A Journey into Hospitality Excellence from the General Manager of Essentia Premier Hotel Chennai

A Journey into Hospitality Excellence from the General Manager of Essentia Premier Hotel Chennai

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Published on November 2, 2023

In this exclusive and enlightening session of "Hoteliers Talk" with HospitalityNews, we had the privilege of sitting down with the accomplished General Manager, Meeran Farook Ali, from Essentia Premier Hotel Chennai. Here, he generously imparts his remarkable journey within the dynamic hospitality industry and offers valuable insights into the world of hoteliers.

Born and raised in Chennai, his journey in hospitality began at Taj Fisherman’s Cove, where he started as an apprentice. This coastal paradise honed his skills. His next adventure took him to the Middle East, launching a restaurant chain in the UAE, introducing him to international cuisine. In 2000, he joined Le Meridien, progressing from the base level to an assistant manager until 2006. Transitioning to Radisson Blu, he managed the Garden Cafe, even dabbling in flight catering. Later, he became the banquet manager at Asiana, where they transformed it into a popular brand. Moving to Aloft Chennai, he led the food and beverage department, extending support to units in Bangalore and Coimbatore. He continued his journey at ITC Fortune Hotel before embarking on a unique two-year stint with INOX Cinemas during the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing on boosting cinema footfalls and F&B sales. With the rebranding of his previous workplace as Welcomhotel, he returned as a unit head and executive assistant manager. Currently, he oversees Essentia Hotel, a 70-key property with Blue Salt, a buffet-style restaurant with 24-hour in-room dining. Fisherman’s Wharf, known for its lively atmosphere and seafood delights, is a customer favorite with packed sessions.

What inspired you to pursue a career in hotel management, and how has your journey led you to the position of General Manager at Essentia Premier Hotel?

I didn’t accidentally stumble into the hospitality industry. It’s a family affair, you could say. My brother was already deeply involved in hotel management, and my father had his share of experience at Gemini studios before his years with Taj Fisherman’s Cove. I vividly remember those days when I’d watch my brother leave for work, impeccably groomed and well-trimmed. It was all quite intriguing and unique to me. I’ve always had a deep admiration for hoteliers; it’s a bit like being in the military, with that sharp, impeccable haircut. So, my journey into the hotel industry began when I joined Taj Fisherman’s Cove as an apprentice. However, life took me on a little detour to the UAE, but I eventually found my way back and decided to pursue catering in Delhi. But it’s not a path one can simply walk; I believe it’s not just about hard work – you have to genuinely love what you do and give it your all. Each day presents a new opportunity to learn and excel, and that’s the attitude that has helped me find my place in this industry. You see, when I took a two-year break from hotels and ventured into Inox, I always felt like I had left something behind in the hospitality world. So, when the chance to return to the hotel business came along, I embraced it with love and enthusiasm, starting my career anew. Even though I was a unit head, it felt like my very first day all over again, when I had joined Taj. Perhaps that’s what shaped me into the general manager I am today. It’s the idea that every day is a fresh start, a new opportunity, and that’s what keeps me moving forward in this dynamic industry.

Can you share with us the unique features that set Essentia Premier Hotel Chennai apart from other hotels in the region?

We match international hotels when it comes to room size and lifestyle features. Unlike some other places, we may not offer a swimming pool or a gym, but what we do offer is fantastic food, comfortable beds for a good night’s sleep, and top-notch international bathing facilities, including high-quality showers and amenities. Our aim is to stand out, to be unique in our own way, and that sets us apart. Given our location in OMR, where guests typically stay for a maximum of 2 or 3 days, our chic-sized hotels work perfectly. My approach to hotel management involves daily interactions with our guests, where I actively seek their feedback. This interaction forms the essence of what we represent: a hotel where the focus is on providing a good night’s sleep and great food.

How do you go about building a strong rapport with your guests, and why is this important?

My typical day begins with engaging my team and interacting with our guests, giving them my full attention. A key part of my routine is diligently addressing their feedback, whether it’s a comment, a compliment, or a complaint. Surprisingly, complaints often provide the most valuable insights and opportunities for us to improve and deliver our best. I take their comments and conversations to heart, striving to understand their experiences, what they particularly enjoyed, and identifying those “wow” factors that we can enhance. We also make it a point to work on any complaints to ensure that the same issues do not recur. Ultimately, my goal is to guarantee the comfort of our guests and establish a strong rapport with them, encouraging return visits and positive recommendations.

Fisherman’s Wharf seems to be a popular dining spot. Could you tell us about the inspiration behind the restaurant’s concept and its signature dishes?

Fisherman’s Wharf has quickly become a household name, drawing in a diverse crowd, including local IT professionals, expatriates residing in the ECR area, and even diners who have enjoyed our offerings in Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Goa. It’s not uncommon for guests to stop by upon spotting our banner, sometimes even before we officially opened, exclaiming, “Sir, we can’t wait for you to open!” This well-established reputation of Fisherman’s Wharf places a greater sense of responsibility on us to continually improve our services and cater to our customers’ needs. Our signature dishes primarily consist of authentic Goan cuisine, a legacy passed down since our inception in 2005 by our chairman, Mr. Xavier Furtado. These recipes showcase the rich flavors of Goan food, including a seafood touch that makes them all the more appealing. These signature dishes have become our most popular offerings and a testament to our commitment to preserving Goan culinary traditions.

What strategies or initiatives has the hotel implemented to adapt to changing travel trends, especially considering the impact of events like the global pandemic?

The global pandemic has instilled a profound sense of responsibility when it comes to sanitation and hygiene. While cleanliness was always a top priority for us in the hospitality industry, the pandemic elevated it to a way of life. We take this commitment to heart, not only for our guests but also for our colleagues. If someone isn’t feeling well or needs rest, we ensure they have the time to recover fully, so they can return with renewed energy. Our post-pandemic approach is rooted in thorough sanitization, not for mere display, but as a genuine practice. We are committed to being responsible and sensible. One unique aspect of our pandemic response is our dedication to catering to the specific needs and requests of every guest, listening attentively, and making those requests a reality.

Can you share any upcoming developments, renovations, or new services that guests can look forward to at Essentia Premier Hotel?

Our hotel is brand new, just a year old. We are currently in the process of establishing a health club and gym, with ongoing discussions. Additionally, we are focusing on enhancing our ODC services, recognizing the vast potential along OMR. We aim to become experts in outdoor catering, whether it’s for private parties or corporate events. To achieve this, we’re strengthening our capabilities, investing in quality equipment, and ensuring the safe transportation of food.

With the rise of sustainable and eco-friendly practices, how does the hotel incorporate environmental consciousness into its operations?

It’s the responsibility of those in the hospitality industry to adapt and comply with government regulations. Our hotel has taken steps to eliminate plastic usage. We have implemented STP and WTP, which are ongoing processes to ensure good water condition and recycling. Our approach is environmentally conscious, and we are diligent about reducing our ecological footprint. We’ve replaced plastic with paper wherever possible, and in situations where plastic alternatives are necessary, we opt for biodegradable options. Embracing a zero-wastage concept is central to our organizational principles, and we actively work to minimize waste with great enthusiasm.

In your role as the General Manager, what leadership principles do you find most effective in fostering a positive work culture among the hotel staff?

I believe in maintaining an open-door policy, even as a general manager, allowing my team to approach me at any time or from anywhere. And, communication is key. Spending time with your team is vital, as your people are your greatest assets. I make it a point to engage with my team regularly, understanding their needs, addressing their complaints, and embracing their compliments, which fuel our energy. Similarly, I engage with our guests, comprehending their expectations and ensuring we meet them. This hands-on approach to people management is a core practice for me. When it comes to processes, I maintain a zero-tolerance policy. A well-defined process is essential, and when our team conscientiously follows these processes, it results in a seamless experience for both our employees and guests. In summary, my practice revolves around open communication and diligent process adherence.

Are there any leaders in the hospitality industry or beyond who inspire your approach to management, and how have they influenced your professional journey?

I found my initial inspiration for a career in the hotel industry through my brother, who played a significant role in shaping my path. As I progressed in my career and grew both professionally and personally, I encountered numerous role models who instilled in me valuable practices and habits. These individuals have contributed to my growth as a better person, a dedicated professional, and an improved human being in many ways. While I might unintentionally miss mentioning a few names, there are some exceptional individuals like Mr. Vijay Albuquerque, my first general manager at Taj Fisherman’s Cove, and Mr. Iqbal Chida, my second general manager. Their kindness and simplicity, along with their approachability, inspired me to be cordial and open with staff at all levels. There have been other influential figures in my life, such as Mr. Vikram Cotah and Mr. Hari Kumar from Radisson, Mr. Shri Sriharan and Mr.Leo from Asiana, and Mr. Murali Krishna Reddy, Mr. RAO and Mr. Amitava from ITC Welcomhotel, who have served as phenomenal role models. Their presence in my life is a gift, and I draw continuous inspiration from them, carrying their goodness into my daily life. In essence, I am a blend of all these influences, and they keep me motivated to be a better professional.

This interview is exclusively published on Hospitalitynews.in.


Surat's Hospitality Leader: Interview with the Area General Manager of Courtyard By Marriott Surat

Surat's Hospitality Leader: Interview with the Area General Manager of Courtyard By Marriott Surat

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Published on June 3, 2024

In this exclusive interview, we sat down with Vikas Sharma, the Area General Manager who steers the helm of hospitality excellence at Courtyard by Marriott, Surat.

Vikas Sharma is an accomplished hospitality professional currently serving as the Area General Manager at Courtyard by Marriott in Surat. With over two decades of experience, Vikas excels in driving sales and enhancing profitability in competitive markets.

Vikas's career highlights include significant contributions to Gujarat JHM Hotels, part of Auro Hotels, and AURO University Facility Management. He has played a key role in major projects such as the Convention Centre, JW Marriott Surat, Golf Club, and Golf Course, collaborating with renowned entities like Smallwood Stewart, HBA-Hirsch Bedner Associates, and Troon.

Known for his strategic acumen and integrity, Vikas consistently surpasses budgetary targets while maintaining precise financial records. His self-motivation, resilience, and innovation have led to significant organizational success, including the opening of numerous full-service hotels across various cities over the past 25 years.

Currently based in Surat, Gujarat, Vikas continues to lead with excellence, driving his organization’s vision and setting new benchmarks in the hospitality industry.

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What strategies would you implement to enhance guest satisfaction and loyalty within the competitive hospitality market of Surat?

At Courtyard By Marriott Surat, our strategy for enhancing guest satisfaction and fostering loyalty in Surat's competitive hospitality market is focused on personalized experiences, exceptional service, and community engagement.

We prioritize personalized guest experiences by understanding individual preferences through robust profiling systems, ensuring every interaction is tailored to their needs.

Exceptional service is fundamental to our identity. We invest in training programs to empower our staff to exceed guest expectations, creating memorable moments at every touchpoint.

Seamless booking and check-in processes, along with diverse culinary options, further elevate the guest experience, while loyalty programs offer exclusive benefits and rewards.

Feedback mechanisms are in place to continuously improve, and we actively engage with the Surat community through partnerships and sustainable practices, reflecting our commitment to being more than just a hotel.

In essence, at Courtyard By Marriott Surat, we aim to create exceptional experiences that inspire loyalty, making us the preferred choice for travelers seeking unforgettable moments in Surat's hospitality landscape.

How do you prioritize and allocate resources effectively to ensure the smooth operation of various departments within the hotel?

At Courtyard By Marriott Surat, our approach to resource allocation revolves around understanding departmental needs, fostering collaboration, and maintaining flexibility. We start by listening to our team members and managers to gain insights into their requirements. From there, we work together to develop comprehensive plans that consider budget constraints, staffing levels, and upcoming projects. Communication is key, as we encourage open dialogue between departments to ensure resources are utilized effectively. Regular monitoring of performance allows us to adjust as needed, while investing in training and development ensures our team is equipped to maximize resources. Ultimately, our goal is to create a seamless operation that delivers exceptional experiences for both guests and staff, positioning Courtyard By Marriott Surat as a preferred choice in the competitive hospitality market.

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In what ways do you foster a culture of teamwork and collaboration among staff members to achieve operational excellence?

At Courtyard By Marriott Surat, nurturing a culture of teamwork and collaboration is foundational to our operational excellence. We prioritize open communication, encouraging dialogue and idea-sharing across all levels of the organization through regular meetings and feedback sessions. Our shared goals and vision unite staff towards a common purpose, fostering a sense of belonging and commitment. We actively promote cross-departmental collaboration, breaking down silos to leverage diverse expertise and perspectives. Recognizing and appreciating team efforts are integral; we celebrate achievements and individual contributions, fostering motivation and morale. Investing in training and development programs further strengthens teamwork, with initiatives focused on communication, conflict resolution, and leadership skills. Leadership sets the tone by exemplifying collaborative behaviours, inspiring staff to work together effectively. Through these efforts, we cultivate an environment where every team member feels valued and empowered, driving operational excellence and delivering exceptional experiences at Courtyard By Marriott Surat.

How do you stay updated with industry trends and incorporate innovative practices to drive revenue growth and profitability?

We prioritize staying ahead of industry trends and embracing innovative practices to drive revenue growth and profitability. To achieve this, we're deeply engaged with the pulse of the hospitality sector. We regularly connect with industry peers, attend conferences, and participate in forums to exchange insights and gather inspiration. Additionally, we keep a keen eye on technological advancements relevant to our field, leveraging tools and platforms that enhance guest experiences and streamline operations. Our team members are encouraged to contribute ideas and experiment with new approaches, fostering a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. By staying informed, collaborative, and adaptable, we ensure that Courtyard By Marriott Surat remains at the forefront of the hospitality industry, delivering exceptional experiences and driving sustainable growth.

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Describe your approach to developing and executing a comprehensive sale and marketing strategy to attract both corporate and leisure guests to the hotel.

Our sales and marketing strategy aims to attract both corporate and leisure guests through a comprehensive approach. For corporate guests, we emphasize our modern facilities and business-friendly amenities, leveraging partnerships and customized packages. Leisure guests are enticed by our luxurious accommodations, culinary offerings, and recreational facilities, promoted through targeted campaigns and partnerships. Collaboration between sales and marketing teams ensures alignment and effectiveness in messaging and execution. We prioritize guest satisfaction and loyalty, delivering personalized experiences to encourage repeat visits and positive referrals. Continuous monitoring of market trends and guest feedback informs our strategy adjustments, ensuring agility and responsiveness to evolving needs. Our goal is to create a compelling value proposition that resonates with both segments, driving occupancy rates, revenue growth, and maintaining Courtyard By Marriott Surat's reputation as a premier hospitality destination.

How do you effectively manage and mitigate operational risks, such as security concerns, health and safety regulations, and environmental sustainability, within the property?

At Courtyard By Marriott Surat, ensuring the safety, security, and sustainability of our operations is a top priority. We take a proactive and comprehensive approach to manage and mitigate operational risks effectively.

First and foremost, we prioritize the safety and security of our guests and staff. Our property is equipped with state-of-the-art security systems, including surveillance cameras and access control measures. Trained security personnel are on duty 24/7 to monitor and respond to any potential threats or incidents.

In terms of health and safety, we strictly adhere to all regulations and guidelines set forth by local authorities and Marriott International standards. This includes rigorous cleaning and sanitation protocols, staff training on safety procedures, and regular inspections to ensure compliance.

Environmental sustainability is also a key focus area for us. We have implemented various initiatives to minimize our environmental impact, such as energy-saving measures, waste reduction programs, and the use of eco-friendly products and materials. Our goal is to promote sustainability awareness among both guests and staff, encouraging everyone to contribute to our environmental efforts.

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What's your favorite aspect of working in the hospitality industry, and how does it motivate you in your role as the Area General Manager?

One of the most fulfilling aspects of working in the hospitality industry is the opportunity to interact with guests from diverse backgrounds and cultures. Every interaction presents a chance to learn something new and gain insights into different perspectives.

Engaging with guests allows me to hear their stories, learn about their travels, and understand their unique experiences. Whether it's a family on vacation, a business traveler attending a conference, or a couple celebrating a special occasion, each guest has their own story to share.

Meeting people from around the world is incredibly enriching. It's fascinating to hear about their home countries, traditions, and customs. These interactions not only broaden my understanding of different cultures but also foster a sense of connection and camaraderie.

This Interview is Published Exclusively on hospitalitynews.in.


The Intersection of Technology and Design in Modern Hospitality: Studio B Architects

The Intersection of Technology and Design in Modern Hospitality: Studio B Architects

Admin

Published on June 3, 2024

In this feature, Ar. Anil Badan, Founder and Principal Architect at Studio B Architects shares insights on technology in the hospitality sector, boosting efficiency and guest satisfaction in hotels.

Ar. Anil Badan, the visionary founder of Studio B, has made significant strides in the field of hospitality design, transforming his humble beginnings into a story of success and innovation. Originating from a small town in Jammu, Ar. Badan's journey into the world of architecture began with a strong affinity for design, which he pursued with unwavering dedication despite numerous challenges.

Ar. Anil Badan's career is punctuated by significant milestones that underscore his talent and dedication in architecture. He gained recognition with Cloud Nine, Kolkata's pioneering nightclub project, followed by the successful creation of Ramada Plaza in Varanasi. Winning the interior design project for Dynasty Restaurant in Gurugram showcased his competitive edge. His work impressed industry leaders in Mumbai, leading to a crucial opportunity in Dubai, marking a turning point in his international career. Throughout, he has remained committed to creating accessible, functional, and aesthetically pleasing spaces, reflecting his perseverance and creativity in the architectural realm.

Under Ar. Badan's leadership, Studio B has rapidly climbed the social ladder, taking on high-profile clients and making a significant impact in the hospitality sector. His creative and innovative mindset has been instrumental in the firm's success, and his projects reflect his dedication to excellence in design.

How do you approach balancing the integration of smart technologies with the overall aesthetic and ambience of a hotel or resort environment?

The key to including smart technologies with aesthetics lies in the idea of integrating them appropriately into the overall design. Firstly, the design should prioritise an unobstructed and clutter-free look. Smart lighting controls and entertainment systems should be included in the room’s design. Hidden design or built-in devices help to maintain a balanced look in the design, aligning with a minimalist look in design. Additionally, selecting technologies that complement the existing decor is essential. From programmed lighting solutions to smart music, each feature can enhance the ambience of the room. Collaborating with designers and tech experts can ensure a seamless integration and balanced style.

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In what ways do you see smart room automation systems evolving in the near future, and how can these advancements further improve guest satisfaction and operational efficiency?

Advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning will make their way into the design, efficiently adapting to the guest's preference. This will personalise the experience and minimise the manual effort. Further, IoT devices will add to the idea of smart rooms, allowing them to control more amenities in a single interface. From adjusting room temperature and lighting to ordering room service, it allows guests to enjoy the convenience and control over their environment. Moreover, enhanced connectivity and data analytics gather insights and offer solutions based on their preferences and behaviours.

With the increasing emphasis on sustainability in the hospitality industry, how do you incorporate eco-friendly practices into the design and implementation of smart technologies?

Smart technologies can enhance the idea of sustainability in the hospitality industry by elevating the impact of energy efficiency. Integrating energy-efficient fixtures and devices can be an inception to the same. Smart low-performance processors, LED lighting, and smart thermostats can reduce the overall footprint of the hotel. Moreover, renewable energy sources like solar panels and wind turbines integrated with IoT can save power and provide energy for seamless operations in the hotel. Using sustainable materials in construction can also align with environmental stewardship, reducing the carbon footprint of the hotel.

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Data privacy and security are paramount concerns when it comes to implementing smart technologies in hotels. How do you ensure that guest data remains protected while still delivering personalised experiences?

Securing data in hotels is a key aspect when it comes to integrating smart technology. Begin with robust encryption that prevents unauthorised access and ensures that information is sensitive and confidential. Implementing a segmented network further isolates the guests’ data from other systems. Using strong authentication mechanisms and access controls allows only authorised personnel to access sensitive data. Additionally, conducting regular security audits and continuous monitoring can detect and respond to suspicious activities promptly. Implementing intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS) can offer enhanced security.

Can you share your thoughts on the role of artificial intelligence and machine learning in shaping the future of hospitality design, particularly in terms of personalised guest services and operational optimisation?

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning are changing the guest experience in hotels. These technologies analyse data and behavioural patterns, offering solutions according to their needs. For instance, smartphone-equipped AI can adjust lighting temperature, and entertainment options based on individual preferences. Machine learning algorithms can also streamline the check-in process, anticipate maintenance needs, and improve inventory management, ensuring a seamless guest experience. Additionally, AR and VR technologies offer immersive experiences along with real-time data on locality and other required data.

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As the hospitality industry continues to evolve, what emerging trends do you foresee in the integration of smart technologies, and how can designers stay ahead of the curve to meet evolving guest expectations?

One of the rising trends is the inclusion of voice-control systems for a better experience. Assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google assistants are becoming central for a smart room design. Another trend is the aspect of sustainability and energy efficiency. Smart lighting systems and energy management systems enhance convenience and promote eco-friendly living. Integration of health and wellness technologies like air quality monitors and smart fitness equipment are making their way into hotel rooms, reflecting the idea of holistic wellness.

This Interview is Published Exclusively on hospitalitynews.in.


Crafting Memorable Experiences: Radisson Blu Palace Resort’s Customer-Centric Approach

Crafting Memorable Experiences: Radisson Blu Palace Resort’s Customer-Centric Approach

Admin

Published on June 3, 2024

In this exclusive interview, we sat down with Mr. Somesh Agarwal, Chairman and MD of Radisson Blu Palace Resort, Udaipur, to delve into the strategies and decisions that have significantly contributed to the success and growth of the resort. 

Somesh Agarwal, the Chairman and Managing Director of Rockwood Hotels & Resorts, is an entrepreneur with an indomitable spirit who continuously drives the world of hospitality forward. Growing up in Mumbai, Somesh pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Virginia Tech in the USA and furthered his education at the University of California, Berkeley.

Somesh Agarwal’s innovative vision has significantly transformed the global destination wedding sector. He is renowned for introducing the largest pillar-less banquet hall in Rajasthan, a groundbreaking achievement in the hospitality industry. His contributions to tourism and his pioneering initiatives have earned his hotels several prestigious accolades, including the 'Best Luxury Wedding Hotel' by India Travel Awards in 2017, 'Best Wedding Hotel' by India Hospitality Awards in 2017, and 'Best Venue for Indoor Weddings' by EWPC in 2018.

Apart from his professional endeavors, Somesh is also known for his passion for sports and travel, reflecting his dynamic and multifaceted personality.

As the Chairman and Managing Director of Radisson Blu Palace Resort, Udaipur, you've been instrumental in its success. Could you share some key strategies or decisions that you believe have contributed significantly to the growth and reputation of the property?

In 2007 when I initiated my entrepreneurial journey, I knew Udaipur was the right place for me. It was an emerging tourist destination back then, but I could foresee the city’s growth in the hospitality industry. I wanted to contribute to its development while pursuing my dreams: building a palatial, one-of-its-kind property with 240 rooms. This led to the establishment of Radisson Blu Palace Resort and Spa in the city of lakes. When I look back in time, it fills me with gratitude and pride to see I have achieved what I envisioned several years ago. Even though I chose an unconventional path of building a luxurious hotel, I am happy that I followed my instincts and made the right decision. Today, Udaipur is well-positioned on the global tourism map and holds a prominent place in the wedding tourism market.

The hospitality industry has always been a dynamic, competitive market. Hence, we were prepared for other players to test their waters in the market. We realized that there are only two ways to have an edge: innovation and differentiated offerings. With this vision in mind, our motto has always been to offer top-notch services to our guests and ensure they have a comfortable and memorable stay with us. Simultaneously, keeping a tab on the ongoing market trends and connecting with industry stalwarts has been a continuous process. This helps us gain better insights and understanding of the industry landscape and provides us with an opportunity to evolve accordingly to service our clients better.

We have even upgraded our rooms with world-class furniture, exquisite décor, and palatial interiors to provide a royal experience. With the change in customers’ demands and industry trends, we have been prompt to adopt customization and personalization features. This approach complements our customer-first ideology and helps us cater to their diverse requirements.

Customer-centricity forms the core foundation of our operations as this aspect is a deal breaker for any hospitality player. This is why, every business decision by the brand is taken keeping in mind their benefit.

Whether it is a corporate offsite, MICE, weddings and related functions, or even leisure travel, we offer diverse services falling under the gamut of events and craft memorable experiences for our guests that they can cherish lifelong. Today, if it is arranging a specific color or variety of flowers, serving authentic local and global cuisines with exceptional culinary experiences, or including activities that add to the grandeur of events, we fulfil every wish of our customers and organize the event just the way they want.

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The hospitality industry has faced unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic. How did Radisson Blu Palace Resort, Udaipur, adapt its operations and offerings to navigate through these challenging times, particularly in the context of the destination wedding market?

India is a big fat wedding market. Viewed as symbols of traditions wrapped in the glory of opulence and grandeur, they are synonymous with exceptional hospitality. People desire to host lavish weddings and create memories that they can cherish for their lifetime. We understand that for couples, D-day marks a significant milestone in their life’s journey, and our constant endeavor is to transform their dream weddings into reality. This approach sets us apart from our competitors and motivates us to give our best. 

The wedding industry has had a curvy graph ever since the pandemic. Owing to social distancing practices and Covid-related restrictions, there were operational hiccups, and we had to face several challenges. However, once the situation started resuming normalcy, we noticed various shifts and the market had to adapt to new norms. For instance, we moved from lavish weddings to intimate ceremonies and smaller gatherings. Making grand arrangements and curating experiences was a hurdle as businesses had come to a halt. Even manpower was an issue. This is when we took this as an opportunity and made certain modifications to our strategies to meet the customers’ demands. Thanks to our hardworking team and our vendors, by God’s grace, we were able to sail through the challenging time. 

Today, as the trend of grand weddings has made a comeback, their grandeur is increasing exponentially. Even the concept of destination weddings is becoming commonplace as couples prefer celebrating their union in a serene, picturesque location. We offer anything and everything under the umbrella of wedding services to add to the charm and glory of their weddings. 

Udaipur has emerged as a popular destination for weddings. What unique aspects or services does Radisson Blu Palace Resort offer to cater to this niche market, and how do you foresee this segment evolving in the coming years?

Over the years, Udaipur has developed significantly. It has embraced hospitality players and given them an opportunity space to grow and prosper. Surrounded by the lush Aravalli range and dotted with lakes and stunning historic architectural marvels, the city provides breathtaking landscapes and natural views that serve as the perfect backdrop for weddings. Hence, it is considered to be one of the most romantic destinations to exchange vows. Additionally, Udaipur’s cultural heritage and amicable hospitality add up to its grandeur. It has become synonymous with grand-scale weddings and destination weddings, and our property is one of the top choices. We host 80-100 weddings annually and are known as one of the picturesque places for destination weddings.

Overlooking Fateh Sagar Lake and the Aravalli range, we have the largest pillarless ballrooms in the state. Our indoor and outdoor event spaces are spacious and serve as the perfect venue for palatial sundowner weddings and related ceremonies. The palace radiates royalty and elegance with traditional architecture, a touch of contemporary décor, high-end facilities, alluring views and world-class hospitality. Whether it is decoration, curation of thematic events, or value-added experiences like royal welcome, romantic set-ups, butler services, personalized experiences, and rejuvenating spas - you name it, and you’ll find diverse services at our property. 

Udaipur offers the right balance of tradition, luxury, and hospitality and is the best destination for weddings. Standing strong as a witness of several celebrity and high-end weddings, Udaipur’s relevance will increase all the more in the times to come with the rise in the trend of destination weddings.

Consumer preferences and expectations in the hospitality industry are constantly evolving. What are some key insights or trends you've observed in guest preferences, and how is Radisson Blu Palace Resort staying ahead to meet these changing demands?

The hospitality industry has always been dynamic and competitive. But yes, the pandemic had a major role to play in bringing about a shift in the consumers’ preferences and expectations from the sector. However, there is a silver lining as well. Amid the changes, the market got an opportunity to evolve and adapt an innovative approach. This led to several changes in the hospitality industry, driving innovation and disruption. For instance, hygiene protocols and contactless technologies have become an integral part of the operational functions. Simultaneously, travel trends like workcations, staycations, weekend getaways, luxury vacations, recreational holidays, etc., are shaping the hospitality industry landscape. Eventually, value-added services extending beyond bed and breakfast, experiential travel, and personalization of experiences to cater to individual preferences and choices have redefined customer-centricity in the hospitality industry. 

The pent-up demand is driving the growth of the hospitality industry and we are moving from a linear approach of following day-by-day itinerary to experiential traveling. Hence, today, the focus is more on offering one-of-a-kind services like rejuvenating spas, wellness retreats, holistic well-being-focused programmes, recreational activities, romantic set-ups, yoga, meditation, etc. Guests not only demand but value such services as these add up to their holiday and stay experiences. 

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In recent years, sustainability and eco-friendly practices have become increasingly important in the hospitality sector. How is Radisson Blu Palace Resort incorporating sustainability into its operations and guest experiences?

Today's travelers are increasingly supportive of environmental conservation and make conscientious choices. As a result, sustainability is now a fundamental aspect of the tourism and hospitality industries. At Radisson Blu Palace Resort, we are an environmentally conscious brand dedicated to protecting the planet and giving back to the environment in every possible way.

Aligned with this vision, we have implemented several operational modifications. Firstly, we have adopted renewable energy sources, such as solar panels from a plant near Bikaner, to reduce carbon emissions. This initiative is both cost-effective and energy-efficient. Additionally, we have established efficiency systems and guest awareness programs to promote water conservation. The palace is designed to ensure natural illumination in all meeting rooms and public areas. Moreover, all artificial lighting is sensor-based and utilizes energy-saving LED lights.

Our commitment to sustainability extends beyond operations to personalized guest experiences. The interiors and decorative elements, such as puppets and wall décor, are handcrafted by local artisans. Even the personalized welcome notes from the General Manager are made from eco-friendly materials.

We believe that these sustainability-driven initiatives not only help preserve Rajasthan’s heritage but also positively impact the socio-economic development of the surrounding areas.

With the rise of digital technologies and online platforms, how has Radisson Blu Palace Resort utilized digital marketing and technology to enhance guest engagement and drive bookings, especially in the competitive landscape of the hospitality industry?

In today’s digitally driven world, integrating new-age tech solutions is vital to ensuring operational efficiency and fulfilling customers’ demands. The hospitality industry is highly competitive and technology can be pivotal to improving guest engagement, driving bookings, and fostering customer loyalty and satisfaction. To share an example: we have introduced QR codes on our websites to help our guests navigate to the application, which gives them access to lucrative deals and exclusive app-only offers. 

Digital marketing is an essential component of our marketing initiatives. We follow a robust strategy to promote our property, showcase our achievements and milestones, and connect with customers by sharing real-time updates. These updates highlight event glimpses, preparations, venue set-ups, décor, high-end offerings, behind-the-scenes shots, and customer reviews. Such steps increase brand awareness and visibility, attracting potential customers.

Customer feedback and reviews are crucial for improving our services. This is why we have a dedicated section on our website where valuable customers can share their feedback on their overall guest experiences and our tech platforms.

Looking ahead, what are your aspirations and vision for the future growth and development of Radisson Blu Palace Resort, Udaipur? Are there any upcoming projects or initiatives that you're particularly excited about?

Radisson Blu Palace Resort and Spa, Udaipur, is a well-known name in the hospitality industry. Our main focus is on business growth and expansion. In the short term, we aim to grow further in Rajasthan and become the top choice for events like weddings, corporate offsites, and leisure travel. We also plan to expand across India with a sustainable growth strategy. Our first step is launching Fairmont Palace in Udaipur, with new properties in Jaipur and Mumbai also in the works.

Our property is 13 years old, so we decided it was time for a renovation to offer a warmer, more comfortable, and memorable experience for our guests. We have updated our banquet halls with the latest technology and done the same for our ballrooms, blending royal architecture with modern interiors and high-tech features. Next, we will redesign our in-house restaurants and add more rooms to the hotel.

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