Current market trends and business recovery :
After having been in the eye of the COVID-19 storm for over 24 months, the hotel industry is finally getting back to its feet and if the past 4-5 months are any indicator to go by, we seem to be poised for a “W” shaped recovery.
There’s been a gradual transition for hotels, which have so far survived solely on domestic leisure and taken a big chunk out of the big fat Indian wedding pie! We are witnessing the return and resurgence of corporate travelers, corporate incentives and the odd inbound tourists have begun to trickle in with the gradual opening of international borders and commercial flights. Fueled by the positive business sentiment, directives from corporates to return to offices and the urge to engage in face-to-face meetings, there is a sense of reassurance that the business is here to stay.
The travel and hospitality sector is showing signs of a strong revival, with a better-than-expected summer season behind us, we stand at the cusp of the season months with far more confidence and promise. Our business has slowly begun to sway towards the traditional business segments – Monday to Friday, there is significant Corporate demand for the individual traveler as well as meetings. These are then topped off with a trickle of inbound tourists and domestic leisure. Weekends – Saturday to Sunday, are packed mostly with domestic tourists and a handful of inbound travelers.
Peak wedding “saaya” dates are blocked out for wedding guests and topped with the odd corporate or domestic individual traveler(s). A great way to measure buoyancy in business is to look out for the job market. Every hotel is in the process of ramping up their hiring, not just at the shop floor level but at senior management levels as well. As the demand comes back to pre-COVID levels, so do the traveler’s needs and expectations.
In fact, the biggest challenge facing the industry is not the uncertainty of the future, but the acute lack of skilled talent. COVID-19 induced a mass exodus of talent from the industry, most of whom are reluctant to come back. Colleges and institutes were closed and with almost negligible on-the-job training experience, there is a dearth of ready and available talent.
Change in customer experience :
The pandemic certainly changed the hospitality landscape and while there was a paradigm shift in business segments, the underlying expectations on cleanliness, safety, hygiene and guest services pretty much remain the same across all business segments. We re-looked at all the spaces within the hotel to monetize all the possible avenues of revenue, tweaked our cuisines to suit the palate of our customers and looked at adding more experiences in-house to keep our customers more engaged. Now, as we see things normalize, we are slowly moving toward a hybrid model to provide our customers with the best of both worlds! Contactless payments, digital menus, heightened safety and hygiene protocols are some initiatives that we believe will carry forward as we enter the new era in hospitality.
Challenges faced by the industry post-recovery :
The hospitality industry seems to be fighting a war on two fronts, on one side there’s a constant battle to shake off the adverse effects of the pandemic and generate crucial revenues & cash flow to sustain operations. On the other side, the geo-political equations have placed undue pressure on operating costs and the supply chain.
With materials and equipment costs going up, procurement cycles have increased significantly as well. It is taking up to 3 months from the date of ordering to replenish and replace regular operating supplies and stocks, the process, in turn, has become extremely cumbersome and time-consuming. These supply chain constraints and a backlog of orders have led to a high cost of procurement and have become an expensive affair. Additionally, the cost of energy resources (Heat, Light and Power) has gone up significantly over the last few months. With the surge in prices of diesel, cooking gas and electricity units, the impact has started to trickle down and adversely affect the bottom line of an industry that is just about beginning to pick up the pieces and walk on its feet. While we are definitely on the road to recovery, we still need to tread carefully and maintain the perfect balancing act in delivering a high level of customer experience while also keeping track of the bottom line!
Courtyard By Marriott, Agra.
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