Engage with stakeholders with empathy and transparency: Rakhee Lalvani

At the recent BW HOTELIER’s 10th Breaking The Pandemic WebBlast: ‘Acing Communications in the New Normal’, Rakhee Lalvani, Vice President - Public Relations & Corporate Communications, IHCL (Taj Hotels) shared how the company has been reacting to various business challenges during the pandemic.

Communications has taken a central role today as the black swan event of the pandemic outbreak has forced the industries to reset and reboot their modus operandi. The hospitality sector has been revamping strategically in the past 100 days in order to stay ahead of the game.

Taj Hotels recently launched its food delivery app Qmin, which ensures to provide people at the comfort of their homes with rich culinary experiences from treasured restaurants of Indian Hotels Company Ltd (IHCL). The gourmet food delivery platform follows enhanced stringent protocols of safety and hygiene that include contact-less delivery and the mandatory use of protective gear for delivery executives in thoroughly sanitized vehicles. In fact, the company has not only strategically evolved with time as the crisis’ new face unfolds each day, but it has also been at the forefront by lending a helping hand with delivering 2.5 million meals to healthcare as well as migrant workers. The company has also hosted doctors and nurses in their hotels in Mumbai.

The head of PR and Corporate Communications for IHCL (Taj Hotels), Rakhee Lalvani speaking at the recent BW HOTELIER’s 10th Breaking The Pandemic WebBlast: ‘Acing Communications in the New Normal’ shared further insights on how the company evolved by communicating with the stakeholders while the pandemic has brought the world to its knees. She elaborated, “Nothing like this has paralysed the world the way it has today. There were no references or documentation to go by, so we were evolving our plan as we went along.”

“Each time, the compass was towards the need to make sure that we are communicating with our stakeholders. Our priorities shifted to ensure the safety and security of all our stakeholders, including our guests and employees and communicating that in a transparent fashion,” Lalvani said.

She also strongly stated, “We believe in engaging with stakeholders with empathy and transparency, telling them what the situation was and how we are reacting to it, which became quite imperative.” She highlighted that not only revenues or financial planning had to reset but also the ‘communications’ had to go through a complete revamp. “Our plans kept evolving but we never lost optimism. Even though, we had to rethink our entire business plan,” Lalvani added.  

Furthermore, Lalvani listed the trends that will drive the travel and hospitality sector in the coming future. She believes that the rebound and revival phase and eventually the thrival phase of the industry depends on ‘domestic tourism’ for short to medium term. She elaborated, “Within domestic tourism, we are already seeing trends of people taking short vacations in terms of driving holidays and just going to nearby places. Family vacations will be another big trend whereas overtourism (in a general sense, overtourism means overcrowding due to excess of tourists) is going to be completely out.”

Lalvani thinks that given the potential of 25 million outbound tourism available to the country, the industry, as a whole, should capitalize by pushing people to rediscover their own country. (Outbound tourism comprises of activities of residents of a given country traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment.) “Going forward, wellness will be another big trend because there is going to be a lot of focus on health and wellbeing,” she mentioned.

Taking the discussion towards her learnings from the pandemic, the Hotel Management graduate shared that she put herself on test in the kitchen after a long time and thus honed her cooking skills. On the professional front, she informed, “The pandemic has taught me to be patient, be accepting of the current situation, and how to navigate around it and come with the best outcome.”


Around The World