There has been a prolific growth in the domestic leisure business: Nayan Seth

In an exclusive conversation with BW HOTELIER, Nayan Seth, General Manager of Taj Palace talks about the hotel reopening response in Delhi. He also shares the challenges and opportunities in running the business in the new normal.

Tell us briefly about the market response to the reopening of hotels in the city?

Ever since Taj Palace, New Delhi officially reopened its doors on August 22 as per guidelines from local authorities, we’ve received a tremendously positive and encouraging response from our guests and patrons and are immensely thankful to the faith and trust that they have placed in us. We have embraced the new normal with our restrengthened commitment of Tajness - our philosophy of authentic Indian hospitality with an assurance of safety, hygiene and physical distancing and have implemented a host of precautionary measures across our hotel. We’ve seen a promising response to our staycation offerings, particularly, such as Urban Getaways, New Beginnings and Suite Staycations; these are perfect for those wanting to unwind and enjoy a tranquil, mini-vacation right in the heart of the city, not too far away from home. Our award-winning celebrated restaurants curated dining experiences and food delivery service, Qmin, have also been doing extremely well. 

MICE has been one of the major revenue generators for hotels in Delhi-NCR region. With the current scenario, what market segments are going to drive the performance of hotels in this region?

In terms of segments, there has been a prolific growth in the domestic leisure business with people wanting to step out and unwind at hotels like ours that are trusted, within the comfort of the city, without having to travel afar. Attractive campaigns with a strong focus on multi-platform digital outreach has also fuelled this growth especially at our hotel. On a parallel note, driveable destinations particularly have been very much in demand as such with vacationers choosing idyllic locations not too far away from their homes. We are confident that corporate travel will also gradually witness a growth, albeit with time. As far as meetings and events are concerned, we remain guided by the prescribed guidelines stipulated by local authorities. At present, though weddings with up to 50 guests only are permitted, we have been seeing a surge in enquiries for the upcoming auspicious season. 

F&B has been another significant contributor for a hotel. What creative initiatives have been taken by you to maximise your F&B business?

While our restaurants at Taj Palace, New Delhi, particularly Capital Kitchen, Masala Art and Spicy Duck, have been witnessing steady footfalls, we have curated a host of offbeat experiences that are intimate, stylish and unique at the same time. Some of these experiences include one-on-one private dinners at our idyllic putting greens, virtual dining experiences for meetings and celebrations through our food delivery service Qmin, poolside barbecue evenings, restaurant experiences recreated at home etc. Needless to say, true to our philosophy of crafting authentic experiences, customisation remains key and our endeavour remains to tailor-make every experience as per the customer’s preference. In addition to the above, we’ve also launched The Loaf Chronicles, a veritable selection of artisanal breads that are baked fresh to order – available through contactless takeaway or doorstep delivery. And now, with the onset of the festive season, our incredibly popular Diwali hampers and handcrafted goodies are back and are seeing a surge in enquiries.

What was the percentage of revenue that you used to generate from weddings market in the pre-covid times? What are the latest developments in this market?

Taj Palace, New Delhi has been synonymous with weddings and celebrations for decades. Weddings for us have always meant something special that generations have cherished over a period of time. Even though celebrations have become intimate in the new normal owing to restrictions in terms of capacity, we are confident that the wedding business will surely contribute during the upcoming auspicious period. On the brighter side, the restrictions on capacity seem to have enabled the entire booking process to become faster and more seamless for the host in particular, in contrast to complex, larger format celebrations. With an intimate spectrum of 11 indoor venues and two beautifully manicured expansive lawns, we offer a host of spaces for one to choose from. Moreover, we have completely remodelled and reengineered our banqueting experience from an operational standpoint – such that it is personalised, yet enabled with augmented safety measures. Our flexibility and agility to be able to create wedding packages that are tailor-made to one’s preferences, makes us stand apart. Virtual weddings for instance also becoming popular and we’ve been curating dining experiences through Qmin for many such celebrations. 

Housekeeping has a leading role to play in the new normal. What is your take?

Housekeeping has always essayed a pivotal role in hospitality with cleanliness, hygiene and safety being at the core of hotel operations, transcending through every possible department. With our restrengthened commitment of Tajness, we have augmented our already stringent protocols with the assurance of exacting standards in order to ensure the comfort and safety of our guests and associates. For instance, all common and high-touch areas of our hotel are witnessing more frequent and industrial-strength disinfectants being used as part of an escalated cleanliness routine. All our housekeeping associates have been trained extensively with the protocols of the new normal.

With the increased focus on domestic tourism, what is your take on the revival of the industry?

Over the last couple of months, with travel restrictions on the domestic front gradually getting eased, it is heartening to witness a renewed interest in the incredible wonders of our own country. This has sharpened the focus on domestic tourism and is slowly fuelling its growth, echoing our national vision of self-reliance or “Atma Nirbharta”. In order to give this boost, a more strategic industry-led focus would definitely be beneficial, combined with well-designed, innovative campaigns that leverage and promote this growing interest in domestic locations. 

What would be your message for the guests who may be making their travel plans for the near future?

As custodians of authentic Indian hospitality, the greatest sense of responsibility and care for our guests and associates has been embedded in our DNA. We are thankful to our guests and patrons for having placed their faith and trust in us over the years and look forward to welcoming them back at the Capital’s Palace Since 1983.

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