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“We have found other ways to survive during the blockades”



Srijan Vadhera, Managing Director, Conrad Bengaluru, reviews the year 2021 for the hospitality industry and looks to 2022

Rising 24 floors above Bengaluru’s central business district, Conrad Bengaluru is a known landmark offering 285 guest rooms and mesmerizing views of Lake Ulsoor. Heading the business is Managing Director Srijan Vadhera who brings over 21 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Vadhera took over operations of the property in 2019 and has been responsible for the hotel’s continued growth and expansion since then.

2021 exam for hospitality
As the number of vaccinations increased, people started to become more confident to travel again. They wanted to be part of new and unique experiences while staying safe. Customers have started to spend more of their discretionary income on experiential and luxury offerings. The year 2021 saw the reopening of F&B outlets, both for on-site meals, online orders and take-out. M-commerce and digitization have played a major role in facilitating communication and maximizing the income generated despite the pandemic. Not surprisingly, safety and health have become and will continue to be the number one priority. Educating team members on new protocols as well as training them in multiple roles and abilities to improve adaptability and efficiency during difficult times has come to the fore. Weddings and birthdays have made a comeback due to the ease of restrictions and finally, business travel and conferences have made a slow comeback.

Projects and expectations for 2022
Stays: People don’t want to deal with the hassle of travel restrictions and Covid19 testing, which is why they want to travel closer to home. As luxury guests expect intuitive and personalized service from hotels, Conrad Bengaluru offers vacation packages with Sunday brunch and a special kids’ area for families looking to get away from it all.
Durability: The importance of sustainable practices has grown in recent years for good. Customers want to experience luxury, but not at the expense of the environment. Eliminating plastic bottles, using more renewable resources, and installing reusable amenities in guest rooms are ways for hotels to become more sustainable organizations.
Experiential offers: Customers are looking for exclusive experiences and want hotels to offer special concepts like wine tours, locally sourced healthy brunch offers, etc. Luxury clients with high discretionary income will be willing to pay to be part of an extraordinary experience.
Change of customer lifestyle: Today, clients have started to look more towards healthier lifestyle choices. People want healthier menus and options for plant-based meat, local ingredients and more in restaurants. Conrad Bengaluru has worked with local farms and businesses like Wakao Foods to meet these demands.
Temporary workspaces: Few companies, especially those based on technology, have started to perpetuate the #WorkFromHome culture. This will lead to companies using hotel spaces to hold meetings or conferences and workers will want to change the environment and choose to stay in a hotel to train for a few days, until the first quarter of 2021.

Fighting the pandemic with safety and hygiene
Hilton, in partnership with Reckitt, the makers of Lizol & Dettol, launched Hilton CleanStay and Hilton EventReady, a health and safety program practiced at Conrad Bengaluru. As part of this program, housekeeping and hygiene standards are enhanced in all areas of the hotel in accordance with government regulations and WHO guidelines. All staff are fully immunized and wear face masks at all times. The property has disinfectants in all areas of the hotel and public areas are disinfected regularly with hourly cleaning of high touch points like elevators. The hotel is ISO 22000: 2018 Food Safety Management System certified, testifying to our high standards of hygiene and safety. The hotel offers digital menus compatible with the QR code and has adjusted the restaurant seating plan in accordance with government guidelines to ensure social distancing. We have a Hygiene Manager who performs regular checks on staff hand hygiene and high point of contact areas. Finally, Hilton Honors members using the Hilton Honors app have access to all meeting locations and can book and select rooms through the app, providing a contactless experience from reservation to payment.

Takeaways from the pandemic
The Covid-19 pandemic has taught the hospitality industry how to sustain and recover from the most unexpected and difficult blows. It taught us to react proactively and get things done quickly without waiting for things to happen. Another major change has been the importance of investing more time and resources in using technology in all possible aspects of the customer experience. Many hotel companies were able to survive during the pandemic solely through the use of technology. When it comes to employees, the pandemic has taught us the importance of mental health and how crucial it is to maintain high levels of productivity at work. During the closures, employees were followed through regular online meetings to ensure their overall well-being during difficult times. The MICE industry has been hit hard. More and more organizations have moved from large conventions to online meetings across the world. This has impacted both business travelers and event spaces for hotels. Businessmen are reluctant to leave the security of their homes to travel. However, that hasn’t stopped Conrad Bengaluru from attracting business travelers in recent months, with the city being the hub of the IT industry.

Bring recognition to the hotel industry
One would like to bring more dignity to work in Indian hotel sector because no job is less superior to another and everyone should be treated equally. All employees must have the highest level of skills and there must be more diversity among employees in the workplace. The destination as a whole should be promoted rather than just a hotel or restaurant. This will benefit both the state and the hotel companies. Finally, I want stand-alone restaurants to become stronger, to become safer and more secure, so that they can survive and thrive in tough times.

Cross the high tides
The pandemic has helped the hospitality industry evolve for the better. We found other ways to survive during the lockdowns and restrictions, with technology playing the lead. From digital check-ins to multiple payment gateways, hotels have adapted quickly. The first lockdown was severe, unexpected and a learning opportunity for businesses and in the second lockdown the hospitality industry was well equipped with contingency plans and strategies to deal with unpredictability. Employees have become more versatile by working and training in different departments due to the shortage of manpower. The industry has recognized the importance of team member mental health and its impact on workplace productivity. Operationally, hotel managers have learned to survive on minimal cash flow, to re-evaluate their expenses and operational manpower ratios to find areas to optimize. In conclusion, given the impact of the pandemic on the hospitality industry, we fought to stay upright at all times.