As hotels reopen after the lockdown, with all SOPs in place, the question foremost in the minds of the entire hospitality industry is: when will things come back to normal? Due to the lockdown thousands of people lost their jobs and some had to be content with receiving trimmed down salaries. Even after opening their gates the hospitality industry, which was reeling under the lockdown, is not sure of the response of general public which is scared to venture out of their homes. With constant advice of shelter-in, the travellers – both domestic and international – are reluctant to hazard out. This poses a serious problem for all marketing and revenue managers of various properties, whether small inns or large hotels.
As per Hospitality Valuation Services (HVS), demand has not yet revived because corporate travel is on a standstill. Leisure travel has also not seen any uptick in states which have eased restrictions because of increasing Covid cases in the country. Since hotels are operating with very low occupancy, revenue strategies are being reevaluated.
With several restrictions being imposed on the hotels several changes are anticipated in the operation of hotels. The changes would be on several fronts ranging from technology to ideas for supplementing revenues lost due social distancing.
Vineet Verma, CEO & Executive Director Brigade Hospitality Services Limited, states, “The global pandemic has left a grave and detrimental impact particularly on the hotel industry. Revenues have plummeted to an all-time low across all segments of hotel business and we have no visibility on how the traditional sources of revenue generation will fare in the short to mid-term. In order to survive and sustain, hotels will have to step on to uncharted territories and come up with hitherto unexplored options.”
He believes, Institutional packed box catering with an astute focus on hygiene, sanitization and safety protocols is one such option that many corporates are now considering in the short term.
He continues, ‘Pop-up Restaurants’ in the private setting of an opulent suite is a popular option to engage with social segment for celebrations and special occasions as well as small group from corporates who prefer meeting once a month or fortnightly to catch up with their team’s progress.
“With the constantly evolving situation across the globe and temporarily suspended projects in the IT industry, a lot of Indian technology companies are bringing their workforces back to the country in specially chartered flights. This allows hotels a great opportunity to tie up with such companies that will want their returning employees self-isolate as a matter of abundant precaution. Customized room packages aimed at self-isolating in the safe environs of a hotel and a consolidated value offering including meals, laundry, virtual fitness lessons etc. is gaining prominence.
“Home delivery of food and curated brunches, delivered over the weekend, have also been gaining popularity.
“With the requirement of limiting attendance to 50 for social functions, hotels are now curating ‘designer’ events in all inclusive package offerings.”
Ravi Rai, Cluster General Manager, Novotel Visakhapatnam Varun Beach, Novotel Vijayawada Varun and The Bheemili Resort managed by Accor, avers that there will be several operational changes in hotels. He clarifies, “First and foremost ‘change’means to adapt to the new normal by following the strict ALL SAFE guidelines of safety and hygiene. For our sea-front property Novotel Visakhapatnam Varun Beach, weddings were the key driver for business and with the new norms of the post lockdown world; this sector has been largely impacted. So now, to keep the celebrations alive even while following the set norms, Novotel has introduced Vivaah at Novotel. Leveraging its 20 properties across 15 gateway cities across India, Novotel is providing its guests an opportunity to connect with all their relatives and friends to join in for both physical and virtual celebrations, while maintaining social distancing norms.
“With Vivaah at Novotel, guests get to select a host hotel in any city as their wedding venue. To bring the couple’s dear ones closer to them on their wedding, the host hotel extends the web telecast of the wedding to their relatives and friends present in different cities. The host family of the wedding gets a chance to share every moment of the wedding with their loved ones in real time - the joy of togetherness, the singing and dancing during the baraat, the rituals, the ceremonies, even from miles apart. The two distinctive features of this initiative are Dawat by Novotel and Shagun by Novotel for food and gift hampers respectively which are the two integral parts of any Indian wedding.”
Shibil Malik, General Manager, Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway discloses, “The hotel reopened early in June but we plan to open all our dining venues gradually, in a phased manner.
“At our hotel we have introduced Marriott’s ‘Commitment to Clean’, our new initiative that aligns with expert health & safety protocols. All the necessary measures and precautions have been ensured for utmost safety and hygiene for our guests and associates which is our top most priority.”
Speaking about revenue generation, he states, “We have introduced various new formats of revenue generation, like the experience of office spaces based out of the hotel, offering reliable and safe plug & play workstations to just-in-time meeting spaces. One aspect that has already taken lead, post Covid-19, is the business of food deliveries. Our Food and Beverage team has introduced some interesting concepts to meet the immediate rising demand in various segments ranging from ‘all-inclusive bento boxes’ and ‘Brunch at Home’ to ‘celebration menus’ as dine-in and delivery options, further enhancing the dining experience basis guests convenience.”
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Revving up the Revenue
The corona virus outbreak has not only impacted travel in affected regions it has also caused the cancellation of some of the world’s biggest exhibitions, which has adversely affected the hotel industry globally. Though the lockdown for India’s hospitality sector was lifted from June 8 by the central government several states have continued with curbs on usual operations. This has affected the industry on several fronts. Ashok Malkani reviews the upshot of the pandemic on different aspects of the industry and the steps taken by it to tackle this situation effectively.
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