‘We fared better than others during the pandemic’

Our USPs have been total professionalism, focus on cost management, consistent revenues and audits, says Veer Vijay Singh, CEO & MD, Trance Hotels

It was post-retirement in 2015 as the COO and Senior Vice President of the Vivanta by Taj Group of Hotels that Veer Vijay Singh decided to join hands with his two lifestyle expert-hotelier sons and start life afresh. “I had several choices like joining a large hotel chain in the Middle East as a CEO or continue with the Taj Group but I chose to be an entrepreneur. My sons and I had a brainstorming session whilst we were visiting South Africa and came up with our vision and the name, Trance Hotels,” says Singh, CEO & MD, Trance Hotels.

Rest, as Singh shares, have been “small and steady steps” that Trance Hotels has taken in the last seven years. “We specialise in bespoke hotel management and consultancy services to our owners in various hospitality fields. Trance Hotels is perfect amalgamation of the old with the new, keeping in mind our ethos. We have not tried to expand in numbers but have been selective to choose unique and boutique hotels with like-minded partners / owners. Our USPs have been total professionalism which focusses on cost management and consistent revenues and audits by the Trance management,” adds the veteran hospitality professional who feels the present generation of Gen Y & Z / millennial have totally reversed the “Maslow theory on hierarchy needs” as the basic requirements of accommodation, meals, clothing and transportation have already been taken care of. “They need more challenges and different handling. They have a shorter life and believe they learn much more by working in different organisations. The word ‘loyalty’ doesn’t exist for them. During Covid19, a lot of hotel associates have tried moving to alternate sister industries or become entrepreneurs. Thus, there is a shortage of trained staff. At Trance, we endeavour to provide staff proper training who are working on incentivising, multiskilling and loyalty even if it is for a year or two,” says Singh.

He informs that Trance Hotels has recently acquired management of boutique and quaint retreat in northern Goa, Anahata Retreat. “Anahata has 21 rooms, each divided into 12 wooden and thatch-roofed eco-chic cottages, five Portuguese suites and four Anahata villas. All 12 are spacious, palm-thatched cabins built on stilts and divided into three categories: beachfront, sea view and garden view. All cottages are air-conditioned, the suites are sea view and are all air-conditioned with a private terrace and comfortable furniture. The Anahata villas are our largest rooms, build with mango wood flooring and are air-conditioned with en-suite bathroom. They don’t have a sea view but are facing a large garden,” he says.

The second recent addition at Trance Hotels, post-Covid19, has been Trance Babylon with 80 keys. Located in the Hi-Tech city, every room is provided with a complimentary RO filter bottle and can be refilled from the water dispenser placed on each floor. “The Bollywood Café offers a quick bite while the recreation zone helps them entertain them,” Singh adds.

Getting nostalgic, Singh shares a bit about Trance Greenfields Resort & Convention Centre, the first hotel with Trance Hotels since 2016. “Sprawled over 24 acres of plush land, having the largest convention centre, 45 rooms, two restaurants, a spa, a swimming pool, lawns and recreation facilities, it offers a variety of indoor and outdoor activities. What’s more, it is half an hour away from the financial district and the airport,” he shares.

Post-Covid period 

“Trance fared comparatively better than others during the pandemic. Though we took a strategic decision of moving out from some of the properties, we noticed that the hotel owners were looking for good management companies with professional background and/ or who could provide consultancy for new projects. This has been a new avenue to our business and large number of consultancy assignments have fallen in our lap. The existing hotels have performed well as Goa is one of the destinations which has shown better occupancies and ARRs than previous years. Anahata Retreat, managed by Trance, averaged between Rs 12,000 and Rs 14,000 ARR during the peak season,” says Singh.

He adds that Trance Greenfields Resort & Convention Centre proved to be the favourite destination for weddings. “The hotel’s revenues have increased over the previous years during the pandemic period as we have large banquet halls and gardens. Recently opened Trance Babylon is also showing high occupancy due to it being strategically located in the heart of the hi-tech city in Hyderabad,” Singh says.

Business model 

“Trance believes in strict management of properties though it was difficult to convince owners to begin with to join hands with us. However, they slowly realised that we were in a better position to give far more time and interest to each of their properties and take corrective measures in consultation with them. Moving forward, we are considering to get a financial partner and look at lease models also as we have been approached by several heritage property owners in Rajasthan,” says Singh.

Scope for growth in India’s hospitality industry 

The veteran hotelier feels the industry has shown strong revival and average occupancies during off-season have started climbing over 65 per cent. “Average Room Rates (ARRs) have gone up by 15-20 per cent though it has been driven by domestic travellers,” he says, adding that his advice to all hoteliers is to have different segments of customers and not be dependant on weddings. “I strongly urge them, especially hill and sea resorts which are witnessing a large influx of domestic tourists, to not charge extremely high rates or ARRs and ‘kill the goose that lays the golden eggs’,” Singh says. He also talks about the slow but steady revival of corporate clients and MICE segment picking up. “International travel and tourists will only show a good revival next year as the Russia-Ukraine conflict has taken up the inflation quite high in all countries,” says Singh.

Challenges & Future plans

Singh shares that the hospitality industry needs to overcome:

a. Revival of international airlines – Unfortunately, one is seeing several strikes by the airline staff, cancellation of a large number of flights. Hope this improves asap and international tourists can start coming back.

b. Getting good trained manpower – Need to relook at manpower numbers and strategy and increased emphasis on internal training.

c. High fixed costs – Resulting in low profits, totally new strategies need to be derived for cutting down large fixed costs of payroll, fuel, power and light and raw material. Hoping that the government is listening and will give the due support that is required to bring back this industry.

On his future plans, he says, “We have a vision to have around 20 hotels by 2025 and also concentrate on opportunities for consultancy assignments.” 

Capitalising on new and emerging trends 

The Indian hotel industry, in the last couple of years, says Singh, has sustained itself mainly due to weddings and some amount of surge of domestic travellers (as we call vengeance tourism post-Covid19). “The new trend is to focus on creating larger number of channels for bookings and segment of customers. One is also witnessing much shorter booking times and therefore, one will have to plan the strategies much swifter which is mainly due to digital marketing and customers planning for shorter holidays in the last moment. The millennials are now looking more for experiences rather than just cookie-cutter hotels. The high quality wi-fi and IT is a must and if the hotel does not provide it, there’s disaster. There is a shift from servile traditional style and hospitality to a most informal style of service which is unobtrusive.  There is a certain wave and interest for people in wellness centres as living has become more sedentary and there are more lifestyle diseases due to lot of work pressures,” he feels.

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'BW HOTELIER - THE TALENT POOL SPECIAL'


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