'Need to Be Multi-Functional, Innovative, Aligned': Experts

The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically changed the operation of numerous sectors in the world, including hospitality. Eminent panel consisting of prominent industry honchos joined together in the 5th edition of the ‘Indian Hospitality Awards and Summit 2020’ to represent their work and share perspectives for leading the industry from touch-less to delivering numbers.

Moderated by Rahul Pandit, MD & CEO, Hamstede Living, an esteemed panel comprising of the General Managers of some of the best-known hotel properties in the country came together to share their perspective on the impact of pandemic and what all needs to be done as a business today and for the coming tomorrow. 

“The impact of the COVID on business has been quite deep and even six months down the pandemic, we are still struggling. The most sensitive business is the industry of hotels. There are huge amount of losses accumulating in most of the hotels. Also, food and beverage industry has come to a halt,” said Parveen Chander Kumar, Area Director- West India and GM, Taj Lands End Mumbai.

So, what needs to be done? 

“Having an engaged body of associates will remain the key moving forward because guests will come back, business will come back,” said Chris K. Franzen, Area Vice President – West India, GM, Grand Hyatt Mumbai Hotel & Residences. He said multitasking will be the credo of the future “My guidance to owners in these challenging times is to trust the management teams. Be very careful with the short-term solutions or decisions,” he said. 

Pandit asserted, “No dominating society exists today without a strong hospitality structure. We need to have pragmatic development norms in the country. We are going to see a massive yield compression for next four years, leisure is going to be a silver lining.”

What about pricing and profitability in the coming years? 

Sharad Puri, General Manager, JW Marriott, Juhu, Mumbai said the need of the hour was to be cautious on pricing. “Dropping rates will not create demand, we need to create and generate demand. Also, profitability has been hit terribly and to maintain it we need to keep a very good eye on rates because input costs are going to go down,” Puri said. He had his take on how to popularize micro weddings? “We have had learning from the west on how to make small weddings lavish. We have to focus on how to make micro weddings lavish and focus on increasing revenues and generating demands in terms of promoting a destination. We concurred that most of the demands that come in will be from India. This is a great opportunity for us to capitalize on what India has to offer for leisure destination,” he said. 

Kunal Chauhan, General Manager, The Leela Palace, Bangalore talked about how to turn crisis into an opportunity, “We’ve had quite a hit here and we see this will at least, run through entire 2020. Demands will take some time to come back. However, there are many opportunities which exist such as staycations, distance drivable destinations which happens to work very well for us because we are surrounded with many cities. They’ll be a concise effort by all hoteliers trying to showcase the leisure feel that Bangalore can bring in,” he said.

“Occupancies of our hotels are down by 60 per cent as compared to last year. In past couple of months, we’ve tried to work overtime trying to reimagine and reset our business. Every cost as much as every new avenue of business development has been thought of. A similar amount of effort has gone into relooking at our business model and seeing wherever we can bring inefficiencies. Looking at the brighter side, this crisis will reinvent our businesses in the long run,” Chauhan stated. He further emphasized on the microscopic view of every cost lever to ensure that the asset quality does not deteriorate which is very important to the hotels’ business.

Atul Bhalla, Area Manager West, ITC Hotels & GM, ITC Maratha, mentioned, “It’s been an extremely tough time for all of us. I see the hotel industry as first to go out and last to come in, in situations like these which have a negative impact. In terms of profitability, numbers dropped very heavily. I have never seen such an impact ever in my life. It is not going to come back soon; we need to rationalize cost completely.”

“Considering the present scenario, multi-functionality is the name of the game. There is still some more time to get settled down but we have to learn to live and the economy has to win from this war. Let us not think this is revival, we are still in survival phase,” Bhalla added.

Manish Sodhi, CEO, Hotel Sahara Star shadowing upon his brand said, “Nobody was aware of the next steps after whatever happened in March. The management has had a conscious call that our hotels will remain closed till the time we know that it’s safe to open. Within those five months we’ve ensured the parameters in terms of safety of guests and for our team members are per industry norms. We are happy to announce that few weeks from now, we’ll go live. We’ve partnered with a good app. All the guest aspects have become no-touch or low-touch. We’ll ensure that whenever guest checks in, they’ll have safety barrier without compromising the human feel.


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