Revival post-COVID

Sarovar Hotels & Resorts’ Regional Heads talk about their comeback post-COVID, health & safety protocols, region-specific challenges, M!CE & business travel, and future plans.

Neha Rawat

SANJEEV SHEKHAR Regional Director – West

We have 14 hotels for now and are looking at opening three more very soon. In addition to that talks are going on with six other owners in Mumbai and other parts of West India. Though our resort property is doing great in India as international travel is restricted to Maldives and Dubai, our rates in the corporate sector are not going to rise as foreigners not coming in. So we have to handle the Indian palette in our corporate hotels. We would be able to reach 70-80 per cent occupancy in the summers but the rates will really suffer. Domestic footfall is seeing an uptick in Goa. But due to the rates going down in a lot of cities where we never saw footfalls, like in Tier-2 & 3 cities, we are seeing an increase in the number of people coming to high-end hotels. Though we are a tad behind other regions because of the problems occurring in Maharashtra, we hope to overcome them very soon and come at par with the Northern and Southern regions in a couple of months once the pandemic is under control. Once the train travel opens up in Maharashtra, it’s going to be game changer for the hotel industry.

AJOY BALKRISHNA Regional Director – North

Currently under the North region umbrella, we have around 47 operational hotels, and out of 50, about 8-9 are in North. Our growth in the North has been the fastest and the highest, we have mostly been focused on business destinations but in the last couple of years we have started opening in our leisure segment, and hence our leisure portfolio is growing faster. Even in the pilgrim, beach and hill areas our hotels are popping up very rapidly. The COVID-19 pandemic has made us change our strategies and adaptability is the key word now. In addition to the business segment, we have started focusing on weddings, leisure, workcations and staycations. So there are different things that we have started incorporating in our selling and stay strategies for our guests. The way things are changing now are very dynamic. It’s the nimble footed, the fast one who captures business. So we are adapting to the fast paced environment. 2021 is going to be a great fight back year and we will be back to normal. Hopefully with the vaccine, by October everything will come back on track and the bounce back will be much bigger than the setback has been.

SWARUP DATTA Regional Director – South

We are recovering from the pandemic which has caused a major setback for us as we are a travel dependent industry. Due to travel restrictions hotels are seeing low occupancies. However, as travel has been restarted, we are seeing a gradual pick up in demand. So we are in the process of trying to re-establish our businesses and to drive revenue from our non-traditional sources. We have been optimising our costs, rightsizing our teams and looking for new avenues of business. Sustainability of the business on the revenue and the cost model is the prime thing, which is how a business should run. At this the stage the revenue which is coming in is at lower rates because of low demand. Our hotels are highly dependent on international travel and once it opens up we will look at the M!CE segment to drive occupancy. The sectors which are performing well and are dependent upon travel for their business will come to the property. So we will do our best, we will provide a safe environment at unbeatable value and we will ensure that the guests are well looked after. These will be done with proper checks and balances that we are delivering a consistent product.