By Col. Manbeer Choudhary
As an industry that was among the earliest and the worst hit due to the pandemic, the hospitality domain was also among the first to quickly adapt to the changing circumstances. What this situation taught us was that conditions will always be dynamic and it is necessary to be quick-witted in order to cope with inconveniences. There was also this realisation that the only way forward was by actively engaging with and embracing new ideas and innovations.
The hospitality industry has stood strong on the basis of several traditional brands and classic practices. But as newer markets and newer opportunities open up, both users and service providers are excited to experiment with less conventional set-ups. In this context, young hoteliers are poised to play a key role in revolutionising these segments by focusing on local hospitality brands. The government’s push for indigenous businesses and practices through their ‘Make in India’ initiative is a testament to the fact that now is the time for local businesses to thrive. Within customers too, there is a resurgence of demand for locally- customised and curated products. The famous ‘Incredible India’ campaign helped bring a large number of international travellers to India. Additionally, different states boast of their own strong campaigns that are bringing the unique sites in these states into renewed focus. Campaigns such as ‘Kachchh Nahi Dekha to Kuchh Nahi Dekha’ by Gujarat and ‘Exploring God’s own country’ by Kerala, Krishna Circuit and Smart City development to promote Karnal as popular tourism hub etc. have helped bring travellers from other states to explore more off-beaten tracks. Most recently, the ministry of science and technology announced its plans to set up India’s first-ever night sky sanctuary” in Ladakh to boost astro-tourism in India. All of these suggest that users are now discovering that in their bid to look for excitement outside, they are missing on a lot of fun that is happening in their own backyards.
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In this scenario, young hoteliers play a key role. They bring energy, enthusiasm and a fresh way of thinking in an industry which runs the risk of getting stuck in a cycle of stagnation. They bring with them a better understanding of contemporary customer’s needs, an ability to take smart risks as well as the passion to go beyond conventional limits. No wonder several magazines and organisations are now taking the initiative of recognising emerging talent through initiatives like 30 under 30 and 40 under 40 to laud them for their innovative contributions to the industry.
Going digital: These young guns who themselves live their entire lives online realise the importance of going digital in every area of operation – ranging from check-in to room service. They challenge the traditional thinking where digital presence is an extra or additional optional. Instead, they have fully integrated technology with all aspects of their business fully realising that it is often the online space where the customer first interacts with a brand. Their understanding of social media and the key role it plays in influencing a significant customer base helps in all areas ranging from customer acquisition to influencer marketing to service delivery. A contemporary understanding of business that expands its meaning to include over and beyond just revenue or profit is something very unique to this new generation of hoteliers.
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Shared value system: Most significantly, as young Indians in a globalised world, they understand the aspiration of the youth. The unique challenge of wanting to be traditional yet modern, unconventional yet contemporary and boldly Indian yet comfortably global is something that they share with the users who are their peers in a sense. The meeting of this aspiration with a hunger for growth and making the nation proud is a feeling that can be found in every Indian and it is this motivation that can massively re-shape the growth curve of the hospitality industry.
The need for unique, experiential services: The current generation of customers is very keen on having experiences that cannot be replicated and uniquely represent who they are. This trait is best understood by young hoteliers who are able to specifically design and curate packages based on user preferences. The underlying desire to stand out from their peers is an aspiration that is shared by the generation and it reflects in the offerings they put out for the customers.
Bringing best practices: It would be unfair to deny the need of reforms in various aspects of the industry. This is not to say that everything with the domain as it stands today is wrong but to highlight the immense scope for growth and improvement for the future. One specific area that we have struggled as an industry even before the pandemic and during it is the area of human resource management. The issue of hiring and training the right staff with the necessary skills as well as the right attitude has been a challenge. Attrition too remains a concern. Certainly, the way how work is done has changes as have employee expectations. This is an area where new hoteliers are bringing new ideas to better understand employee and users’ expectations. For instance, as members of the same generation, they realise the value of work-life balance and thus, they are trying to offer the same through better HR practices.
Last, but not the least, people tend to associate youth with immaturity and recklessness. But the truth is that the young leadership is a giant pot brimming with innovative ideas that are waiting to script the next big growth story. It’s time to hand over the reins to them!
(The author is Chairman cum Managing Director, Jewels Group of Hotels. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)