India's Hottest Hospitality Trends
Business Traveller India|August 2019

From apartments attached to hotels, sustainable F&B, staycation packages and influencer-generated content, Indian hotels are reinventing themselves. Here are this year's biggest hotel trends

Riaan Jacob George, Nisha Shroff & Sanchita Nambiar

01 BLEISURE

While the business travel segment amounts for a significant chunk of the revenue pie for city hotels, there is an emerging segment called “Bleisure”. As its name suggests, the lines between the business and leisure segment are now being blurred, as many luxury hotels are marketing themselves to both segments, tapping into a larger client pool. Another way of interpreting Bleisure travel is when business travelers extend their stay over a weekend or indulge in leisure activities after work. A case in point is The Oberoi, New Delhi, where guests often combine breaks with business trips, reflecting a change in the very nature of corporate travel. “Corporates are now proactively seeking new experiences while on a business trip and finding hotels that are located close to work, which gives them more leisure time. Therefore, this new mixed segment has emerged,” says Jay Rathore, senior vice president, and general manager, The Oberoi, New Delhi, whose location also works in favor of this segment.

What’s more, hotels are striving to offer curated experiences, targeting business travelers. For instance, The Leela Palace New Delhi that offers a guided art walk around the hotel and experiences suggested by the Les Clefs d’Or concierges, a cooking session and personalized spa therapies.

As a result of this growing trend, hotels are incorporating lifestyle and leisure elements into business travel like redesigned pool spaces, dining experiences, wellness programs and even visits to the nearby tourist attractions.

02 DIGITAL CONCIERGE

Possibly the most debated subject in the luxury hospitality space right now is whether or not social media as a marketing tool is effective enough. In spite of this debate, hotels in India seem to be well ahead of the curve in incorporating digital techniques to enhance their guest experience. India’s ITC Hotels is a frontrunner in this space — creating meaningful engagement through social networks, as a core part of the brand strategy. “ITC Hotels was one of the first Indian luxury hotel brands to have a dedicated Twitter concierge (@ ITCHotelsCares), which has been operational for close to a decade. Over the years, this has evolved into a robust digital concierge program, spanning across social networks,” says Dipak Haksar, chief executive, ITC Hotels and WelcomHotels. “The digital concierge program addresses all kinds of queries, offers proactive recommendations and connects online interactions through special gestures that are manifested on-ground,” adds Haksar.

Another example is Hyatt Regency Delhi, which became the first Hyatt hotel to have launched a Whatsapp number available to guests 24 hours for any service they need. This indirectly points to a gradual evolution of the role of the concierge. Parinita Samanta, director of marketing and communications at Hyatt Regency Delhi explains, “There is always a human element involved with hospitality, which is where the traditional concierge plays a role, especially with repeat guests. Witha digital concierge, there is no human element, but new technology can actually enhance the work of concierges, allowing them to serve guests even before they arrive at the hotel. The idea is to strike a balance between the two.”

03 HOTEL RESIDENCES

A prevalent trend in the luxury hotel space is that of adjoining premises, which include serviced apartments also referred to as residences. The new Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru and Andaz Delhi both with residences, are some examples of the growing segment of travelers who want to go beyond the regular hotel setting, and have a more homely feel, especially during longer stays.

“Full serviced apartments offer a perfect synergy between comfortable residential living and five-star hotel amenities and services. Such apartments work well for business travelers as they offer the flexibility to cook their own meal or make their morning tea just the way they like it,” says Madhav Sehgal, general manager at Andaz Delhi. “In the residence wings of such hotels, there is often a unique social environment where guests are encouraged to be part of a community and engage with each other in public spaces. Many such residences are also pet-friendly, which most hotels in India are not,” adds Sehgal.

In the case of the new Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru, which owns Private Residences, the group considers the owners to be part of a growing tribe of brand advocates. “The idea of having Private Residences attached to a Four Seasons Hotel is a very novel concept and is part of the design brief for almost all new hotel openings in urban locations. In India, this is the first branded residence of its kind,” says Rahul Mamgain, director of Residences, Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru. He also highlights two benefits of this hotel-residence format, “For the hotel, there is the advantage and the possibility of a prospective guest for every ancillary service like F&B and spa, while from the developer’s perspective, there is a ready return on investment on the sale of every residence.”

04 MICE

Rajan Malhotra, director of sales and marketing at Shangri-La’s – Eros Hotel, New Delhi believes that MICE is one of the key contributors for hotels across Delhi and the National Capital Region (NCR).

On the subject of MICE being a key driving force for hotels, Malhotra says, “For us, the MICE segment contributes significantly to the overall hotel business and our focus remains to only cater to chic MICE business where we can help offer personalized, creative and thematic meetings that truly reflect luxury.”

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