The Indian travel & hospitality sector is reviving after a hiatus of two years. The reopening of international commercial flights at 100% capacity along with an overwhelming travel trend at domestic level has become one of the key factors that are driving the industry. Amid this dynamic transition, a lot is changing at the ground level for the airport hospitality sector, whether it’s technology, passenger interaction at various touch points, customer expectations, or an airport’s ability to serve its passengers. And, to cater to all the vicissitudes, companies are coming up with specially curated services that promise of providing a seamless airport experience to all travelers sans any hassle. FinancialExpress.com caught up with Vikas Sharma, CEO, Encalm Hospitality Pvt Ltd., to understand the current scenario in airport assistance services and its future. Excerpts:
What age group of people need airport service, what are the key revenue generating areas?
Airport services are never designed for any specific age group but are for every individual who needs assistance and wants to enjoy a hassle free travel experience. By availing meet and greet services, any individual can hand over all their worries about airport formalities and enjoy a seamless airport experience. With trained professionals greeting the guests at the entrance to taking them through all the procedures until they board the flight, they serve all guests at each step. For elders and kids, we have thoughtfully curated ‘Buddy Service’. Here, we provide a trained executive who picks the guests from their doorstep, and guides them throughout the airport procedures and the executive also accompanies the guests on the journey and finally makes sure that they reach the destination safely. To talk about revenue, Encalm lounges generate the maximum revenue for the brand and thus, we are looking forward to expanding our lounges while catering to the luxurious requirements of our guests.
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Airport assistance in India is a small market. How do you plan to expand in it?
I would rather say it is an unexplored market. Most travelers today seeking convenience are unaware of the availability of these services. It is aiming to change that, and is currently ensuring that we create visibility for our services. Digital media today has been the most widely used channel to reach out to the target audience and we have made our presence felt in that space already and continue to invest in reaching a large base of audience. Our partners in the B2B space are further aiding this process by promoting these services through their channels. We have grown over300% in our daily services since inception and see further potential to serve more travelers daily.
What are the key challenges, how do you think govt is supporting the segment?
Airport is a high security zone and more importantly has multiple protocols which is desirable for an airport space. We have great working relationships with various authorities and have received prompt guidance and support from them at all levels. However like I mentioned earlier the biggest challenge continues to be visibility of various service offerings at the airport and making travelers aware. Apart from the government authorities, one must also compliment the airport operators who are today aiming to make the airport experience of a traveler that of a superior quality. Introduction of services such as Atithya or building F&B spaces included lounges and resting areas, upgrading of basic amenities only foster a better experience for the traveler.
How has the airport lounge experience business changed over the years?
From mere waiting rooms with musty carpets and kitsch sofas to havens of luxury, wellness and gourmet food, the airport lounge experience has changed drastically over the past few decades. People can enjoy delicious food, ultra-comfortable seating zones and various other add-on amenities like plug-in points, high speed internet access, live food counters etc. Nowadays, airport lounges have a vision to meet the changing demands of travelers with a broader range of innovative, premium experiences at the airport, beyond its well-loved offerings. With the goal to take lounge experiences to international levels, Encalm is offering premium bars, buffet meals, cigar rooms, spa, massage services, fitness centers, and showers among several other luxuries. Going an extra mile to serve the travelers, we have also onboarded renowned chefs who curate specialized menus catering to the palates of travelers across geographies. It’s still a long way to go as travelers’ choices are ever-changing and as service providers, we are always on our toes to bring-in new dimensions catering to our consumers’ dynamic demands.
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What are the top markets and how do you plan to cater the business and MICE travelers?
We endeavour to make airport experiences more memorable and engaging for every traveler. Being in the capital city of the country, we cater to all markets including new and emerging markets of the world. Be it a traveler from an international destination or a domestic one our services are designed to identify and cater to the needs of the traveler. We believe no two travelers have the same requirements and our teams have been trained to adapt to the everchanging needs of our travelers. For MICE travelers who always have a packed agenda this service ensures that they minimize their time spent at airports.
Throw some light on your plans to tie up with OTAs and travel agents in future.
We are aggressively working with multiple travel agents and corporate aggregators who avail our services on a regular basis. B2B plays a key role for us with their requirements of special assistance and exclusivity for high net individuals (HNIs) and senior management travelers. We are also working with the major OTAs to make sure we reach the right audience who will value these offerings and get addicted to it. Like I mentioned earlier, digitization of the travel industry makes our presence in the space even more relevant and we are fortunate to have partners who are equally excited about these offerings.
What are your key achievements and where do you see yourself by the end of next financial year?
In the post-pandemic world, circumstances change every day. With more and more people getting back to traveling, the traffic at airports is growing each day. We are yet to complete a year in this industry, and are already renowned for curating and delivering exclusive airport hospitality experiences. By the end of next fiscal year, we will be launching our second branded lounge at Terminal 2 and a premium lounge at Terminal 3 of Delhi Airport. The lounge at T3 will be in tune with Encalm’s vision of providing an international lounge experience in the country. The 30,000 sq ft lounge is going to offer a fully functional gym, a spa centre, gaming zone for kids, and a business centre. Last but not the least, the lounge at T3 will have live food counters serving scrumptious gourmet food prepared by renowned chefs. We also have plans to launch a CIP lounge by next year that would be specifically curated for premium members who prefer exclusivity. Starting from check-in till boarding, all the formalities will be taken care of by our trained professional within the CIP lounge area and will route our passengers through the exclusive boarding gate outside of the main terminal building. As a brand we are focused on overall customer experiences which would also see us operate Spas at airports under Encalm Spa. Encalm Spa is built as part of our ongoing efforts to provide our customers with relaxing experiences at the airport. We will be launching Encalm Spa at the international airport in August 2022, and at the domestic airport in October 2022.