‘MICE, weddings and leisure are the biggest markets in India’
Souvagya Mohapatra, Managing Director, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan, Atmosphere Hotels and Resorts, speaks on plans, progress and the way forward for the brand in countries under his charge
His portfolio is in many manners more complicated than the Maldives story, given the large expanse of responsibility and geography, especially with India being a fiercely competitive place in the hospitality industry. To counter this challenge head-on, Atmosphere Hotels and Resorts has Souvagya Mohapatra, Managing Director, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan in place. With a rich experience of nearly three decades in the hospitality industry, Mohapatra has had a history of commitment, considering the fact that he was associated with the Mayfair Group for over two-and-a-half decades.
An astute professional with a consistent and an exceptional record of success in developing quality management of prestigious hotels, building guest relationships and improving revenues, performance and profile, Mohapatra shares that the Group is not keen on growing very fast. “We will choose the best and thereafter start operations,” he says, adding the business development team at Atmosphere Hotels and Resorts is in the process of striking deals with four or five hotels in India. “In Nepal, we are in discussion stages while we already have an offer from Bangladesh. Bhutan is yet to be explored,” he shares.
Mohapatra says the Maldives has created a benchmark in hospitality which he wants to bring to India and the Asia Pacific. “The four countries I hold in my portfolio come under the Indian Ocean and their cultures as well as the people visiting them are almost the same. Therefore, the nature of business is simple. We will soon get the ‘Joy of Giving’ to these nations,” he says.
Atmosphere Hotels and Resorts, shares Mohapatra, will be soon announcing their first project in the region, likely by the first week of August 2022. “We expect operations of our India projects up and running by the end of the year 2022”.
He adds that they have an approved project from the government of Odisha in Bhubaneswar. “It will be one of our first deluxe properties with 180 rooms and a banquet hall with a seating capacity of 3,000 guests. There is an offer for a resort at Chilika Lake as well and we have forged tie-ups in Konark, Puri and Gopalpur-on-Sea,” says Mohapatra.
Sharing his views on how similar or distinct will the business model and brand architecture in India be when compared with the operations in the Maldives, he says, “We will prefer the managed route and we are looking out for properties in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan along similar lines. Atmosphere, being from the Maldives, has a sense of resource management, whether it is manpower, food or guest management.” Mohapatra adds that the Group will be bringing in OZEN, Atmosphere and OBLU to India. “We are trying to create another brand for small luxury properties,” he discloses.
With the Indian diaspora having touched the 20 million mark globally, Mohapatra says he has observed that people want to come back to their Motherland to trace their roots. “Moving forward, it will be one of our segments: to find the roots. As we have a worldwide network, we are targetting guests coming to India, Nepal and Bhutan as they love visiting these countries. After the Maldives, the second option will be Atmosphere in India as everyone wants the best in leisure and we are the best in the segment. Also, we are not only focussing on metros but Tier II and Tier III cities too,” he shares. However, Mohapatra feels the biggest challenges are logistics, manpower and legal along with statutory aspects. “But then the opportunities are huge. Now, every state government, for the last five years, has been competing with one other in terms of inviting investors and highlighting new destinations,” says the man with close to three decades of experience in the hospitality industry.
On indicators being strong about leisure segment in India post-Covid19, Mohapatra feels spiritual tourism has got a big boost post-pandemic. “Everyone wants to put the best of the hotels next to a spiritual tourism destination,” he shares, adding that it is a misnomer when people say the Maldives is expensive. “There is a massive middle class income group which arrives in the Maldives. I feel that the Indian guests should not and never be underestimated,” avers Mohapatra, a hotel management graduate from Bhubaneswar.
He feels that MICE and weddings along with leisure are the biggest markets at present in India. And he wants to add sports tourism to this list. “MICE and wedding segments will cover 75 per cent of our market but then there are other niche segments like jungle tourism or guests wanting to explore a lake or an island as also sports tourism we need to explore,” explains Mohapatra who can miss anything in a day but not his morning walk and meditation.
As our man from Bhubaneswar readies to extend the footprints of the Atmosphere Group in India as well as Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan, a dream he has been wanting to turn into reality, one recalls the words of famous American statesman Colin Powell: “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work”.
This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'BW HOTELIER MAY-JUNE 2022'
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