‘Our coping strategy was to execute impending projects and plans’

In a conversation with BW HOTELIER, Puneet Dhawan, Senior VP Operations, Accor India & South Asia reviews 2021 for the brand along with giving some insights on customer expectations and consumer behaviour

As the year draws to an end, it is time to retrospect what went our way and what didn’t. The year 2021 came with a lot of unexpected challenges, from the second wave to the advent of the new Omicron variant. During this course, the hospitality industry has evolved rapidly with technological, socio-economic and demographic changes taking place almost regularly. Puneet Dhawan, Senior VP Operations, Accor India & South Asia is of the opinion that 2021 has been a year of emerging trends and adoption of new methods of operation.  

In a conversation with BW HOTELIER, he reviews the year for the brand along with giving some insights on customer expectations and consumer behaviour.   

The year 2021 in review  

It has been a year of sheer grit and patience for the hospitality industry. We, as a country, achieved a remarkable milestone of one billion vaccinations that sketches our dedication towards the safety of people. With mitigation in travel restrictions – both internationally and domestically, we are witnessing an upsurge in demand for travel and noticing travellers’ confidence rebounding. People are now venturing and enthusiastically exploring leisure destinations, carrying out business and outdoor corporate meetings, destination weddings, staycations and workcations to offbeat locations in vicinity. Consequently, 2021 has been a year with various new trends emerging, adoption of new methods of operating, and better prospects for the industry in general.   

Changing consumer behaviour  

Commenting on the change in consumers’ mindset around travelling during the pandemic and in general, Dhawan expressed that people are willing to spend handsomely, given the fact that they have accumulated more disposable income during this time. “The lockdown and restrictions for the tourism sector had multifold effects – people stayed put for a year-and-a-half which is now resulting in them having more disposable incomes. A larger part of their savings is being spent on celebrations and travel as a way to relive the days spent during the lockdown. This is a trend that is being observed and people are willing to spend lavishly to celebrate with their near and dear ones,” he shares.   

Rising from the ashes  

Putting across the challenges that the brand faced during the year and the counter-measures taken to overcome them, Dhawan says, “Our priority for the past two years was the expansion of the regional Accor network across various cities and popular leisure destinations. However, owing to the pandemic and its ever-evolving after-effects, we had to postpone several new hotel openings for about an average of six to nine months. Subsequently, our coping strategy was to execute the impending projects and plans in pipeline by Q4 of 2021, which we have successfully achieved along with additional new openings like Raffles Udaipur, Novotel Chandigarh Tribune Chowk and ibis Mumbai Vikhroli.”  

Intensified demands through ‘revenge travel’  

According to Dhawan, revenge travel fuelled the demand during the pandemic due to which there has been an unprecedented surge in the number of domestic travellers. “Revenge travel did play a major role in the revival of travel demand, and we expect this trend to continue in the New Year as well. Guests continue to look for a change from their mundane schedules, weekend getaways and same city staycations are major demand drivers at the moment. The percentage of local guests have also increased significantly across our properties, especially in metro cities with people spending extravagantly on vacations as a result of the pandemic and various restrictions,” he says. 

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