Are we moving in the right direction?
During a Leadership Session on Growth Lessons From The Pandemic at the 6th edition of BW HOTELIER Indian Hospitality Summit and Awards, hoteliers discussed how to build India as a brand central to the lessons learnt during the pandemic
To meet the next set of challenges in the post-pandemic world, Indian hospitality leaders joined a discussion on how to make the most of the lessons learnt during the challenging period. In a panel moderated by Rahul Pandit, CEO, Horizon Industrial Parks; Aman Nath, Founder & Chairman, Neemrana Hotels; Vijay Dewan, MD, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels; Nikhil Sharma, Regional Director-Eurasia, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Vikramjit Singh, President, Lemon Tree Hotels Limited, put forth their respective opinions on the subject.
Leading the discussion, Rahul Pandit pointed out the global potential of India in the tourism and hospitality sector. “While most nations are worried about growth, India is debating whether we will witness a 6.8 or 7 per cent growth in the next five to 10 years,” he said, adding the question remains as to in which direction will the industry move and where will we see more innovation and creativity? Also, which markets still remain untapped and what are the current challenges faced by the hotel industry and how are we tackling them?
Bringing in the perspective of owners and managerial staff, Nikhil Sharma felt his biggest learning from the pandemic was to support third-party owners and employees during the period. “Wyndham Hotels & Resortsstuck to growing its portfolio in the country and franchising through implementing third-party operators. In this process, it was important to work closely with partners and help them through this trying time. When layoffs became inevitable, Wyndham ensured employees received employment opportunities in other parts of the service industry. Engagement with third-party owners, having an owner-first mentality and taking care of employees was part of the success mantra,” he said. Sharma also spoke about creating a brand that catered to all of India, including the remotest parts of the country.
Joining the conversation, Vikramjit Singh emphasised on the need to make the service industry more attractive for the next generation. “I’m told that around 60 per cent seats remain empty in hotel schools. So, the question is how are we filling them? The career trajectory is not what it used to be a decade ago. We need to make these jobs more attractive,” he felt, adding that while increasing salaries seemed to be the “obvious” solution, it is not the most sustainable option. He suggested sharing margins with employees, building motivation and fixing career trajectories across the board. “We, as an industry, did not take care of our people. The pandemic was unexpected, and we didn’t know what had hit us and we didn’t know how to react,” Singh said.
Speaking on branding, Aman Nath said that people don’t come to India to see the same hotels they have back home. “They want something different and more authentic to our country and its values,” said Nath, emphasising on the need to stick to Indian values as they are “our trump card and people do not come here for excess that is not India’s message.” Austerity is a virtue in India and sticking to these principles is what makes the country and its hospitality unique and attractive to foreign travellers, he felt. “Hospitality is a part of our core values. Instead of forcing people to learn hospitality one way, we should learn from them and incorporate it in our schools,” Nath suggested.
Some of the post-pandemic trends are celebratory in nature for the Indian customer, felt Vijay Dewan, adding, “Indians are celebrating festivals, weddings and travel like never before. These segments are booming like never before.” He added the period could be termed as the Golden Age for the hospitality sector in India as 24 million jobs are likely to be added in the next five years to the industry.
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