‘Millennials and Gen Z will prove to be instrumental in the travel industry's recovery’: Sunil Narang

The General Manager of Four Seasons Hotel, Mumbai speaks to BW HOTELIER about the Mumbai hospitality market, popular travel trends and the year 2021 in a nutshell among other things.

Apart from room occupancy, what drives Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai’s business more?  

In pre-COVID times, Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai's revenues were driven by a mix of room occupancy, corporate meetings, social events like weddings, our members-only business and networking space – The Club and bespoke dining experiences at our Pan-Asian culinary destination, San:Qi, and the award-winning AER – Bar and Lounge. While the pandemic may have put the brakes on some of these revenue streams momentarily, we've seen an upward growth in certain ancillary revenue streams like food deliveries and takeaways, which has not just helped generate revenue but has also expanded the clientele of the hotel.   

How has been the year 2021 so far?

A hopeful one so far. We are seeing strong optimism from domestic travellers. Year-long lockdowns have created pent-up demand and reports indicate that travel is expected to surge mid-year. We are also seeing an increase in staycations and a positive upward curve month-on-month as weekends occupancies are getting stronger. With social events like weddings and celebrations slowly making a comeback, we are hopeful that other segments like corporate travel may also pick up the pace soon, supported by a higher percentage of vaccinations and travel restrictions easing up.   

Can you throw some light on the ancillary revenue options that you explore for optimising revenue in the current scenario? 

F&B deliveries and takeaways have been a key revenue driver for us through the past year. In 2020, we introduced full scale of dining experiences that our guests could enjoy in the comfort of their homes. We started off with a limited menu of signatures like San:Qi's Mapo Tofu, Highway Murgh Tikka and Tandoori Raan that are highly requested for and enjoyed by our guests, and specialities focussed on health and well-being. As the trend of dining at home and celebrations continued, we saw this ancillary revenue stream as an addition to our F&B offerings and since then have expanded our delivery selections to include San:Qi’s extensive Pan-Asian preparations, fully-customisable edible hampers, a range of Gourmet Fresh dips, sauces and spreads and seasonal specials; all made to order, allowing Mumbaikars to bring home the taste of Four Seasons.    

What is your take on the role of technology in the market revival?

As travel begins to pick up again globally, we recognise the expectations and needs of the hotel experience have changed, and this is where technology comes into play. Digital has become ever so important and smart digital solutions that enhance, not replace, human connection is essential. At Four Seasons, we are fortunate to have the Four Seasons App and Four Seasons Chat in place to engage and communicate with our guests. Features such as contactless check-in and check-out were already available with us prior to the current restrictions but have gained immense popularity in recent times. Four Seasons Chat has become a crucial technological integration in this new environment. It supports over 100 languages, with 75 per cent of responses occurring in 90 seconds or less and is available on nine global platforms, translating 100+ different languages in real-time.  

Additionally, we have also rolled out Hybrid Meetings by Four Seasons that combines design with the latest audio-visual technology making it easier to bring people together in a reimagined meetings and events offering.  

How soon do you think the Mumbai hospitality market will recover in the aftermath of Covid-19? What are your plans to re-energise the business? 

The Mumbai market is well on its path to recovery. We're already seeing an upward growth in occupancies, especially over the weekends. Staycations are a major focus for us and we're actively promoting Four Seasons getaways to guests via an array of marketing and sales touch points while working within the guidelines set forth by the local authorities.  

The domestic leisure market is a key focus for us at present and will continue to remain so in the near future. Reports indicate that millennials and Gen Z are among the first ones eager to travel and will prove to be instrumental in the travel industry's recovery. And we're seeing this prediction cascade into our hotel's guest profile as well. Our newer audiences include a younger demographic of travellers who are experiencing Four Seasons Hotel Mumbai's gamut of offerings for the first time.  

Staycation has become one of the most popular trends in holidays. What is unique in your staycation offers for the guests who can enjoy a perfect blend of work and vacation?

With remote working firmly established as an important part of the new normal, an increasing number of people are enjoying the freedom to work from any place of their choice. The mix between business and leisure travel has become even more blurred and to cater to the evolving needs of our guests, Four Seasons will soon be launching a new global guest-centric initiative called Work at Leisure. This intuitive service is a combination of elevated product components, service enhancements and special touches to allow guests extra comfort and productivity in our hotels. In addition, we're also taking the staycation experience one notch higher by curating hyper-personalised services and offerings for our guests. We're going that extra mile to ensure time spent with us, whether vacationing or working, is made unforgettable every step of the way.

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