"Reliability, safety and progressive quality will be key differentiators," says Aditya Mata, General Manager of the new Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham Dwarka, Gujarat as he speaks to Today's Traveller on the new realities facing the Hospitality Industry post-COVID.
TT Bureau: It is widely said ''The pandemic will change the way we do business'' What changes do you think this pandemic will bring to the Hospitality sector?
Aditya Mata: These are unprecedented times wherein nobody knows what the fallout of this pandemic will finally be. The uncertainty of demand and the lack of consistent revenue will shift the focus to costs – HLP, manpower and procurement. Lesser people, more available space, more privacy, contactless experiences and seamless hospitality will be the new norm.
Training, technology and efficiency will be the key. Trust through protocol and SOPs will have a large role in relationship bonding. Reliability, safety and progressive quality will be key differentiators.
TT Bureau: What time frame do you give for the travel industry to revive?
Aditya Mata: In the short term anything between three-six months for reopening of hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes and allied businesses. This period will see the inconsistency of demand. Business and airport hotels will pick up business from 30-40 % occupancies-depending on location. Resorts and leisure destinations will take longer to build upon their room count but will be more progressive and consistent from October onwards which will usher in Diwali and the wedding season.
I foresee a return of a bullish market post-September 2021 across business models.
TT Bureau: How do you see the impact on leisure travel?
Aditya Mata: Leisure by air or rail will not happen initially …not until October 2020. Most of the revival will be to drive-in locations.
Coorg, Goa, Kerala, Mysore, Shillong, Kashmir, Shimla, Hampi, Haridwar will be sought after locations keeping in mind heritage, road accessibility and lesser crowds.
This will also bring business to Motels and other lodges on highways both functional and simple.
However, the return of leisure will yield better dividends and be more predictable than other segments. The domestic market has the spending capacity, they are in the age group which prefers outings and the trend of adventure, private vacations and adventure tourism is on an upswing in India. Instead of going to Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand or South Africa, people will focus on locations within the country. Sport centric and adventure / outdoor tourism will be in demand.
Another market which will grow exponentially will be religious tourism in various locations.
TT Bureau: What are the measures taken by your hotel to ensure guest safety?
Aditya Mata: Hotels have always focussed on hygiene, sanitation and good housekeeping. Today it is more clinical, more protocol-driven and more utilitarian, not necessarily utopian. Training is the Key Result Area. The age of Multifunctionality has arrived and the bubble of extra manpower and high compensation in certain levels has burst. Hospitality has a new reality!
TT Bureau: Would you look at special offers to reclaim your share in the price-sensitive market?
Aditya Mata: All markets are price-sensitive, however, quality and safety today are critical. Nobody would like to take a risk with family and children/ elders. Trust and reputation are vital, the new market is very fluid, it will evolve. Initially, the rate will not play a role, safety will. However, a year later – price sensitivity will return. Value-oriented offers definitely will be in demand , ease of location , loyalty bonuses will have a role to play to enhance business.
TT Bureau: How do you keep up the employee morale during these tough times?
Aditya Mata: Communication is key. Making each person feel belonged is critical- through delegation, assignments, role plays , case studies, extracurricular activities etc. There is no hopeless case in my vocabulary. We must ensure people feel respected, secure and valued. This is the time to explore and cultivate talent, encourage out of the box thinking and work collectively rather than lead singularly.
Keeping a constant line of communication, interface with people all across and ensure there is a feeling of comradeship which helps in building morale during these times. This is a great opportunity for each one of us to work differently and make an impact. Eating collectively makes a positive impression. Encouraging best practises, creating a fair environment and constant interaction across all levels has definitely helped rebuild team morale.