In a one-on-one with Today's Traveller, Sylvain Laroche, Director of Operations, ibis & ibis Styles, India assesses the way forward for the hospitality industry and suggests that agility, adaptability and flexibility will hold the key to success.
TT Bureau: The desire to travel is now a pent-up demand. How do you see the stages of revival for the hospitality industry?
Sylvain Laroche: We are cognizant of the fact that after months of restrictions, people are yearning for the freedom to travel seamlessly as it will also help them in getting back a sense of ‘normalcy’. The pent up demand is likely to impact both leisure and corporate travel. India has a strong domestic base and it would continue to be the key growth stimulator in this sector. It can be assessed that this demand would be driven by domestic leisure travelers, who would prefer to drive for short breaks over weekends or same city staycations.
The hospitality industry is highly dependent on inter-city connectivity and state regulations. Support from both central and state governments will help boost demand for the industry. It can be estimated that the economy and mid-scale hotels will rebound faster than others.
TT Bureau: What are the challenges faced by ibis in India during these unprecedented circumstances?
Sylvain Laroche: There is no denying that the hospitality industry is one of the worst-hit sectors in this pandemic across the world. While this has been a difficult time for everyone, I see that hotels are able to regain the trust of guests by adopting stringent safety and hygiene measures.
It has been heartwarming to see employees across ibis come together to support and display true hospitality during this time. ibis was one of the first hotel brands to support government authorities and healthcare professionals. In the very challenging time of the lockdown, our hotels in different cities responded effectively to the respective state governments which gave us both opportunities for developing expertise with safety guidelines and great relations with medical institutions and district authorities.
TT Bureau: What new revenue streams are you looking at to recover faster?
Sylvain Laroche: As this pandemic has brought about a lot of changes around us, businesses are looking at best practices of other industries to adopt. Hotels are also exploring ways to repurpose and optimize spaces of meeting rooms, lobbies, offering day-use options for business solutions. At ibis, we are offering alternate office space solutions to cater to the needs of working professionals or organizations with all the amenities of a traditional office set up with additional flexibility. With access to high-speed internet connectivity, office essentials, tea/coffee station, customized F&B offerings, Work@ibis aims to provide efficient and functional solutions to meet the needs of businesses of all sizes. Most importantly, these spaces are stringently sanitized in adherence to the Accor’s ALLSAFE global cleanliness and prevention standards and as per Indian government norms.
ibis is working with individuals and organizations on flexible terms to meet their requirements. This works perfectly for freelancers who are looking for a temporary set up or small or mid-size organizations that are looking for a temporary base for its additional workforce respecting social distancing rules. We are working on our F&B offerings and will be venturing into home deliveries soon.
TT Bureau: What measures can be taken to enhance the customer experience when adopting social distancing norms?
Sylvain Laroche: Welcoming, safeguarding and taking care of others is at the very heart of what we do and who we are. Knowing how to care for our guests and assuring them of a safe welcome in our hotels is part of our DNA. Accor has been prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of customers and employees on a daily basis for more than 50 years. High standards of hygiene and cleanliness are already delivered across all our brands globally. However, due to the pandemic, and to ensure guest safety as hotels reopen, we have elevated our cleaning process even further by launching the ALLSAFE Label. ALLSAFE represents some of the most stringent cleaning standards and operational protocols in the world of hospitality. Our teams are extensively trained in hygiene, sanitation, food safety and handling of hazardous materials to ensure they can protect themselves and our guests.
TT Bureau: Your thoughts on transformation in mindset: adaptability, multi-tasking and reskilling
Sylvain Laroche: As hoteliers, providing a personalized, caring and authentic experience for our guests, is and will always remain our highest priority. However, there will be a paradigm shift in how we deliver value to the guests of tomorrow yet ensuring a vibrant experience.
The agility, adaptability and flexibility of the team have brought success to the brand all over the world and it has contributed to the ‘personal touch’ of the guest experience that we deliver. Needless to say, our teams will have to embrace new skills that this ‘new-normal’ demands. Our employees will have to balance the ability to demonstrate incredible levels of warmth and personalized care, the very core of what hospitality is about.