‘Trends in hospitality industry will always be in a state of flux’
With over two decades of experience in world-class luxury hotels, Sunil Kumar, General Manager at The Westin Hotel, Anjuna, brings to the role his dexterity in hospitality operations and management
Perfectly located amidst the bustling nightlife scene of Anjuna in close proximity to all the popular tourist haunts, sun-kissed Arabian Sea beaches and verdant green hills along with countless opportunities for adventure and rejuvenation, The Westin Hotel, Anjuna with 171 well-appointed rooms and suites in five room categories has been welcoming guests for close to 20 months now. At the helm of affairs is General Manager Sunil Kumar, a passionate hotelier with a strong business insight. With a history of working with brands like The Oberoi Hotels, St Regis, Westin, Hyatt and more, Kumar has extensive knowledge of organisational development and growth, process orientation and personnel management. Prior to joining The Westin Goa, Kumar was hotel manager at JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu and has worked with Four Seasons as Hotel Manager. At The Westin Goa, Kumar brings forth his beliefs in personal well-being to offer an enriching experience for everyone who walks in through the doors of the luxury resort.
Looking back at 2022, Kumar shares that the year started off on a turbulent note but soon stabilised post-Omicron. “The hospitality industry, as a whole, saw some respite after the first quarter passed and there has been a notable stabilisation since. We, as a property, also saw a considerable increase in numbers, both on the books and within the property, in terms of footfalls. The key to winning the game in hospitality, as most of us already know, is patience. Trends in the industry will always be in a state of flux given the nature of client demands but with a right amount of endurance, strategy, and teamwork both at and beyond the property level, will uplift the industry as a whole,” he says.
Predictions for Goa market in 2023
“It goes without saying that 2023 will be a much better year for us and the fraternity, considering the recent opening of the Mopa Airport, the launch of which is expected to boost the socio-economic development of the state and significantly improve connectivity and exponentially increase tourism in Goa,” feels Kumar adding that time and again Goa has shown resilience in the face of a crisis. “We, as a property, have grown through the years despite having launched amidst the pandemic. Our business on books seems to be quite promising moving into 2023 and we’re ready to push the boundaries and break through the market in the coming year,” he says.
Plans to stabilise business and attract more guests
Kumar opines that one of the critical areas of focus for 2023 will be expanding their client base. “Beginning with a much stronger corporate portfolio, we look to stabilise the business by plugging in these accounts with preferred rates since we’re past the ramp up stage. We’re also strategising from both a marketing and sales vertical to accelerate traction for social events like weddings, special celebrations, and landmark moments along with a dedicated campaign to drive leisure travel,” he informs.
“With rapid industrialisation and capital expansion, we must be more mindful and aware of our footprint. At a property level, we have grown and introduced numerous initiatives and practices in order to operate in a more sustainable manner since our inception,” says Kumar, adding that The Westin Goa has dispensers installed in shower area, the minibar is 100 per cent plastic-free, there are EV charging stations in the parking lot as also a waste decomposition plant. “Whilst we are not 100 per cent there yet, our intent moving into 2023 is to adapt our practices to honour the same. We are also looking at the feasibility of introducing a bottling plant to discontinue plastic all together,” he shares.
India’s G20 Presidency and opportunities for tourism industry
Hosting G20 Presidency is a matter of great pride, opines Kumar, adding that it is an exceptional opportunity to showcase the diversity of the country, be it through its resources, cultures, cuisines or landscapes. “This has the potential to catapult the tourism industry by leaps and bounds by using the G20 Summit as a launch pad to attract a new wave of tourism. The Government should look into initiatives that would accelerate the growth of the industry and suffered the most due to the pandemic. For an instance, distributing the attendees across top brands could potentially convert each delegate into a spokesperson for the industry,” he says.
Rising costs of travel
As per recent reports, flight costs have shot up by at least 66 per cent on domestic routes and about 23 per cent on international routes from pre-pandemic year of 2019. “Whilst the rise in the flight prices might be alarming to say the least, Indian travellers for our segment are not deterred by the investment. In fact, India is one of our largest source markets. As far as international tourism is concerned, given the current news regarding a new wave approaching we're banking on a higher traction from domestic markets given the ease to travel quotient that's attached to these travellers specifically,” shares Kumar.
Vision for 2023
Expecting some stability in 2023, Kumar says there are three segments he is personally interested in to drive to business to the hotel: weddings, MICE and corporate. “Apart from this, at a property level, we want to stay true to the ways of Marriott and take good care of our team that stuck by us in supremely trying times and retain and elevate the talent within,” he sums up.
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