we continue to focus our efforts on the home market which remains significant we are optimistic that inbound travel will make a return soon,” he added.  

He further highlighted that the guests are still being apprehensive about taking flights, the destinations which are easily accessible by surface transport have garnered great footfalls. Rajasthan by the virtue of its proximity to major metro cities, saw a rise in the number of domestic travellers. Hotels in Udaipur in specific enjoyed high volume of tourists from Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Delhi. With the vaccination drives and State government promotions such as the Rajasthan tourism department’s promotion offering- ‘short safe stay’ at the popular getaway destinations certainly will give the added boost to hotels in the region.  

Domestic tourism- a bridge between survival and revival

When asked about the critical contributing element for industry to bounce back from survival to revival he said, “Domestic tourism remains of paramount importance with curb on international travel and we will continue to introduce tailor made offerings for this segment.”

He continued, “Amid the ongoing pandemic, weddings and social events have helped revive the hospitality sector which was left bleeding during and post the lockdown period. Though the Indian weddings were not as big and fat as keeping in mind the government restrictions and social distancing norms, it was enough to keep the boat sailing. Smaller aspirational weddings are on the rise and Rajasthan stands to benefit the most having several palaces and old heritage buildings that can cater to such weddings.”

New business strategies to help hotels 

Highlighting the current scenario, Mohanchandran commented that as the hospitality industry fights for survival after suffering huge losses due to Covid-19 last year, hotels are incorporating a combination of cutting-edge technologies to improve customer confidence, and mitigate losses incurred during the pandemic. 

He elaborated by recounting about the time when borders began closing around the world. During that period, local travel picked up even more steam. Since most people could not go on trips abroad, they naturally turned to domestic destinations to spend their holidays. This rediscovery of nearby touristic attractions triggered a burst of enthusiasm for local travel which is likely to remain strong for the coming years. Looking ahead, hotels should not dismiss the importance of this more locale clientele when elaborating for their marketing strategy. 

“Well before the pandemic even started, local travel had become trendy, especially amongst the younger generations. Its supporters praised the reduced environmental impact and lower cost of the practice as well as the contribution to the domestic economy, all matters critical both Millennials and Gen Z's,” he asserted.

“Also, we have noticed multiple new business tactics emerged in the wake of the crisis to help hotels adapt to this precarious environment. Amongst other solutions, hotels came up with longer-term stay discounts, work from the hotel packages, and other day-use bookings to keep generating revenue despite COVID. Far from pre-conception of the old traditional model, hotels are very resourceful and can adjust even to the direst of situation.” he mentioned.

Offers for summer holiday season

Speaking about the offers to woo the customers during the summer holiday season, he said, “In our pursuit to attract domestic tourism, Indian Hotels Company Limited launched a special all meal inclusive 4D Package across our palaces, hotels, and resorts; Dream - the guest dreams of a new travel experience, Drive- guest drives down to the location in within the confines of their self-sanitized cars, Discover - discover serenity in our exclusive rooms and suites and lastly Delight - delight guests as we make you feel at home.”

“The package has been very received with open arms as we already have already welcomed guests from Gujarat, New Delhi, Jaipur, Hyderabad posts the lock down and look forward to welcoming many more from other parts of the country,” he stated.

Dictum for 2021

For 2021, their focus will remain on safety and hygiene to share best practices and to source high-grade protective equipment and disinfectants for use at its hotels. Associates at IHCL are extensively trained on safety, hygiene, and physical distancing norms to ensure guests' wellbeing and delight, every time.  

On the business front, they will be focussing on the domestic market and efforts on families, couples, or groups of friends. “While corporate movement has been stalled for the moment, once the vaccination drive is complete, we can hope for some niche conferences coming our way,” he said.  

Sharing a message for the aspiring hotel managers he concluded, “The message would be to be sensitive towards the guest needs and flexible towards the dynamics of the business. Quick responses are the need of the hour and agility will hence be critical in the industry.”

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