We are expecting the normalcy from the third quarter of 2021: Vinesh Gupta

BW HOTELIER interactes with Vinesh Gupta, General Manager, The Den Bengaluru, to get a glimpse of the recovery trends, the potential of small social gatherings, incorporation of ‘Security and Safety Protocols’ to their services, segments driving the performance of the hotel, and much more.

According to JLL’s Hotel Momentum India (HMI) Q4 2020, Bengaluru witnessed the sharpest decline of 77 per cent in RevPAR in Q4 2020 compared to the same period the year before. However, as travellers are opting for concepts like staycation and revenge travel, the hospitality sector in Bengaluru is preparing for its revival.

On the current hospitality market scenario and the response in terms of room occupancy, Vinesh Gupta, General Manager The Den Bengaluru said, “It is certain that the worst is behind us and we are seeing a very positive and encouraging trends both from the companies and the leisure guests. Domestic travel has started but in a slow pace. The business travel has not yet close to normal. However, we are seeing ray of hopes for leisure travel. Leisure travel has opened up again and showing signs of increased uptick in terms of demand. There has been a significant increase in bookings in coming months from domestic travellers. The market has seen 32-36 per cent occupancy in Bengaluru market (December 2020).”

Commenting on the new opportunities available for hoteliers in 2020, he said, “Now more than ever guests are looking to industry trailblazers to create safer and unique customer journeys, sometimes, as we’ve learned last year. Revenge travel is the new trend and the Indian hospitality sector is looking to make the most of 2021. We are expecting an increase in curated social experiences and weddings.  We are already seeing opportunities in small social gathering with personalised F&B spread and tailor-made events. Similar trends are visible with our staycation guests, who don’t mind spending a premium for an experiential stay.”

He believes that the world might not look the same as a consequence of COVID-19 pandemic. However, he stated that currently, people are exploring travel more cautiously. “We are expecting the normalcy from the third quarter of 2021. We are fortunate to have patrons who believe in our safety protocols. For the new guests the most important keys should be ‘trust’ and ‘innovation’. We have to retain trust amongst the new and old customers be it in MICE, restaurant, social events or corporate sector. We need to remember that once a guest arrives at the hotel, there are at least 15 - 20 ‘visible touch points’ and more than 50 invisible but strategically important touch points. These touchpoints create trust between the hotel and guests. Our hotel’s image was always positioned as a safe and an appealing place for travellers which helping us to gain guests visit – in our restaurants or booking rooms stress-free and confidently,” he added.

When asked about the distinguishing features of ‘The Den Bengaluru,’ he commented, “The Den has always stood out from the time we planned and opened the hotel. It is the first Millennial Luxury hotel in India, where the focus is on understated luxury. We have successfully carved a niche in the market, where our guests expect and request luxe quality – be it in service, product or quality without any intimidation or hang-up’s. Guests recognise us for our original and creative ideology, curative and quality delivery skills, personalisation with the penchant of something original; and at the same time the comfort of connecting with the team without any hang-up’s.”

He then gave a few pointers critical for transitioning from survival to revival:

* Confidence amongst the travellers that they are safe and the life is reaching near normalcy.

*  Removing restrictions on travel completely – though the safety norms should not be compromised at any stage.

*  International perception management and instilling confidence at a Macro Level that it is “Safe to Travel” to India.

*  All business, offices and other administrative activities to go back to pre-covid era.

*  Government’s support to Tourism and Hotels – have some Performance Linked Incentives in place apart from the usual EPCG and SEIS benefits

*  Knowledge sharing and using AI and big data with a generous dose of confidence, so that there is no predatory business tactics and sanity in pricing

We see the business dynamics changing for at least next 18-24 months and we saw it coming way back in Mid-2019. The traditional corporate business will start to revive slowly, but that cannot be a game changer for us as we depended a lot on international travel. MICE will be mutated at least in 2021,” he expressed.

Furthermore, he shared some of the expected business drivers in the coming days:

*  Social Events – The myth of prohibitory pricing at five stars is slowly waning. The international destination events have reduced, but the same are starting to happen locally, hence a respite.

*  Long Stay / Project Business – To be treated as a base / filler business; this was never our focus. It is the tested survival tactic that we see to continue for some time.

*  MSME – A lot of local micro and medium sized companies have started their travel and their need for accommodation – mostly overnight.

*  Domestic Corporate – There are certain sectors of economy and industry that have been minimally hit. We are focussing on such local business’s as our mainstay business

*  Local Leisure – With the pandemic affecting the normal lives of people, and having surplus incomes left unspent, this is turning out to be an interesting market – be it Staycations or Workcations. Surprisingly, this is segment had been only heading north.

*  Other Revenue Streams – Packed food delivery, Deli on the wheels, Outdoor events and catering, Laundry & Sanitization business, Home Party Butlers, SPA and wellness, etc.

“We have already survived the storm now its turn to revive. To maintain a strong team throughout the crisis will enable us to kick-start our businesses much quicker after the COVID-19,” he said.

To build the most comfortable experience for the travellers, providing safety and protection have become a prime concern for hoteliers these days. When asked about the measures taken by the hotel to ensure the same, Gupta elaborated, “Dan Hotels Israel, and The Den Bengaluru have been most agile since the start of the pandemic. Though we all have been hit in terms of our business volumes and the profitability, but we as a group have strategized our priorities well in advance.”

“We were the first ones to introduce ‘Security and Safety Protocols’ and it helped us gain much needed trust of our patrons. Staring from sanitising the peripheral areas moving in up to the rooms that are tagged and sealed as ‘Sanitised’ have helped us build a great reputation,” he said.

“Moving away from traditional dining to more secluded / intimate dining; changing and publishing our sanitised wash cycles, creating Home Bound Experiential Dining, Butler on Demand, etc. are some of our New Normal,” he added.

He also mentioned about the creation of Green Zones / Bio Bubbles in Israel by the hotel.

“As an innovative and forward-looking organisation with Israeli DNA merging with India Hospitality, we at The Den have been able to successfully wade over the crisis till now, where the focus was on to retain and develop human capital, reorientate our strategies and reinvent our service standards. I must say that we are one of the very few companies that did not look at retrenchment, furloughs or pay cuts; ensured that our team members stayed united and strong together and embrace change and innovation, helping us perfect the stakeholder management at all levels,” he concluded.

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