When times are tough, your people stand by you
BW HOTELIER talks to Vishal Kamat, Director, Kamat Group of Hotels, on his journey in maintaining the brand amid the pandemic along with the ethos on which the brand prides itself.
When Dr Vithal Kamat opened The Orchid Hotel Mumbai in 1997, it was based on his deep desire to give back to the society and Nature. At a time when no one paid attention to sustainability in operations, Dr Kamat had his eyes set on sustainable hospitality, especially in the five-star hotel space. With this aim, Dr Kamat created an environmentally sensitive brand through innovative eco-friendly practices, products and services and followed the best practices in the industry. This hard work resulted in The Orchid Hotel Mumbai Vile Parle becoming the first hotel in Asia to win the Ecotel Certification that signifies the hotel is completely environment-friendly in their operations, systems and processes and have a positive impact on the local communities.
Fast forward to 2021. The Orchid Hotels have expanded across India with presence in Mumbai, Nashik, Goa, Pune, Simla, Bhubaneswar, Dapoli, Konark and Lonavala. All these hotels are synonymous with a warm and friendly ambience and an ‘eco-friendly commitment’. “Kamat Hotels have always been a pioneer of various environment-friendly initiatives. Most of our hotels are constructed in unique ways to help support the environment wherein the construction design allows light and natural ventilation while reusing water, and keeping waste to minimum,” shares Vishal Kamat, Director, Kamat Group of Hotels.
While the pandemic forced the hospitality industry to have a closer look at their policies with regard to sustainability and adopted environment-friendly and less wasteful ones, the warm, friendly hospitality with strong eco-friendly ethos at The Orchid Hotels reiterated the fact that it had a solid foundation.
Kamat tells us that certain standards were changed at The Orchid Hotels as they were related to Covid protocols. “They have now become the norm. Apart from this, we have curated more packages towards long stay and staycations in metros and family holidays in resorts. All our Orchid and other brand hotels have intensified digital solutions in various aspects of the business. Also, there is greater flexibility for reservations as we understand anything can happen anytime,” says Kamat.
The pandemic has led the hotels to focus on waste management which has become essential to ensure they adapt sustainable operations to make them eco-friendly and economical. Kamat shares that in order to accomplish their goal in solid waste management, they follow the three Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. All solid waste is segregated at source into four different categories and food waste is again recycled into vermicompost, then used as rich fertiliser for the gardens. They also recycle waste water after filtering it for their flush tanks. “While many have these systems in place, what sets us apart is the grassroots commitment level of each Kamat family member towards ensuring that these practices are followed. While we do regular audits, it is amazing to see the zeal of our members towards the ethos,” he says.
Just as corporate travel was picking up at the beginning of 2021, the second Covid wave brought things to an abrupt halt. Though the situation is slowly turning moving towards normalcy, there is cautious optimism. Kamat is hopeful and says all this will change as a majority of citizens get vaccinated and businesses open up. “The companies can’t do away with conferences and dealer meets as they do more than just inform or review. They bond and strengthen the ties too,” he says, adding the domestic market is playing a major role in the revival of business fortunes and this positively impacts the hospitality sector.
The hotels have also witnessed a monthly increase in weddings and related events. “The brand’s credibility, cleanliness and sanitation protocols along with competitive prices are helping us,” shares Kamat.
Looking at the contributions of both MICE and social segments, Kamat says that their major properties always attracted the corporate segment as compared to social events in Mumbai, Pune and Odisha. “The ratio was 60/40 wherein 60 per cent business was corporate and 40 per cent social. Due to the pandemic, there was a major hit on the corporate segment due to travel restrictions and work from home culture. At the same time, the wedding segment picked up and business ratio turned vice versa – 70 per cent social and 30 per cent corporate events,” explains Kamat.
Kamat leads Maharashtra’s only fort heritage hotel, Fort JadhavGADH, that showcases 300 years of royal Maratha legacy. Kamat says the success of fort conversion could be possible only due to the royal family’s support who had faith in them and their team of architects and contractors who made it happen without any damage or alteration to the fort’s character. “It’s been a fantastic achievement and a super success, being the world’s only Maratha cultured fort experience and so close to Mumbai and Pune. We are connected to its history which has played a pivotal role in the lives of Chhatrapati Sahuji Maharaj, Shri Pilaji Jadhavrao and Peshwa Shri Baji Rao, the Maratha empire and its silent yet impactful mark on Indian history,” Kamat shares proudly.
Talking about his learnings as an entrepreneur during the pandemic, Kamat says that he takes each day as it comes. On the importance of strong ethos and family culture, he shares that when the times are tough, your people stand by you, but only if you have instilled in them the faith and confidence to back you.
“Many Indian companies have taken greater care than various foreign brands that shows the strong ethos and family culture of Indian brands. Hence, their staff also is just as committed to overcoming adversity,” he concludes.
This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'RESPONSIBLE HOTELIERING ISSUE VOL 7, ISSUE 3'
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