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BW Businessworld

Redefining Luxury Hospitality

Luxury hotel space has upped its game by tapping into new opportunities while retaining its ‘wow’ factor

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The word ‘LUXURY’ in the hospitality sector is synonymous with ‘personalised guest experiences’ right from check-in to check-out. A luxury hotel exposes you to the ‘wow’ factor, provides lush experiences which are not limited to the amenities or services but goes way beyond it. The luxury hotel space is very competitive, even from before the outbreak of coronavirus, and brands were stepping up their game to walk parallelly with the evolving consumers. However, the pandemic wave brought the industry to its knees, with the lockdown and zero revenue system, and hotels across the globe had to redefine their business models to survive in the ongoing crisis. The spread of Covid-19 has left businesses managing costs and pondering on a roadmap to recovery. 

Over the past few months, each and every hospitality brand has come up with their own set of hygiene and safety protocols to combat the covid-19 outbreak, be it ‘WeAssure’ initiative of ITC Hotels or ‘Tajness’ initiative of Indian Hotels Company Ltd (IHCL) or ‘Global Cleanliness Council’ of Marriott or ‘ALLSAFE’ label of Accor Group, etc. and thus introducing the ‘new normal’.

These new stringent protocols are aimed at overcoming challenges possessed by the coronavirus outbreak and the brands have used multi-prolonged approaches in terms of cleanliness, social distancing, sanitisation, innovation, technologies etc.  

New Normal

According to the Executive Director of ITC Ltd, Nakul Anand, the new normal should uphold our ‘Ethos of Atithi Devo Bhava’. He says, “We stand at the threshold of a new normal, witnessing the birth of a society with an unaccustomed relationship to the community: a new tryst with humanity.” Anand  adds further, “As society resets its priorities, health and hygiene becomes paramount, ushering in a new era in service. Low or no touch or contactlight sanitised protocols converge with social and physical distancing to establish a new norm.” He believes that limiting contact need not limit warmth. “At the core of great service lies an endearing experience. 

As the lockdown was l if ted, brands have been consistently working to assure and give greater confidence to their guests that their health and safety are top priorities for the hotel. The hotels have included social distancing measure, thermal screening of employees as well as guests, intensive hospital level sanitisation and contactless services. 

Saleem Yousuff, Senior Vice President - Operations (South), IHCL expresses, “The precautionary measures reassure and give comfort to our guests, allowing them to experience our luxurious stays, exquisite dining, intimate gatherings, and rejuvenating wellness therapies, at any of our properties, ranging from city hotels to resorts.”

Innovation and Technologies 

Keeping the balance between innovation and personalisation is a major challenge for the luxury hospitality sector. But as the industry inch towards normalcy, cutting-edge concepts that offer exquisite options for luxury consumers are being implemented across hotels to ensure social distancing between guests and associates while ensuring seamless service. 

“Whilst the sincerity and genuine care from staff will remain undiminished, our hotels will use newage technologies to minimise contact, whether it is for guests who are checking in or checking out of hotels or for the purpose of dining in the restaurants or in their rooms,” informs a spokesperson from The Oberoi Group. 

Digital key cards, digital pre-check in, digital QR based menus and digital payments are a few initiatives that have been adapted by the luxury hospitality brands. 

Anuraag Bhatnagar, Chief Operating Officer, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts says, “Health and wellness practices will no longer be a niceto- have in a post-COVID-19 world. All travelers will expect higher standards to ensure their wellbeing, and digital tools will enable and expand existing ‘no touch’ options.” 

In-room Dining and Food Delivery

While there are many opportunities available for the luxury hospitality brands to explore but ‘dining’ is a vital element of luxury space that has been disrupted exponentially due to the black swan event (Coronavirus pandemic has been called a black swan event by many industry experts). 

According to the spokesperson of Marriott International, in-room dining is a preferred option, from a safety standpoint. “We will have contactless delivery of food to rooms. Our restaurants will have reduced seating capacity as space between tables is increased. We will only have a la carte menus in the initial months, buffets will follow but at a later stage,” the company adds. 

Also, during the lockdown, luxury brands tapped into a profitable ancillary revenue model of food delivery to survive. For instance, brands like Taj Hotels introduced ‘Qmin’ and ‘Marriott on Wheels’ by Marriott International; they tied up with Zomato and Swiggy to deliver food while ensuring highest levels of safety and hygiene.