The Hospitality Knowledge Exchange panel discussion on the topic 'India Hotel Development: Vision 2020' held at the recently concluded FHW 2016 Mumbai exhibition deliberated on factors that are to drive the hotel development story in India By Rituparna Chatterjee
The Hospitality Knowledge Exchange panel discussion on the topic ‘India Hotel Development: Vision 2020’ held at the recently concluded FHW 2016 Mumbai exhibition deliberated on factors that are to drive the hotel development story in India By Rituparna Chatterjee
The 27th edition of Food Hospitality World (FHW) exhibition, held from January 21 to 23, 2016 at MMRDA Grounds, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai, witnessed an interesting and engaging discourse on the second day, wherein general managers (GMs) representing leading hotels in Maharashtra spoke on the topic ‘India Hotel Development: Vision 2020′ as part of the Hospitality Knowledge Exchange panel discussion. The panelists for this discussion included Sameer Sud, GM, The Leela Mumbai; Kapil Kapoor, GM, Waterstones Hotel, Mumbai; Varun Sahani, GM, The Orchid, Mumbai; Srinivas Srirangam, GM, Novotel Imagica Khopoli; and Satyajit Kotwal, GM, The Resort Hotel, Madh-Marve.
During the discussion, the panelists highlighted several factors that are driving and will drive hotel development in India. For instance, Sahani stated, “The three factors to drive hospitality growth are globalisation, information and technology. Firstly, international travellers are bringing in a lot of foreign exchange into the country. There is manpower development that is taking place due to this. E-visa and Visa on Arrival (VoA) are also making travelling easier. Secondly, travellers are becoming more curious now and hence the information which goes to them needs to well channelised by us. Thirdly, the more customers are getting tech-savvy, the more we are changing the way information is being passed on to them.” Adding his views on technology, Kotwal opined, “As hoteliers we have been lethargic about investing in technology. Technology is changing the relationship between hoteliers and customers. Gen Y are decision makers for today and tomorrow. We need to cater to their needs and provide them with special experiences.”
Giving his perspective on this growth, Srirangam pointed out that FDI is positively impacting the hospitality industry. He added, “The Gen Y are tech-savvy, good spenders and demand quality and unique experiences thereby making the hospitality players to rethink their strategies. In recent years, there has been an emergence of B&B and budget hotels, for which the demand is high. Hence, the growth drivers in the next five years would be the budget, mid-scale and upper mid-scale segment of hotels. Eco tourism and agri tourism are also gaining impetus and will become game changers for us.”
Today, pricing has become extremely competitive with India being flooded with numerous hotel brands, both international and domestic. But with the Gen Y having the propensity to spend and consume, there needs to be a balance between experience and pricing, explained Kapoor. Giving another perspective, Sud stated, “Price is important but more important is the value. It is all about the experience and what value you add to that.”
Sharing the fact that airlines follow dynamic pricing, Sahani opined, “It is great to see how airlines follow dynamic pricing. While following dynamic pricing, hoteliers need to make sure that the value the customer gets for a Rs 32,000 room per night is higher than Rs 6000 room per night. For us to be able to get into the market the next day, we have to match the services with the price the customers are paying for.”
The discussion slowly steered towards how hospitality has the power to build a destination. For instance, the opening of Adlabs Imagica and Adlabs Aquamagica and the subsequent launch of Novotel Imagica Khopoli at Khopoli (an industrial town in the Khalapur taluka of Raigad district in Maharashtra) have led to the development of the region with many MICE events and weddings taking place in the hotel. “There are rumours that the Zaveri Bazaar at Bhuleshwar in South Mumbai, is being shifted to Khopoli,” informed Srirangam adding, “In Chhattisgarh, Hyatt and Marriott hotels have opened. People there have huge disposable incomes and Chhattisgarh is also an industrial belt. With people travelling more to Chhattisgarh, this destination has immense growth potential.”
Sud highlighted that apart from hotels, there are several other factors that contribute to the development of a destination like government promotions, demand, among others. While Kotwal urged that since the hospitality industry is capital intensive, there is a need for the government to grant them infrastructure status. Adding to this, Kapoor stated that restaurant licensing needs to be streamlined/ reformed.
Speaking on whether hotel and employee growth goes hand-in-hand, Sud explained, “Most of the large hotel chains while mapping their growth map individual employee growth as well.” Talking about the disconnect between what is taught in hospitality institutes in India and what is learnt in a professional setup, Sahani opined, “The lecturers at hospitality institutes are not much aware of the latest developments taking place in the industry. What the book teaches you is different from what you see and learn. There should be a mandate that the professors should work in a hotel for two-three months to get a thorough understanding of the latest trends. But this isn’t happening.” Agreeing to the same, Kapoor stated that there is a disconnect. “There are a lot of processes that have come into hotels which are sometimes not taught at institutes.”
Sharing his experience of opening the first Six Senses Spa, Sahani stated that such a spa needs to be introduced in India to showcase what it can offer to the people. Echoing a similar sentiment, Kotwal stated that the spa in his hotel, The Resort Hotel, Madh-Marve, opened in 1988 with eight-nine therapy rooms. “But at that time there weren’t many takers for it and hence we converted it into a banquet room. But now we need a spa and are in the process of getting one,” he added.
Srirangam stated that in future there is a need for more budget hotels and motels, which was also agreed upon by Sahani. Sud highlighted the need to focus on spiritual tourism, while Kapoor stated that understanding the needs of customers and customisation is the way forward.