Hospitality that leads from the Heart

With an aim to assimilate the concept of ‘heartfelt hospitality’ in India BW Hotelier got in touch with hospitality leaders.

Leaders spoke about the concept of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’, ‘Hoteliering from the Heart’, their investment on return on experience (ROE) and impressionable, memorable hospitality.

Zubin Saxena, Managing Director and Vice President Operations, South Asia, Radisson Hotel Group

#RadissonCares Initiative

Guest centricity is at the heart of the hospitality business. The true spirit of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ shone bright when in the thick of the pandemic, the industry staff took on the additional responsibility of emergency first responders at hotels converted into quarantine facilities. At Radisson Hotel Group, our priority has been to ensure safety and maximum flexibility for our guests. We implemented a 20-step protocol for hotels in partnership with SGS - world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. To offer as much flexibility and planning comfort as possible, we constantly updated our cancellation policy. We continued to extend our service proposition to guests even when they could not stay or dine with us. For instance, with #RadissonCares initiative, we leveraged our expertise across a range of service areas to help make a positive difference in the lives of our guests. The concept brought together tips and insights in the areas of housekeeping, food and beverage, elderly care, and health and wellness from our well regarded and globally recognized service professionals. 

Return on Experience (ROE)

Today more than ever, there is a need to delve deeper into ROE and enhance guest experiences to meet the sizeable shift in guest expectations- an enduring consequence of the pandemic. We have been working tirelessly to find new ways of delivering our brand promise and strengthening our connect with our guests. At the onset of the pandemic, under our #RadissonCares initiative, we had lit up the facades of various hotels in creative displays such as heart shapes, letters L-O-V-E and face masks, to let our guests know that we miss them and received an overwhelming response. 

Once the restrictions eased and we were able to welcome our guests again, we curated various new experiences such as contactless food delivery and safe takeaway services, special menus and the unique ‘Take Home a Chef’ concept for private catering or cooking classes. We have also been reinventing touchpoints like concierge services to serve them at their doorstep. Further, as domestic tourism started showing signs of recovery, we embarked on initiatives like India Road Trip that help us connect our entire network and offer unique experiences to our guests. 

Engaging Loyal Clients

Passionate hoteliers need to think creatively and find new ways of driving purpose-led engagement in order to elevate their level of guest service. At Radisson Hotel Group, empathy, transparency and our signature ‘Yes I Can!’ spirit is what distinguishes our signature hospitality from the rest of the industry. In today’s age of depleting brand loyalty and low consumer sentiment, it is more important than ever, for businesses and individuals of the industry to be flexible, agile and responsive to evolving guest expectations. 

Sunjae Sharma, Vice President & Country Head – India, Hyatt 

Purpose to Care

At Hyatt, our culture is defined by emotional connections, and not mere transactions. This reflects through our purpose to care for not only our guests, but our colleagues and the community at large, and finds expression in the three pillars we focus on - Feel for one’s emotional and mental wellbeing, Fuel for powering one’s body and soul and Function for helping one perform in their life, work and play. 

People nowadays are looking forward to experiences which differ from their regular routines and are indulging in short breaks in or around their own city in order to reconnect and unwind. We at Hyatt acknowledge this need and have reimagined our experiences in the hopes of revitalizing travel for our guests. 

Function: We are focusing on the safety and wellbeing of our guests like never before.  We have reimagined our hotel journey with an emphasis on bringing in new amenities and offerings, and are taking comprehensive steps to implement enhanced protocols that help guests feel comfortable and confident during their stay. Every Hyatt hotel in India and across the world has at least one person on the property trained as the Hygiene and Wellbeing Leader, who ensures adherence to our new operational guidelines. For meetings and events, our hotels are exploring audio-visual technology that offers our guests hybrid meeting options – on-property and remote – for large-scale events with social distancing in mind.

Feel: We have introduced enhanced digital amenities through the World Of Hyatt app that allows guests to choose how they connect and engage with us. Some of the new features allow guests to manage preferences like contactless check-in and checkout, mobile key entry to the rooms, a housekeeping scheduler and much more. 

Fuel: Our hotels are experimenting with new food and beverage offerings such as individual buffet-style meals that are curated and proportioned for each dining table. Our hotels also offer QR codes display menus so guests can browse options and order from their own mobile device. 

At some of our hotels, on- and off-property events and excursions are also being reimagined as private bookable leisure activities, such as garden or rooftop yoga classes, private bee-keeping, or trail expeditions with guided maps.

We care for our guests with all our heart, and are committed towards bringing the joy of travel back to the lives of our guests. 

Mindfulness Exercises and Guided Meditations 

At Hyatt, we are focused on taking a mindful approach to everything that we are doing, whether it is through culinary experiences or our initiatives towards ensuring physical or mental well-being of our guests. Through our exclusive collaboration with Headspace, we are offering guests, members and colleagues’ access to mindfulness exercises and guided meditations and sleep content via the World of Hyatt app. Guests are also offered enhanced fitness and wellbeing amenities in-room at some hotels, such as Exhale on Demand TV content, fitness equipment delivered to the guest room or spa kits and treatments available for delivery. 

Guided by our purpose to care, our loyalty program - World Of Hyatt offers guests personalised care and access to distinct benefits, such as the Guest of Honor program, which includes confirmed suite upgrades at time of booking, diverse wellbeing offerings, and exclusive member rewards to help guests connect with us in a more holistic way. This helps us drive the frequency and relevance of our connection to our guests and members. 

F&B has been another important part of our brand portfolio where the food is thoughtfully sourced and carefully served at all our hotels. We emphasize on curating enhanced and carefully cultivated dining experiences for our guests. For instance, AnnaMaya at Andaz is a modern European Food Hall in India, inspired by the colours and flavours of India offering guests a reflection of the destination’s culture. The menu is designed around consciously-sourced ingredients from local artisans who directly or indirectly contribute towards the well-being of society.

We have varied brands under our portfolio in India – all of which are specially designed to bring curated experiences to business, leisure, luxury or lifestyle travelers, helping us to cultivate connections with our guests.

Stellar Guest Service

Hotels must strive towards enhancing their services to provide memorable experiences to their guests. The ones that are able to deliver an unforgettable experience through an amalgamation of unique amenities, personal touches, and stellar guest services have been able to strengthen the relationship with their guests. 

In the new world order, innovation was key to meeting and understanding the needs of guests. You cannot be married to one fixed way of serving guests. Over the last year, the focus has shifted to ensuring the safety of the guests, without compromising on luxury and comfort. We at Hyatt have reimagined experiences within the hotel and also adopted innovative measures to ensure guests can experience our service from the comfort of their homes by introducing home deliveries, including do-it-yourself meal boxes for guests to assemble at home with the guidance of our Chefs. 

Hotels need to invest in and enhance digital amenities to provide guests with greater control over how they connect with us. This will help transform the nature of hotel service in the new normal - from scheduling housekeeping, choosing between pick-ups or knock-and-go food orders, mobile key entry, contactless check-in and checkout and more.

Lastly, caring for employees and colleagues is as important as caring for our guests. There needs to be renewed endeavours towards ensuring safety of all employees, such as implementing daily temperature checks, providing personal protective equipment like face coverings, enhanced training and guidance on social distancing, etc. They are after all the backbone of the industry and have been at the forefront of serving guests as hotels reopened. 

Advancing Care across all parameters of the industry is integral to ensuring that we can welcome back guests and be a haven for them at all times.  

Sudeep Jain, Managing Director, SWA, IHG

'Dil se Atithi Satkar'

At IHG, we are driven by a purpose of providing ‘True Hospitality’ and this reflects in every aspect of our operations. That means making everyone feel welcome, cared for, recognised and respected, and going the extra mile to create special guest experiences and lasting memories. For our guests specifically, we bring this commitment to life by providing the highest quality of service and going above and beyond to offer personalized experiences which caters to their specific needs - each of our hotel brands caters to guests in their own distinct way. 

With a large base of more than 100 million enrolled members, globally, IHG Rewards Club, our loyalty programme, is one of the largest guest loyalty programme in the hotel industry. This is testament to the confidence our guests have in our service and their love for our brands. 

Return on Experience (ROE) 

Consumer needs are evolving constantly, and we strongly believe that it is important for a business such as IHG to be innovative in our thinking and adapt to meet the demands of guests. This helps us stay relevant and hence stay connected with our guests. 

As an example, the Covid-19 pandemic has has brought about a significant change in current customer priorities and focus areas. Cleanliness, health and safety are now top priorities for many customers, and they are looking for reliable hospitality options which can offer them the assurance of a clean and safe stay. Our IHG way of clean programme has been successful in providing this assurance and we have seen an increase in confidence and gradual return of guests to our hotels across the country.  We also encourage our teams to be intuitive with our guests and determine the level of engagement and brand experience they are seeking on an individual basis. Some may want to have limited to no contact and some may want to get the same level of engagement that they were used to before, with an added lens of our brand experience. It about understanding individual needs and catering to them to make every guests’ experience a memorable one. 

With regard to return on experience, our ability to continue investing in our brands, technology and loyalty offer enables us to offer the best possible experiences to our guests, across our brands.

Offering best-in-class service

I believe a passionate hotelier should adopt a holistic approach directed towards understanding and caring for the individual needs of the customers and balancing that with the brand values. It is all about adding the ‘Heart to Hospitality’. At IHG, we are passionate about creating unique experiences, and offering the best-in-class service to our guests, across our brands and all our hotels. 

Vijay Dewan, Managing Director, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels Limited

Quintessentially ASPHL

This has always been the core aspect of Indian hospitality – our culture is innately warm and has always been very welcoming. It is the experiences that we create – that keep getting extended. And at Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels Limited, ours is a hospitality experience sprinkled with the unusual and the memorable. We create Anything But Ordinary experiences, from the moment a guest arrives, to the moment they leave and beyond, we want them to experience the remarkable.

Each hotel of us has a different experience, which when strung together will be quintessentially ASPHL. In every hotel we imbibe this very strongly.

Brand high on Customer Experiences

THE Park Hotels are heavily and strongly imbedded into Anything But Ordinary experiences. It is about how different moments of surprises are created. For instance, in the period of lockdown, we created new experiences – digital activations which brought together our consumers, brands and products. While we were reopening, we could observe the connect – customers came to back to us with a heightened sense of belongingness. 

Zone by The Park, our social-catalyst brand creates social experiences so that the guests can connect with the city through the brand itself. We let the customers choose their social avatar on Zone Scale. We help curate and recommend experiences based on what keeps it social for them in the cities we are present in. Our return on experience will always be high, because it defines us as a brand high on customer experiences. 

Hear the Customer!

A hotelier must always hear customers – their needs and their wants. At the moment, customers want product and service safety and hygiene. We rolled out touchless experiences – be it contactless check-in and check-out process, QR-based payment methods, contact-free sanitization processes. Working towards what the customer desires will always make for memorable experiences for them, in turn giving you competitive edge over others. 

As a hotelier, we cannot forget who we are – we are here to make experiences memorable so that our customer cherishes when looks back at his/ her stay. We introduced Chef and Bartenders at Home service which gave moments of cherish to our guests while they were at their homes. We made it possible to take THE Park to their homes, if they couldn’t come to us during the lockdown. 

Ajay K. Bakaya, Managing Director, Sarovar Hotels and Resorts

Treat every guest, as if he is a guest in your home

I have always followed a simple principle and we ask all our GMs in Sarovar to keep in their mind, that every guest in our hotel should be treated as a guest in one’s own home. You take care of guests coming to your house, you do it naturally and instinctively, behaviourally, attitudinally in every possible way you want. You want the guest to go back happy and you give him the best of what you have. If we imbibe that philosophy successfully and I think we do to a large extent, then your job, your Dharma is to make sure that the guests go back happy. So, it is quite simple, treat every guest, as if he is a guest in your home. Try not to do things that make him angry, if he is angry, locate him, and make sure he goes back happy and smiling. You check with him. You check with him two times a day, if not more often. 

Seamless service for ROE

Hotels were never just about rooms and restaurants. Lots of hoteliers ran it in that way as there was huge demand and less supply. Hotels are always about an experience, but it is a question of market supply and demand and how much, you are willing to stretch yourself and how much you are willing to bend your back. So, the answer is that with all the technology that is available, our job becomes a little easier. Right from the stage of reservation when I get a reservation query, we get back to a person enquiring, is there anything you want us to do. Do you need more information do you need anything at all? There is an interaction now, right from the reservation level. Whether the guest wants a tour with her family, or she wants to have a look at the local scenario, or she wants to visit a historical monument or she wants to go stargazing somewhere. She is asked for it even before she even arrives. Our job is so much simpler, Google tells you what is available, all you need to do is share the information with the customer. Those are ways and means of enhancing customer experience, making sure you are interacting, we could not interact earlier because we did not have the technology so freely available. So, it becomes easy. The other thing then is, if the guest has not shared that information with you before he or she comes in. You ask them at every stage if you can you help them with anything.

Treat every guest like a VIP!

What we all can do is remove any concept of VIP we are we are still in the clutches of VIP culture in India., I'm not saying it's restricted to India, but I think we take the cake when it comes to it. So rather than single out people saying, treat someone like a VIP because either somebody is in the government, press or whatever you need to eliminate the VIP culture.  When we opened our first hotel in Bombay, we knocked off any concept of VIP, no pink sheets, no fancy slips, no special amenities going into a guest room. You will treat everyone as a VIP. You give a certain level of service to every single guest who is coming and paying for a stay in the hotel. And that forces you to raise the level of your service and provide a better quality of service because then you are not restricting yourself to some people.

Extensive training programmes

If you have your heart in it, you will create those memorable experiences. The main proof of the fact that the heart is in it is that we are conducting very extensive training programs if you have training departments that are filled out with the right people. Those people are spending time and passing on your philosophy to the people on the shop floor. That is the only way to achieve it, you cannot achieve it through memos of some written philosophy. It has to be imbibed as the culture of the company; it has to come from the top down. As a heritage legacy and as an essential that we must be good to people, it has to go through training programs orientation programs, and be repeated again and again and again, the GMs must demonstrate it, managers must demonstrate it, the stewards must demonstrate it, the bellboys must demonstrate it.

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled '6TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL ISSUE VOL 7, ISSUE 1'


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