We need to be open to adapting to the new normal while being alert and agile: Shobhit Sawhney

In an exclusive interview with BW HOTELIER, Shobhit Sawhney, General Manager of Park Hyatt Hyderabad, tell about his journey with Park Hyatt Hyderabad. Besides, he shares his take on the future of the hospitality sector, post-lockdown consumer behaviour, and more.

How would you explain the business and leisure property for the uninitiated? 

From humble beginnings to becoming one of the city's most admired leaders in hospitality, one thing remains the same – we put people at the heart of everything we do. 

Our opulent architecture and unparalleled service ensure more than a stay, but a journey that unfolds into rare and intimate experiences. It's manifested across stunning artwork, lavish suites, an exquisite spa, and multiple award-winning gourmet restaurants. Our central location in Hyderabad's business hub puts us within 15 minutes of the IT district, popular shopping malls, IKEA, heritage monuments of the city of Nizams, and just 45 minutes of Rajiv Gandhi International Airport. 

Key features and amenities of the hotel include: 17,000 square feet of purpose-built space for business and social events, 209 stylishly designed rooms and suites, 41 luxurious serviced apartments - The Residence, signature Italian and Asian-inspired restaurants, an all-day multi-cuisine restaurant, buffet & open kitchens, modern gymnasium, infinity pool, an indulgent spa that focuses on natural treatments, Hyderabad inspired therapies and a stylish salon with creative stylists. 

What drives the Park Hyatt Hyderabad business more apart from room occupancy? Is it F&B, banquets, weddings, or MICE?

Food and Beverage is what I would consider being the hotel's greatest strength. Hyatt hotels around the world are leaders in Food & Beverage in the markets they operate. Reinforcing Hyatt's global food and beverage philosophy — Food. Thoughtfully Sourced. Carefully Served, Park Hyatt Hyderabad offers a distinct selection of modern Asian cuisine from Rika, authentic Italian cuisine from Tre-Forni, and comfort Indian and regional cuisine from The Dining Room.  

Fine dining at Park Hyatt Hyderabad is designed to pamper the palate, with signature restaurants, handcrafted menus, interactive kitchens, and a selection of premium wines and spirits. 

Tre-Forni, our authentic Italian restaurant, dishes up sumptuous Italian fare in an open kitchen concept. The delectable menu includes antipasti, pasta, pizza, and grilled premium meats using the finest ingredients from Italy's regions. 

The Dining Room, an all-day-dining restaurant with a theatrical open kitchen and elegant setting, serves a-la-carte dishes, Continental & Indian breakfast, freshly baked bread, and handcrafted fruit juices, as well as lunch and dinner buffets that cover the classics of Indian regional cuisine, Italian and pan-Asian cuisines. 

Derived from the name Paprika, Rika brings to the city of Hyderabad an evening experience that aims to set trends in the Food & Beverage industry with its unique concept and philosophy of dining and culinary theatrics. Rika has redefined the Hyderabad evening experience in a dramatic destination that curates modern Asian dishes under the umbrella of chillies based on their Scoville units.

Sexy, elusive, provocative, authentic and grounded are the key personality attributes for Rika. Designed for the youthful, Rika is a destination for a diverse audience to explore these different characteristics through the fieriness of chillies.

Another captivating aspect of our luxurious property is the way we do weddings at Park Hyatt Hyderabad. One of the city's biggest event spaces spread over 1500 sq meters; the Ballroom with adjoining open terrace and pre-function area calls for nothing short of grandeur. The Manor with six curated individual rooms makes our property ideal for intimate gatherings, both pre-wedding and post-wedding and social events. With limitless amenities, dedicated wedding planners, personalized and curated romantic dinners by the poolside, opulent spa and city's most sought after stylists at The Salon, and hotels accommodation options at the suites and The Residence, you would only need to worry about the ring. 

In the post-lockdown scenario, what changes are you witnessing in consumer behaviour? 

We can certainly notice that consumers have reduced and redirected discretionary spending, which is a natural response during and after crises. We understand that guests will remain concerned about exposure to the coronavirus and will be open to new technologies such as self-check-ins and check-outs, touchless payments, app-based services, augmented or virtual reality, and more. All of which we have embraced as well. 

Smaller wedding ceremonies with social distancing norms in place are also something we are witnessing. Weddings are getting leaner, but families still want the traditional way of conducting ceremonies and will still want to host weddings for their near and dear ones to witness. The shift from grandeur, larger than life, to small, intimate get-togethers and personalized weddings is what we expect to see in the near future. 

Reimagined guest experiences have been the focus of the property. With creativity and care, Park Hyatt Hyderabad gives guests and members greater control of their hotel journey and focuses on a more holistic sense of well-being from pre-arrival to check-out and beyond. The hotel is reimagining places and spaces to make social distancing seem like second nature, striking the right balance of connection and space. 

Tell us about your thoughts on the hospitality industry revival, keeping in mind the ongoing scenario.

Understanding how guest behaviour has evolved and responding effectively to those changes is integral in a post-pandemic economy. We will need to reimagine the customer experience and take deliberate action to maintain and build our guests' trust.  

Hotels will be required to make our guests feel safe and curate new offerings that encourage guests to get out of their homes, travel, and spend. Investing in technology is essential at this time. We must also aim to build a flexible and agile workforce.

Currently, the majority of travel is domestic leisure. The vaccination drive will drive confidence, and we should see most corporates opening up and resuming travel. International travel should also follow soon. 

The pandemic's impact is sure to fade, and I am certain that the economy will recover, and along with it, the hospitality industry will regain its footing soon as well. We need to be open to adapting to the new normal while being alert and agile.

What changes has the pandemic brought to the hospitality sector? 

While the pandemic has been a real learning experience for all, it has allowed everyone in the hospitality sector to rethink and change the ways of working. It has taught us the importance of being agile and adaptive to thrive in these scenarios. 

Digital transformation is always evolving. With constant updates to technology, at Park Hyatt Hyderabad, our teams are re-strategizing to ensure that we stay on top of the latest trends and advancements to enhance the guest experience. The World of Hyatt mobile app is a great example of the organization's efforts towards digital transformation on a global scale.  

The World of Hyatt app enables guests to customize their stays, providing a seamless experience throughout their travel journey. The app is anchored in single swipe navigation, allowing the user to view and access all the app features and hotel services with ease. Members can also manage all of their World of Hyatt account details, including available points, benefits, and awards balances. With this contactless solution, our guests are in control of how they connect with us.  

Recognizing the importance of nurturing one's well-being, we have also teamed up with Headspace. As World of Hyatt members, our guests enjoy complimentary mindfulness and sleep exercises in the World of Hyatt app and a thirty-day subscription to Headspace Plus – the app's all-inclusive, premium version. We aim to create a space where guests can wind down, stress less, and sleep soundly, and the curated meditations from Headspace enable us to make this vision come to life.  

Our colleagues' well-being is also extremely important to us, and as part of the same, all our colleagues also have access to Headspace subscription to help them manage their energy so you can be their Best! 

With Park Hyatt's continuous focus on sustainable initiatives, there is a now huge emphasis on zero waste practices, using ingredients thoughtfully sourced and carefully served, using recycled material, supporting the local community.

How do you plan to re-energise your business and attract more domestic travellers? 

Guided by its purpose of care and experience delivering world-class hospitality for more than 60 years, Hyatt last year announced a Global Care & Cleanliness Commitment to further enhance its operational guidance and resources around colleagues, guest safety, and peace of mind. Park Hyatt Hyderabad since then has paved a path forward to welcome back guests and customers, helping them once again experience the joy of travel. With a focus on safety first and well-being always.

With safety and well-being in mind, we listen to our guests and colleagues and work to create and introduce new experiences that will help reimagine the Park Hyatt Hyderabad journey. The most important element of welcoming back guests is doing it safely. We are going beyond cleaning to advance care across our entire hotel experience for guests, World of Hyatt loyalty members, and colleagues. Our multi-layered commitment expands on our existing rigorous protocols. It includes an accreditation process by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) at all Hyatt hotels around the world and a certified Hygiene & Wellbeing Leader in all locations. 

While digitizing our services in response to the pandemic, we have been working to understand our guests' present-day needs. What can we do to make guests feel safe and taken care of? How can the booking experience be made more seamless? What can we do to provide guests with a dining experience, i.e., the right balance between personal and minimal-contact?  

We have recognized that a majority of dining components have the potential to go digital. All our restaurant menus feature on Hyatt Restaurants – a web platform that brings together all of Hyatt's restaurants under one roof. To aid in creating a contact-less dining experience, we have generated QR codes that link to our digital menus on the Hyatt Restaurants webpage. Guests can scan the QR code to access our itemized menu list.   

Engagement through automation reduces the number of touchpoints for guests and colleagues alike. Our events team has researched today's meeting planners' needs, providing virtual tours of event spaces. Discussions on pre-event planning and preparation have moved from meet and greet to video conferencing. The majority of the event registration process has now shifted online, and newly-weds and corporate guests alike have lauded this move.  

Efforts have also been made to incorporate digital solutions into other significant parts of the guest experience – digitizing promotional collaterals, spa and gym consultation forms, dining feedback forms, etc. While major shifts have taken place over the last few months and we have advanced toward a world of digital by leaps and bounds, Park Hyatt Hyderabad's warmth and hospitality stay the same as always.   

With a strong focus on sustainable, responsible, and local sourcing, we aim to impact our local community positively, increasing opportunities for local businesses to grow and integrate with the needs of a larger organization. With training modules delivered online and in-person, the company's purpose and mission of sustainability are being inculcated in every colleague, with individual sustainability goals assigned to them during their daily operational routines.  

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Shobhit Sawhney Park Hyatt Hyderabad


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