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Hospitality sector back to business as demand rises

Industry executives are confident that even if cases rise in near future, they are better prepared to deal with such a situation as the government does not prefer total lockdowns now.

hospitality sector
InterContinental Hotels Group's Southwest Asia managing director Sudeep Jain said that the company is witnessing a growth in demand with restrictions easing and international flights restarting. (Representational image)

Hotels across the country are witnessing a rise in occupancy levels owing to relatively fewer Covid-19 infections and resumption of international travel. Industry executives are confident that even if cases rise in near future, they are better prepared to deal with such a situation as the government does not prefer total lockdowns now.

“Every time this industry has been hit by a Covid wave, it has come back stronger. I anticipate that if we get hit again, we will come back stronger. If it remains the way it is right now, the impact will be very muted. Even if there are government restrictions, it will be like a blip, somewhat similar to what happened during Omicron,” Monisha Dewan, senior area director, sales and distribution, South Asia, Marriott International, told FE.

“We have more than 100 hotels. In different markets, we are witnessing different occupancies. In markets like Delhi and Mumbai, our occupancies are in the north of 80%,” Dewan added. Marriott International currently has 129 hotels and resorts under its umbrella in India, spanning 16 brands like St Regis Hotels & Resorts, The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, W Hotels, The Luxury Collection, Westin, Marriott Hotels, Sheraton, Renaissance Hotels, Marriott Executive Apartments, Le Meridien, Aloft, Tribute Portfolio, Courtyard by Marriott, Four Points by Sheraton, and Fairfield by Marriott.

Dewan said that while Marriott International was expecting Q1 CY 2022 to be very strong, the occupancy levels were impacted during January and February due to Omicron. “However, we came back strongly in March. For April, we have already gone to pre-Covid levels and are anticipating a strong booking base for May and June as well.

“If Covid-19 cases do rise exponentially and the possibility of a fourth wave becomes more real, it will of course impact business, albeit for a short while. This is because we have accrued many learnings over the course of the pandemic and we have this experience to fall back on,” said Sunjae Sharma, Managing Director, India and Southwest Asia, Hyatt Hotels Corporation.

The room occupancy across Hyatt’s hotels in India stood at 47% in CY 2021, logging in a recovery of 20 percentage points over Covid-hit CY 2020. While the third wave slightly impacted its business in January, there was again an uptick with occupancy reaching 56% in February and 69% in March.

“We are certainly seeing an increase in bookings across our hotels in India. The trend of ‘impulse travel’ has resulted in guests booking trips in a much shorter time frame over the past years. The average booking lead time is less than a month. So, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, we believe travel, particularly domestic travel, will soar,” Sharma said. At present, the company has eight brands in India – Andaz, Alila, Hyatt, Hyatt Centric, Hyatt Place, Hyatt Regency, Grand Hyatt and Park Hyatt.

Raffles Udaipur has seen exponential growth since its inception in August 2021, claimed its general manager Abhishek Sharma. “Each quarter has been better than its predecessor. The acceptance of Raffles’ first outpost in India has been immense and we continue to stay vigorous with our sales and marketing strategies in CY 2022,” he said.

“The magnificent property of Raffles Udaipur and its one-of-a-kind hospitality and services have been widely appreciated and well-received in the Indian market. The property has established its footing as the go-to estate for opulent family getaways, honeymoon staycations and luxurious weddings unlike any other. With the easing up of travel restrictions and the resumption of international flights, we have had the honour of extending the Raffles Udaipur experience to guests from all across the globe,” Sharma said.

InterContinental Hotels Group’s Southwest Asia managing director Sudeep Jain said that the company is witnessing a growth in demand with restrictions easing and international flights restarting. The company operates across five core brands in India – Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Crowne Plaza, Intercontinental Hotels and Resorts, and Six Senses.

“Our average occupancy in Q4 CY 2021 was over 66%, driven by domestic leisure demand and boosted by the festive and holiday season. In Q1 CY 2022, while the average occupancy was close to 60%, our hotels in cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Greater Noida and Goa have recorded over 70% occupancy,” Jain noted. He added that the company is optimistic about CY 2022 and expects a stronger recovery with a continued upsurge in domestic travel and a further increase in corporate travel and international demand towards the second half of the year.

According to Rajesh Rajpurohit, general manager, Radisson Blu Resort Dharamshala, the industry is well prepared and better equipped to handle any changing situation going forward even though the Covid cases are rising again.

“Q1 CY 2022 was not great for the overall market and our hotel. Due to travel restrictions and an increase in Covid-19 cases, we received a huge number of cancellations and amendment requests during this period. However, Q2 has turned out to be much better both for the overall market and our hotel,” Rajpurohit said, adding that RevPAR (revenue per available room) at Radisson Blu Resort Dharamshala in this quarter has doubled up over the previous quarter, driven by a surge in occupancy levels.

If the Covid-19 situation remains under control, it may not hurt much, said Vinit Chhabra, general manager, The Khyber Himalayan Resort & Spa, Gulmarg. Post September, the property has seen a growth of 50% in business. Besides, the bookings in the current quarter have jumped by more than 50% in comparison to the quarter gone by.

“The hotel industry has been steadily recovering on the strength of domestic travel, staycations, workcations, destination weddings, family functions and festivals,” said KB Kachru, vice president, Hotel Association of India.

“The rising Covid cases could be a cause of worry for the sector. However, the positives are that the infection continues to be mild and the new variant has not been declared a variant of concern. The industry will follow all the necessary protocols and is better equipped to deal with the pandemic given the experience of previous waves,” Kachru noted.

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