‘Go digital is the new mantra’

Hoteliers share details on the safety measures in place for customers, how they are training employees to deal with the current crisis, strategic changes for business, redesigning of menus and plans for the future.

Neha Rawat

Irfan Khatry General Manager ibis Bengaluru City Center & ibis Bengaluru Hosur Road

What are you doing for customers for a safe experience in this time of crisis?

We have introduced intensified hygiene and sanitation measures to ensure our employee and guest safety further by launching the ALLSAFE Label. This programme has ensured that we captured the essence of hospitality & retained our brand philosophy while indoctrinating the new hygiene and safety goals into individual, department and guest activities. These entail from temperature checks for guests & staff to health reporting mechanism for team members, cleaning chemicals & special purpose disinfectants to sanitisers, face masks, face shields, PPE kits for the employees to trainings session for the vendors on basic hygiene and sanitation.

How are you training your employees?

In order to receive the ALLSAFE Label all operational team members were mandatorily asked to attend the specific training modules and implement the same in their daily shifts. This allowed us to verify and translate the requisite action and also monitor the responses and assess the effectiveness and highlight any discrepancy and inconsistency from the SOPs suggested by the state and Central government.

Any innovative plans for the future?

We see the role of technology increasing in our new world of contactless menus & digital payments. We intend to keep our eyes open for new technology as we adapt to the ever-changing business environment.

“We intend to keep our eyes open for new technology as we

adapt to the ever-changing business environment”

Sarbendra Sarkar Founder & MD, Cygnett Hotels and Resorts

What are you doing for customers for a safe experience in this time of crisis?

At Cygnett, cleanliness and comfort always went hand-in-hand. Now, with the “new normal” we are further implementing several sterility practices, keeping in mind the safety of our staff and our guests. We ensure consistent sanitisation of all our premises on a daily basis; all our employees use PPE kits; we provide contactless experiences to make the guests more comfortable; and we are very strict about practicing social distancing. Additionally, we have updated our Property Management System to provide contactless check-in & check-out using mobile apps; introduced QR code-based menus for a more comfortable in-house dining experience; and included health and immunity boosting foods in our menus.

How are you training your employees?

We have created a well thought-through learning and development procedure to ensure the safety, comfort, health and hygiene of our staff & guests. We have followed and implemented the hygiene standard set by the WHO to the “T” and are training our staff on similar lines. Also, our ‘Organisations Operations’ and L&D teams have set a comprehensive programme known as “Health & Safety Assured” in adherence with the guidelines set by the local and Central healthcare agencies.

Any strategic changes for business?

We intend to concentrate on our core business — Stay and F&B. At this point, with the market being volatile, exploring new streams requires investment and may not provide expected results. In fact, we would be converting our fixed costs to variable costs, which I feel is not a good idea right now. We pay special interest to a guest’s experience post check-out to understand whether they had a good stay with us, what ticked for them and what did not, thus constantly helping us better our services. We are confident that with our new image makeover and implementation of our ‘Health & Safety Assured’ programme, we will capture the market soon enough.

Any innovative plans for the future?

Right now and for the immediate future our paramount priority is to ensure the safety and health of our guests as well as our staff. With this in mind, we have launched a campaign titled, “We will travel again”. This campaign highlights/communicates the safety measures that we have initiated; emphasizes on our contactless check-in/check-out policy, the QR coded menus and our contactless food experience. We are conveying the following message to our customers — “Hotels are safe havens that enable travellers to get about their business/life without having to stress about basic necessities.” Currently, digital platforms are our preferred marketing tools. We are highlighting our messaging via social media platforms; communicating with guests/potential guests via personalised calls, emailers and online chat mechanism (website). Additionally, we have now started WhatsApp marketing and reach out to our customers and encourage them to do the same.

“With our image makeover & safety programme, we will capture the market soon enough”

Nabendu Acharjee General Manager, Hometel Chandigarh – A Sarovar Hotel

What are you doing for customers for a safe experience in this time of crisis?

From sanitisation of rooms, public areas, linen, air-conditioning, contactless check-in or check-out, QR codes have suddenly taken the front seat. Go digital is the new mantra. Norms and protocols set by the government is the foundation and hotels have gone beyond to create trust amongst the guests. Creating the awareness through various social media platforms has been another challenge.

How are you training your employees?

We have trained our staff in all our core operations and support functions. The core functions include the guest

cycle which starts from the pre-registration to check-out involving reservation, front office, housekeeping, food and beverage service and production. Our guests can now check-in and check-out absolutely contactless. The guest can order his food orders through the QR coded menu in the room. The orders are delivered in bio-degradable disposable plates and bowls. Each room has a table outside where the order is placed, and a guest can pick up his orders. Rooms are sanitised by ULV Fogger before and after guest arrival and departure. Baggage is sanitised by using a fogging machine. Shoe sanitisers for guests and staff ensure that we have cleaner areas. All our lifts have pedal operated sanitiser dispensers. Also, temperature of guests and staff is monitored and recorded.

What about menus?

The menus revolve around easy to cook and easy to digest food options. Guests too prefer to have healthy and safer options that has lesser raw or ready to eat food.

Any innovative plans for the future?

There is constant brainstorming on what can be done better to communicate the safety assurance to our guests. There have been online weddings happening where the guests witness the ceremony online and party. Innovation is expected in laundry operations. However, I feel the entire hotel operating system would gradually get restructured and it will affect HR and Finance as well.

“From sanitisation of rooms, public areas, contactless check-in or check-out, QR codes have suddenly taken the front seat”

Ajay Pawar Regional General Manager, Lords Group of Hotels

What are you doing for customers for a safe experience in this time of crisis?

Lords Hotels & Resorts’ focus has always been on safety first and the well-being of our guests and associates. Our hotels have implemented revised health and safety standards for their guests and employees as per the new norms.

We have upgraded our standards, practice, technology and tools as per the new government guidelines. As of now, right from touchless lobbies to spread out banquets and exhaustive pandemic protocols, everything is being implemented.

How are you training your employees for the new normal?

Lords Hotels and Resorts has resumed operations with heightened precautionary measures. The Group has elevated its Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) through the new initiative “Karona safe Rahona Safe”. Our safety and hygiene programme is based on the guidelines issued and updated by WHO, FSSAI and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). Our staff have been extensively trained as per the new sanitation norms. These procedures are regularly monitored by way of checklists, mystery auditors and regular reports from the units. As a procedure our sanitised guest rooms are checked by the unit head. Each unit has a designated COVID warrior for each area. The warrior ensures that all systems are in place and are adhered to by guests and staff. The warrior also solicits guests’ feedback on how the hotel can futher fortify efforts to their satisfaction.

Any strategic changes for business?

The Group has enforced quality and safety standards across all its properties. Each property has met cleaning quality requirements and completed the COVID-19 checklist and hygiene audit. The enhanced protocols include social distancing, contactless check-in, sanitisation, in-room dining, thermal screening of guest, allotting room to the guest after 48 hours of the previous check-out, to mention a few.

Are you redesigning menus to make them more flexible and economical now and in the future?

Most of the hotels have redesigned their menus by adding dishes and beverages that are believed to improve immunity. Digital menus have been introduced since they enable contactless self-ordering system and table service for customers to communicate with restaurant staff.

Any innovative plans for the future?

Artifical Intelligence is the need of the hour. We are looking at upgrading our hotels post the COVID-19 pandemic. We will be introducing voice control solutions shortly. These solutions will comprise Artificial Intelligencebased solutions in various areas like voice activated elevator, thermal screening, facial recognition, to name a few.

“We will be introducing AI-based solutions in various areas like voice activated elevator, thermal screening, facial recognition”