Corporate ConnectHotels & Resorts

A new Normal where innovation and adaptability is at play

“Creating new avenues of business that we never considered as ours as for example aggressive food delivery, at-home luxury dining experiences, laundry and sanitization of residences, institutional catering, etc. are some of our thoughts,” says Vinesh Gupta, General Manager, The Den as he shares thoughtful insights with Today’s Traveller on the impact of COVID-19 on his state-of-the-art, luxury hotel in Bangalore and what the new Normal could signify in terms of innovation and adaptability to the situation.

TT Bureau: The effect of COVID 19 on your hotel brand?

Like other luxury hotels, we, The Den Bengaluru have faced undoubtedly one of the biggest disruptions as demand has declined to an all-time low. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that Indian commercial airlines to suffer losses of $11.2 billion due to the temporary grounding of operations and we are not excluded. We are heavily dependent on international corporates and after the travel ban was imposed, on an average 90% bookings been impacted at our property. During the lockdown, we had to keep our facilities operational to serve the stranded guests and certain business that generated due to lockdown. Restaurants are shut adhering to govt. instructions. Though home delivery and in-room dining produced some revenues. I think it will be a while before people feel confident to stay in a hotel and travel without fear, such has been the battering of consumer confidence.

TT Bureau: What will be the “new normal”, post Covid19?

There will certainly be a new normal that everyone will have to adjust to. Changes are already made across the hotel – be internal or external (guests, third party vendors etc.). Teams will have to be restructured and multi-skilling will have to be learnt and adopted.

Social distancing and Hygiene have become the new normal and nobody can challenge it. We have to work with digitized interactions, do menu revamps, create new service sequences focusing on minimal staff interaction, encouraging takeaway and delivery, looking at new sources of revenue like laundry, work from virtual offices from the hotel, offer contactless service, practice highest levels of sanitation and hygiene, and so on.

Long-distance travel will be limited to only must-travel situations or business needs. General-purpose leisure travel will be restricted to local geography and there will be a reduction in non-essential travel and MICE spend.
Behavioural change in decision making will also be a key factor in prospects going forward, in terms of the presence of crowds and people will be wary for some time about social gatherings.

TT Bureau:  Your business strategy for revival and how will it regain market share?

The question is not of regaining market share as we are way ahead in market share as of now, but that does not help us break-even. The thoughts are to enhance business to achieve break-evens and then think of GOP positive.

Creating new avenues of business that we never considered as ours as for example aggressive food delivery, at-home luxury dining experiences, laundry and sanitization of residences, institutional catering, etc. are some of our thoughts.
Focusing on the domestic market, small-format meetings, social dining, curated a-la-minute buffets and cook to order will be our focus areas; and we hope that the situation returns back to normal earlier than expected.

TT Bureau: What new standards will be implemented to ensure COVID-free offerings to address guest safety?

Starting from the entrance till check-out, we have covered all safety and hygiene touchpoints. The new SOP has been implemented to enhance safety and security standards. All hotel cars are thoroughly sanitized before and after use; guests are encouraged to do self-parking; sterilizing luggage; separate hygiene station at the lobby with sanitizer, mask and gloves; frequent and deep cleaning of public areas; strict social distancing across the hotel and frequent disinfection of AHU’s, TFA’s and other related equipment to restrict passing of contaminated air. We are sanitizing each item of our guest’s rooms and sealing it 24 hours prior to arrivals. Going by the situation, some of the minimum room inventory requirements will not be available and the focus will be to provide the most essential and appropriate amenities. All physical collateral will be available on our digital platform, and cashless payment will be encouraged more.

TT Bureau:  What new technology in customer interface will your hotels adopt as the way forward?

One of our biggest strength is being innovative with the help of latest technology. The guests will have an option of doing a pre-check-in by sending us all the details in advance so as to avoid human contact. In restaurants, we will prefer digital menus in various formats – e.g. Tablets, BYOD (Bring your own device & scan our QR code), contactless digital payments, e-bills, etc. 

Being a luxury hotel, we have to be extremely careful in treading a fine line of replacing human interaction with technology, but wherever needed, the team should be there to handhold the guests maintaining highest hygiene and social distancing standards. “Creating new avenues of business that we never considered as ours as for example aggressive food delivery, at-home luxury dining experiences, laundry and sanitization of residences, institutional catering, etc. are some of our thoughts,” says Vinesh Gupta, General Manager, The Den as he shares thoughtful insights with Today’s Traveller on the impact of COVID-19 on his state-of-the-art, luxury hotel in Bangalore and what the new Normal could signify in terms of innovation and adaptability to the situation.

TT Bureau: The effect of COVID 19 on your hotel brand?

Like other luxury hotels, we, The Den Bengaluru have faced undoubtedly one of the biggest disruptions as demand has declined to an all-time low. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimates that Indian commercial airlines to suffer losses of $11.2 billion due to the temporary grounding of operations and we are not excluded. We are heavily dependent on international corporates and after the travel ban was imposed, on an average 90% bookings been impacted at our property. During the lockdown, we had to keep our facilities operational to serve the stranded guests and certain business that generated due to lockdown. Restaurants are shut adhering to govt. instructions. Though home delivery and in-room dining produced some revenues. I think it will be a while before people feel confident to stay in a hotel and travel without fear, such has been the battering of consumer confidence.

TT Bureau: What will be the “new normal”, post Covid19?

There will certainly be a new normal that everyone will have to adjust to. Changes are already made across the hotel – be internal or external (guests, third party vendors etc.). Teams will have to be restructured and multi-skilling will have to be learnt and adopted.

Social distancing and Hygiene have become the new normal and nobody can challenge it. We have to work with digitized interactions, do menu revamps, create new service sequences focusing on minimal staff interaction, encouraging takeaway and delivery, looking at new sources of revenue like laundry, work from virtual offices from the hotel, offer contactless service, practice highest levels of sanitation and hygiene, and so on.

Long-distance travel will be limited to only must-travel situations or business needs. General-purpose leisure travel will be restricted to local geography and there will be a reduction in non-essential travel and MICE spend.

Behavioural change in decision making will also be a key factor in prospects going forward, in terms of the presence of crowds and people will be wary for some time about social gatherings.

TT Bureau:  Your business strategy for revival and how will it regain market share?

The question is not of regaining market share as we are way ahead in market share as of now, but that does not help us break-even. The thoughts are to enhance business to achieve break-evens and then think of GOP positive.

Creating new avenues of business that we never considered as ours as for example aggressive food delivery, at-home luxury dining experiences, laundry and sanitization of residences, institutional catering, etc. are some of our thoughts.
Focusing on the domestic market, small-format meetings, social dining, curated a-la-minute buffets and cook to order will be our focus areas; and we hope that the situation returns back to normal earlier than expected.

TT Bureau: What new standards will be implemented to ensure COVID-free offerings to address guest safety?

Starting from the entrance till check-out, we have covered all safety and hygiene touchpoints. The new SOP has been implemented to enhance safety and security standards. All hotel cars are thoroughly sanitized before and after use; guests are encouraged to do self-parking; sterilizing luggage; separate hygiene station at the lobby with sanitizer, mask and gloves; frequent and deep cleaning of public areas; strict social distancing across the hotel and frequent disinfection of AHU’s, TFA’s and other related equipment to restrict passing of contaminated air. We are sanitizing each item of our guest’s rooms and sealing it 24 hours prior to arrivals. Going by the situation, some of the minimum room inventory requirements will not be available and the focus will be to provide the most essential and appropriate amenities. All physical collateral will be available on our digital platform, and cashless payment will be encouraged more.

TT Bureau:  What new technology in customer interface will your hotels adopt as the way forward?

One of our biggest strength is being innovative with the help of latest technology. The guests will have an option of doing a pre-check-in by sending us all the details in advance so as to avoid human contact. In restaurants, we will prefer digital menus in various formats – e.g. Tablets, BYOD (Bring your own device & scan our QR code), contactless digital payments, e-bills, etc. 

Being a luxury hotel, we have to be extremely careful in treading a fine line of replacing human interaction with technology, but wherever needed, the team should be there to handhold the guests maintaining highest hygiene and social distancing standards.

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