The new era of hotels
In an exclusive conversation with BW HOTELIER Davinder Juj, General Manager at Eros Hotel New Delhi Nehru Place talks about the future course of action for hotels.
As hotels are gearing up to reopen in the new world order, tell us briefly about some of the critical operational areas that you must, as the head of your business, tackle?
The post lockdown era will set the foundation of a new beginning. This phase will change the whole dynamics of all the industries including Hospitality sector across the world. As we know that Hospitality has always been known for personalised services and guest recognition, however in the post lockdown phase, guest safety and hygiene will become the key to restore the confidence of the guest as well as team members. Adapting to the new normal and implementing new safety measures will play a crucial role in driving the hospitality industry towards a progressive path.
At Eros Hotel, safety and hygiene standards have always been of paramount importance. In the new normal, awareness and preparedness of team members will play a significant role to keep everyone safe at the premises. We are focusing on training and skill development of team members and adequate display of various do’s and don’ts in all areas for guest and associates. To ensure that everyone visiting the hotel feels the warmth and comfort with us while having the sense of safety, we shall be adopting various processes which will include highest levels of cleaning and sanitizing of all the areas of the hotel ensuring touchless soap dispensers, sensor taps, automatic sanitizers, PPE in all relevant areas, staggered seating in restaurants and public areas, new protocols for holding events and conferences, markings and queue manager placements to encourage safe distancing, screening of guests and team members at the hotel, mock drills for team members and reducing the touch points in all areas.
Over the past few months, we have been continuously engaging with our guests and keeping them informed about all the protocols which the hotel has adopted to keep them safe at the premises after re-opening. Considering the changed circumstances, we have introduced different packages catering to the needs of our guests.
How do you plan to implement social distancing and the new protection cleanliness & hygiene protocols?
We are committed to serve our guests and team members with a safe and hygienic environment. Our standard procedures and protocols have been put in line with the guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MHFW) and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). To ensure that all standards and protocols are adhered to, we have a dedicated Hygiene and Safety Manager and a dedicated team available 24X7 for assistance.
For safety assurance, we have implemented a stringent yet comprehensive outline of measures which will be thoroughly followed once the hotels re-open.
NEW PROTECTION PROTOCOLS:
* Glass shielding at Reception desks to maintain safe distance from others
* Reduced contact points during check-in and check-out
* Digital/Contactless payments
* Automatic sensor taps & sanitizers
* Touchless soap dispensers
* PPE in all relevant areas
* Staggered seating and foot marks for safe distancing
* Scanning of team members for temperature checks and Aarogya Setu App upon arrival. Wearing masks and gloves is mandatory for them at all times
* Guests to fill Self-declaration forms during check-in to assess their medical and travel history
* Appropriate assistance will be provided to unwell guests as per Govt. Guidelines
* Rooms will be blocked keeping in mind the 24 hours cleaning period
* In-Room service will be provided on request
* Touchless buffet service and pre-portioned individual dishes in buffet will be provided
* Dedicated separate entry for banquet guest and availability of sanitizer and temperature check at the entrance
* Door of pre-function area and banquet area to open for significant time to maintain the cross ventilation
* Mandatory trainings and mock drills for all team members in order to sensitize them about the guidelines prescribed by the Government of India for maintaining personal hygiene and safety. Awareness and emergency posters have been placed in all back areas for a lasting impression on team members
CLEANLINESS AND HYGIENE PROTOCOLS
* Best practices of cleaning and sanitization are being followed in all guest and back areas of the hotel.
* Sanitization of guest luggage at the entry point.
* Electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant are being used to sanitise surfaces throughout the hotel. Electrostatic spraying technology uses the highest classification of disinfectants recommended by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) to treat known pathogens.
* All touch points in rooms like door handles, bathroom fixtures, furniture, drawers, remotes, table tops go through highest levels of sanitization and hygiene standards.
* All guest laundry and room linen is treated with enhanced wash cycles.
* All the dining areas are properly cleaned and disinfected on regular intervals. The furniture and fixtures of the restaurant like tables, chairs, workstations, table tops, and linen etc. are thoroughly cleaned with disinfectants and sanitized on daily basis.
* In addition to the restaurants, protocols are have been defined for the kitchen areas in order to prevent any sort of contamination.
* Various signage with messages on social distancing, safety and hygiene measures have been placed in guest and back areas for encouraging them to adhere to the norms.
F&B, MICE and weddings have been huge revenue drivers. They stand impacted now, at least in the short immediate run. How do you plan to recoup this revenue gap to recover and over what horizon?
F&B, MICE and Weddings have always been huge revenue drivers and collectively contribute to more than 50 per cent of the total hotel revenue but the ongoing pandemic has not left them less impacted.
However, with increased home delivery services and take away options, we have seen a positive change in the mind-set of people. People are now open to explore new offerings that meet safety and hygiene standards. For In-house guests staying with families, a special menu will be offered at Eros Hotel which will be served in the comfort of their room.
Weddings and social events have started picking up with revised safety and hygiene norms which include reduced gatherings, realigned seating arrangements, safe distancing, food hygiene etc. For safety and hygiene reasons, people are also considering stays within the hotel during weddings. Since our hotel has a huge banqueting space, with reduced gatherings we will have bigger scope to accommodate more events, focus on quality, offer pre-plated and platter-to-plate services at exclusive price and earn additional revenues which will help us make up for the lost revenues.
MICE might take more longer due to the monetary impact suffered by the global companies leading to limited budgets, reduced gatherings and reduced travel.
Although all these efforts will not be enough to cover up the loss and gap created over the past few months and cost will have be looked into continuously to cover the gap of GOP.
With a revenue dent that will go beyond a few months, what are the few cost control measures you are undertaking?
We have always believed in robust methods to run hotel operations efficiently and effectively. These methods help us even adapt to situations that happen rarely. However, in order to tackle the current situation, we are controlling every aspect of costs in the organization. The various steps been taken to control cost after the restart under following heads-
Energy Cost: Switching to open access power to save energy cost ensuring no wastage of electricity anywhere in the hotel)
Payroll Cost: To have minimal manning to manage the operations and reduction on extra welfare activities for time being to keep the cost under control
F&B Cost: Ensuring minimum wastage, right portioning and right pricing
Operating Cost: To look through each and every expense line and discontinue any non-essential expenses
There will be an additional impact on the hotels to follow the new hygiene and safety standards which will also have to be recovered over the next few quarters.
Restaurants and fine dining have been a must have for any hotel of good standing, but now it seems in-room dining will be preferred by in house guests, while walk-in diners will take time coming back. What is your view?
This is absolutely undeniable to say that in-room dining as will see a surge among residing guests owing to the fear of ongoing pandemic but if we see the current trends, the acceptance level of people in regard to dining out is now increasing. This is needless to say that health and safety of the guest will take priority over everything else and people will prefer to dine in places where stringent protocols are being followed and the efforts towards guest safety are visible.
After re-opening, our priority will be to encourage in-room dining among room guests as a safety measure but for those who prefer to dine in the restaurant, we will ensure that they enjoy their meals in a safe and hygienic environment.
Do you think domestic tourism will be a game changer with a likely drop in international inbound traffic for a while?
Considering the current scenario, it is well established that people will prefer to travel within the country than abroad for the next few months. We, as a hotel, have always received more than fair share from the domestic tourism over previous year and current circumstances are favourable to our scheme of things. We do get support from different sources like leisure, production house, corporate houses and PSUs which will boost our occupancies as we re-open. Long staying corporate who are staying in guest houses will also move to hotels for a safe and hygienic environment.
As guests will be cautious to fly internationally owing to their concerns towards health and safety, Family staycations, Work from hotel, Road trips to off-beat locations will see a surge for the next two quarters.
As the head of your hotel, how do you keep the employee morale up during these tough times?
I believe continuous communication, genuine concerns, engaging team in crucial decisions helps in instilling employees’ faith in the brand. As team, We have been engaging ourselves through various activities from home, motivational trainings, skill enhancement trainings, trainings on safety awareness and recognitions. We have also been catching-up with our colleagues virtually to know about their health and if they need any assistance. We have also sold groceries to our team members at a very special price.
All these efforts have helped us in strengthening our bond with them and lifting their morale during these tough times.
What changes do you think this pandemic will bring to the Hospitality sector in terms of running a hotel?
After the pandemic is over, the entire world will be seen from a different perspective and so is the hospitality industry. Innovation will play a key role in finding solutions and replacing the industry on a progressive path. As we all know, hospitality industry has always been known for delivering personalised services and guest recognition but from now on, things will be seen from a very different perspective. Guest safety and hygiene will take priority over everything else. Contactless check-in & check-out, contactless dining, digital payments, e-newspapers or e-magazines, sensor-based devices, social distancing, hygiene and safe environment will be the aspects that the guests will be looking for.
Apart from this, the role of team members will become highly critical as it’s them who will diligently deliver their services to keep each guest safe at the premises.
What is your message for the tourism and hospitality industry partners, as well as to your loyal clientele?
Nothing lasts forever. We are all going through tough times but I believe this phase too shall pass soon. We are in this together and will come out of this more stronger and better. The learning from this phase will guide us towards a brighter future.
What has been your hotel's contribution towards the fight against this pandemic?
We at Eros Hotel have always believed in ideology of giving back to the society. During this pandemic also, we came forward and joined our hands with NGO’s working towards feeding the needy ones with packed food boxes prepared by our chefs daily with love and warmth.
What are the key lessons for the future to be learned from fighting this pandemic?
There is always some good in every bad and the ongoing pandemic too has taught us in many ways. The hospitality industry, which was always considered as booming came to a standstill, but at the same time, this global crisis has brought us all together as one fraternity which stands strong. We have learnt to respect nature, human values, physical and mental wellbeing and this will certainly be an important takeaway and we should carry this learning forward for a better future.
Another important takeaway is the ease of digitalization as it has helped us to keep in touch, broadcast our views to a larger audience and so much more. The ‘new normal’ will see a wider digital approach and it will be essential in increasing efficiency in all our processes.
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