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Akshay Kumar

Akshay Kumar

Sébastien Bazin, Chief Executive Officer, Accor speaks about his vision and strategies to induce futuristic elements in a traditional hospitality chain

 

How do you see India as a market and what is your vision for this market?

Accor only exists due to its partners. These partners take the risk of developing a hotel. Today we have 4800 hotels in 100 countries. Accor has never been stronger than today. We are opening one hotel every 30 hours and in the next two years we will be opening a hotel per day. Today we have 4800 hotels which is good. But in India we have only 51 hotels, so it’s a bit more than a per cent. We have in France 1800 hotels, and Germany 500 hotels, in England 350 hotels which are all very small than India. My presence in India is not an accident; we are very serious about this nation. India has one of the oldest respected civilisation with 100s of historic sites, extraordinary culinary and diversity and still getting only two per cent of global travellers. I am looking at how Accor can help India growing from two per cent worldwide destination to 10 per cent. We want to offer more and more experience and brands to the foreign travellers in India. Accor should have around 200 to 300 hotels in India. We will be opening another 24 hotels, but we need to open more.

Today one of the biggest challenges is customer acquisition and retention? Has the concept of loyalty programme evolved over the years?

For the last 50 years, loyalty programmes has been driven majorly by collection of points and getting various perks. Today, people don’t want a cocktail at the bar or a complementary fruit basket at the room. Members are looking at things which is difficult to do on their own. People out there are looking for experiences and access. We recently conducted a survey in around 30 countries and 40,000 loyalty card members. From this survey we found out three major points which people want from the loyalty programme. Firstly, people are looking for access to concerts, entertainment and music. Members want special access to backstage of concerts and meet the singers. Secondly people want culinary experiences. Members are looking for culinary as well as cooking classes and opportunity to meet 3 star Michelin chefs. Finally access to sporting events and chance to meet the players backstage has been the demand. And the sport majorly asked is for Football.

These demands are from 28 years old and also 58 year old members. So we have decided to shift the strategy. So we have now come up with a new programme called, ‘Accor Live Limitless’. We have already have signed three partnership. We have signed with AEG which is the largest concert organiser in the planet. 70 venues in 50 countries and have all major stars performing. We have signed 70,000 tickets every year. We signed another contract with IMG, who is the biggest food festival organiser in 30 countries. We will give privilege experience in these festivals. Then we signed a contract with football team ‘Paris St. Germaine’, which is the fourth largest football team in the planet with 400 million social media followers.

Accor is known for giving out best possible rates on its own website. You also have partnership with all the major OTAs, how do you balance this relationship? Also isn’t OTAs a competition to your own channels?

We as collective hotel players (all the big branded chains) have succeeded and have got the OTAs to accept that the best available rate should be with the hotel company and not on the OTAs. This is because it’s our inventory, we are taking the risk, and we are managing the people. It’s been a boxing game. However it will take a few months for the people to realise this. This is possible only if you are a big chain. Smaller chains still depends on OTAs to sell their inventory.

The OTAs spend millions of dollars in mobile app and website development. We spend one tenth of that as we don’t have that much budgets. We spend on brand and marketing. It’s very difficult for us to cope up with same flexibility, seamless journey that you find on OTAs. If you take three minutes to book on Accor, it will take two minutes on Booking.com or Expedia or other OTAs. This is one of the challenges where we need to look how we can partner better. For you as a guest you want to have speed when you book. We are now very client minded and looking to enhance every experience.

What is the concept of augmented hospitality which you are looking to develop?

We are a hotel company and we do everything to tap the repeat client. Still the average client returning to our hotel is two times a year. So my interaction with you is two times a year, and you interaction with Facebook is 12 times a day. If we want to survive, we have to multiply the number of touch points and increase the interaction with you. But travellers may not come to us 12 times a year as they don’t need to. So now we are buying or investing in many different businesses. We own the largest concierge system called ‘Jean Paul’. People can book anything under Accor ecosystem. When it comes to co-working we own a company called WOJO. We have invested in sbe, which is the largest nightclub, restaurant, entertainment group. So we have invested into 20 different businesses. With Accor Live Limitless we are integrating all these pieces of the puzzle into one ecosystem. So with all these I will increase the interaction from two times a year to maybe two times a week. This is what augmented hospitality is all about.

Radisson Hotel Group is set to further enhance its technology platforms by launching a new website that will have a bouquet of all its brands to choose from. Also, later this year Radisson will launch ‘Emma,’ which is a unified system designed to encompass revenue management, property management, business analytics and further increase personalisation.

Speaking about the plans, Katerina Giannouka, President, Asia Pacific, Radisson Hotel Group said, “We are coming up with a new website in June this year. Earlier, we had different websites for each brand, now everything will be at one website. It also comes with an application; it will be a cutting edge in the Industry. We will also define the room categories, so that guests can select the type of room they want. Marketing strategies will be further refined and bookings will be made easier.”

Divulging more details about ‘Emma’, she said, “Emma is our new technology platform which will create experiences and will link all our property systems, reservations, loyalty programme and creates customised and seamless services. We are working on giving key access to the best unique offer that others don’t offer. We are working on a concept where guests can select the particular room which they want just like the airline seats. This doesn’t exist today, but will come with the launch of Emma. We will have a lot more flexibility with the new website.”

In India, the group currently operates 94 hotels and has a strong pipeline of hotels across the nation. Radisson Blu will be the fastest growing brand for the group in India market. The Group signed 15 hotels in India in 2018 and it has already signed four more properties in 2019: Park Plaza Amritsar, Radisson Greater Noida, Radisson Gurugram Sohna Road City Center, and Park Inn by Radisson Kashipur.

Speaking about the India development plan, Zubin Saxena, Managing Director and Vice President of Operations, South Asia, Radisson Hotel Group said, “In India we have 94 operating hotels, and we are one of the largest international chains in India. We have also been the fastest growing brand in India in the last couple of years. We have around 50 hotels in the pipeline. This is an extremely active and robust pipeline. Our portfolio is growing in Tier I, II and III locations. We have been one of the first movers to get into the smaller markets and this has been a part of our strategy since the very beginning. Many of our hotels are landmarks in each of these smaller locations and are doing very well. We see amongst the portfolio in India Radisson Blu has the largest presence and this is our major growth brand.”

Radisson is now looking to further tap the MICE and family segments. The group is looking to introduce new concepts later this year to make MICE and family bookings further seamless.

Giannouka added, “One of the biggest growths last year was in the MICE segment. That business is growing fast. We are also launching brands in our company like ‘Radisson Meetings’, which is a new brand for us to tap this MICE business. Earlier we had different programmes, we will be packaging all these into ‘Radisson Meetings’. This will be launched in end of June. Also family and leisure travel is growing for us; we are also launching a new concept called ‘Rad Family’. This has been warmly received, we had an internal meeting and everyone recognises that this market is important.”

In India market, the group is also looking to partnership with f&b brands to further enhance the experience. Giannouka said, “What we are looking at in terms of new brand is alliance in the f&b space. We see the strength of working with recognised brands that complements our seven brands.”

Saxena further said, “In India nearly half of our business revenues come from f&b space. This leaves us to seriously enhance our food offerings. We are aggressively focusing on f&b as a core pillar of our business model. There are active discussions for tie-ups.”

Jalesh Cruises, India’s first premium cruise ship, recently sailed on its maiden voyage from its homeport Mumbai. The cruise liner unveiled its first vessel, ‘Karnika’, which was acquired from the P&O cruises from Australia and has a capacity of 2000 guests.

Speaking about Karnika, Jurgen Bailom, President and CEO, Zen Cruises said, “We are the first premium cruise ship in India. The ship arrived in March in Singapore and went into revitalisation. We had very good response from the market when the first look was out. As a company, we want to make sure that guests know that this is a cruise ship for Indians to explore the 7600 kms of coastline. One of the major USPs is that we cater the finest Indian cuisine in the cruise. We will strive to provide the best experience. There are 700 crew members on board and the ship can hold almost 2000 guests. We have nine different food outlets and 13 bars. We have massive Broadway shows, entertainment and several bands. We also have a water park and also a lot of activities for the kids. We have spacious rooms, across various categories. One of our aims is to become famous for the big fat Indian weddings.”

The ship is set to be home ported in Mumbai for around eight and half months and during the monsoon Dubai will be its homeport for three months. The group aims to attract 250,000 travellers in the next 12 months.

 “Mumbai will be our homeport and we will turn the ship around 100 times in the next 12 months. In the monsoon the ship will move to the Middle East, calling Dubai its homeport. We are predominantly doing two and three night cruises and we are looking at 250,000 guests in the next 12 months,” Bailom added.

Further speaking about the current size of the Indian cruising industry and the growth, he added, “Today the Indian cruising industry size is 1.6 to 1.7 lakhs, we need to go to 2.5 lakhs. We want to have 250,000 guests ourselves. Our bookings are happening very well. We want Indians to go international in the comfort of their home. We will grow quickly here being in Mumbai. We will double the cruise market in next one year. We will look at 500,000 to 700,000 in the next three years. We have the potential to be close to China very soon. We have a government which is positive in developing the waterways in India. This is just a part of how India has grown in last ten years. We created a cruise line association called INCLA and we work closely with the Government and creating SOP manuals. We want to work closely with all ministries and will want all the other cruise lines to come to India. If this happens we can grow a healthy good business.”

One of the major goals for the group is sustainability and community building. The group is looking to create close to two million employment opportunities in the coming years. “One of our goals is to give back to the local community. We are trying to hire as many as Indian nationals as we can. Our promoters’ idea is to create around 2 million jobs in the next five to 10 years. One of our major programmes is the Clean Wave programme and in the next 12-18 months we will be plastic free. We want to be a part to clean up the beaches and environment in India, which is one of our goals,” Bailom added.

The group is also looking to acquire its second and third vessel soon. The Mauritian entity owned group with Subash Chandra as a major investor is now further looking to attract more investments.

 “Our goal now is to get a couple more ships and develop the cruising market. Our plan is to get the second ship and third ship soon. We are working aggressively on this. Jalesh Cruises is owned by a Mauritius entity, there are a lot of promoters and investors involved and one of the major promoters being Subhash Chandra family. Deltin Group is also one of the main investors. We want to make it a 100 per cent Indian entity in the next few months with more investors coming in. The total project is of over 90 million dollars. Cruising is an expensive business and take a long time for break even. Our average ticket price is US$ 130,”  he added.

InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) is set to witness exponential growth in the India market. The group currently operates 39 properties in India and has another 39 in the pipeline. The majority of the upcoming properties will be from the Holiday Inn Family.

Speaking about the growth in India market, Sudeep Jain, VP, Development, InterContinental Hotel Group said, “In India, today we have 39 operating hotels. We have another 39 hotels in the pipeline. This is a good number for us and with the signing pace we will get to 100 soon. Our goal is to have 150 within the next two to three years. Holiday Inn family which includes Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn express will be our predominant part of our strategy. This is a brand family which is well known worldwide and recognised in India and caters to demand and needs of customers and owners. Out of around 5600 hotels we have globally, 3600-3700 are from the Holiday Inn family. There is definitely emphasis in this brand, off the 39 hotels that operates in India, 27 are Holiday Inn express brand. This is a conscious strategy for us and has worked for us.”

Last year, the group acquired Regent Hotels and Resorts which are into the luxury space and recently it also acquired the Six Senses group. “We are waiting for the right opportunities in the luxury segment. Today, we have four brands in luxury : InterContinental, Regent, Kimpton and Six senses. We would probably see two to three of those brands come to India. I see an opportunistic demand for luxury segment in India; it is not classified as a very huge demand. This segment will continue to grow, but mid tier segment will grow faster,” Jain said.

Last year, IHG introduced a conversion friendly brand, the ‘Voco’ that was opened in Australia and Dubai.  “We recently introduced the conversion friendly brand called ‘Voco’. Our research demonstrated that a lot of hotels are running without a brand and are of very good quality. These hotels are generally underleveraged as they may not have the scale to reach a lot of customers or do distribution like big companies. There is an opportunity to provide them that service without changing a lot of guidelines. There could be a brand which is lifestyle oriented and with us they can become much more successful. This was the reason behind bringing Voco brand. In India, a lot of the running properties are branded in the segment of upper upscale. The brand was introduced 10 months back; we just opened Voco in Dubai. We opened the first one in Australia in Gold Coast which is very successful. We are satisfied with the acceptance of the brand. We will also try and having conversations and will have a Voco in India as well. The first few Voco brand hotel will be in the bigger cities or well known resort destinations in India.”

In the recent years, IHG has made huge investments to develop world-class technological developments. The group boasts of a first of its kind new technology called the IHG Concerto, which is in its second phase of implementation. “One of the areas which is our USP and we are leading is the technology. We have a cloud based system, Concerto, which will change the way people book. Phase I was that all our hotels worldwide will use this system which has happened. During phase II, we want to use the system to benefit the customers with customisation and choice and for owners to help in revenue management. It uses a lot of knowledge and history to build more customisation. It provides attribute based price and give more meaningful choices. This is one arena where IHG has made a lot of investment. Phase two is on its way, we are pilot testing. We also have the IHG Connect. This is a way one can connect with the WiFi network and people can access everything through mobile phones. We are getting this into all our hotels globally and in the next couple of years this will be rolled out. All of these are in implementations right now,” Jain informed. 

With an aim to position itself as a unique experiential destination in the Indian Ocean, Reunion Island recently showcased its diverse products in the India market. The destination organised a 3 city workshop along with its tourism suppliers in Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai recently. The workshop was organised along with Atout France.

 “The B2B market in India knows about our destination, but we need to increase awareness. We are looking to assist the travel trade to promote the destination. We have a lot of marketing plans for 2019 in India market. We have various familiarisation trips for travel trade and media. It is our priority to have a strong relationship with the B2B market in India. We are now doing workshop in Mumbai. We have many local partners with us for the roadshow. We have Air Austral, two DMCs who are keen and have worked with Indian market and two hotel partners,” Lydie Sangarin, Market Manager, Reunion Island Tourism Board, said.

The Reunion Island being an unexplored destination for the India market has a lot of unique experiences to offer. The destination boasts of active volcano and helicopter tours which are very popular.

Speaking about the attractions Stéphane Fouassin, President, Reunion Island Tourism Board, said, “Helicopter trip is the main highlight of our destination, which no other island can offer in the Indian Ocean. We have a lot of attractions to offer for all age groups starting from a three day itinerary to two weeks itineraries. We are looking to tap Indian travellers between three to six nights. The main activities are helicopter trip, the volcano trip, museum of volcano and lava cave which are very popular. One can also go to Salazie, the popular waterfall. People can also add beach activities and activities such as diving, paragliding and snorkelling. We also have a lot of family activities such as vanilla plantations. We are also looking to attract the millennial travellers. We have around 70 activities. We have the only active volcanos which continue to erupt, which itself is an experience.”

During the recent workshop, a delegation of seven suppliers came to India comprising of the national air carrier Air Austral, Destination management companies, hotels and a helicopter ride attraction. Air Austral provides twice weekly connectivity between India and Reunion Island. Also the destination is well connected with India via Air Mauritius.

 “Currently we have our regional airlines, Air Austral flying out of Chennai twice a week. We also have Air Mauritius flying out of Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Chennai. This is perfect for people to visit both destinations. We are a year round destination, May and June is the best time to visit though. Also during the year end its perfect for honeymoon segment. Also, we provide free visa on arrival. Booking with a tour operator gives this access for maximum 15 days. So our visa is also seamless process which is a positive for us,” Sangarin added. 

 

With summer holiday season just around the corner, travel plans to exciting and exotic destinations are underway for many.  From stitching the perfect itinerary to zeroing down on the best hotel and flight bookings, a lot of energy and time has already gone into making the trip a memorable one. So, what next?

In our quest for exploring new experiences, we often tend to miss out on the important aspect of protecting our journey from unforeseen contingencies, and that’s where a reliable travel insurance comes in to play. Even though the outbound travel market has surged over the past few years, not many people have recognized the need for a travel cover. While most consumers end up buying travel insurance as a mandatory cover, they often fail to understand the fact that it’s the only protection to help them in the event of any eventualities during their trips.

In fact, it is compulsory for travellers visiting Schengen countries to have travel insurance as a part of visa documentation process; even Australia mandates people over a certain age group to apply for travel covers.

For instance, while on a trip, if you lose your passport, a travel insurance policy will be your best guard to take care of the reimbursement expenses of acquiring a duplicate passport or getting a new one.

Similarly, in case of Baggage delay / Baggage loss, the insurance cover will compensate for your loss up to a certain permissible limit; while for baggage delay, you can get the expense of buying new personal properties reimbursed. 

Medical emergencies or a serious injury, during a trip could get anyone on their feet and that is when a travel insurance comes as a savior to ensure that medical emergencies are adequately met including cashless hospitalization or having a close family member flown to the location and taking care of other related expenses as well.

The most common hiccup nowadays could be an airline’s fault or a sudden medical evacuation. Many such unplanned perils may further blemish a planned trip at the eleventh hour, which can arrive in many ways –what do you do about your prior hotel or airline bookings if your trip gets suddenly cancelled due to natural calamity at the location destination? In such cases, a travel policy recompenses for the expenses incurred for accommodation and ticket bookings.  In case of a delayed flight, a travel policy will cover additional expenses such as an unplanned night stay at a hotel.

Theft is a common occurrence during trips. An insurance policy takes care of fraudulent charges like loss of credit/debit cards. However, before investing, it is prudent to know the fine prints of a travel policy to secure your journey better.

Given below are some elements you must look out for before buying a travel insurance policy.

• Confirm if you have a travel insurance already

You could have travel coverage already and not even know about it! Some Credit card policies or home insurances provide travel too, hence it’s well worth checking from the existing accounts before buying a new policy.

 

• Get your medical cover checked

If you have a medical condition make sure to carry your vaccinations and medicines recommended by the doctor for the destination you are travelling to. Some insurance companies may not pay out in case you get struck by a virus in absence of proper precautions.

 

• Check for your valuables cover

One must understand the difference between baggage and electronics and other valuables. While ‘baggage’ refers to personal day to day items; electronics and valuables comprise a completely different section of the policy. Many companies do not compensate if you do not carry an invoice copy. Hence, it’s essential to carry original bills and vouchers or have digital copies on your phone or mailbox to testify your purchase claim. 

 

• Pay more to get more

Some travel insurance companies distribute levels of covers to choose from. Make sure you check these levels as paying a little more with not too much difference in price can help you avail more fun with your buck.

 

• Multi-trip policies

Multi-trip policies are more beneficial for frequent travellers. Multi-trip policies cover all trips undertaken in a policy year, keeping in mind the length and limits of each trip. If one undertakes 5-6 trips a year, it is recommended to buy a multi-trip policy rather than a separate policy for each trip. Also multi-trip policies are more economical.

 

• Check for Cancellation Terms

The most disheartening part of a trip is if you have to cancel at the last moment due to unforeseen snags. Hence, it’s advisable to read the policy document carefully as not all insurance companies cover cancellation of accommodations and flights.

 

Since the Indian insurance market opened up under the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority Act (IRDA Act), product innovation and consumer options have grown by leaps and bounds. The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) reported a steady increase in the number of outbound travelers from India; in 2014, there were 18 million travelers departing the country, with an estimated year-on-year growth of 11 per cent and a projection of 35 million outbound travelers from India by 2020.

Vacations are supposed to be pleasant and memorable. You do not want it to be tainted by unfortunate incidents. Since you cannot control an incident, precaution is what you can ensure. Travel insurance is a subjective matter and hence all the parameters should be thoroughly checked. You should choose an insurer which is offering you what you are in quest for. What deems for others may not work out for you. Medical expenses in abroad can cost a lot, so it’s vital that everyone going abroad has adequate cover in place for any eventualities.

 

It is primarily advised by financial experts to read the travel insurance covers and documents before opting for a policy. You must not only chase an inexpensive travel insurance cover but seek your cover from a trusted brand with strong domestic and international networks and a successful claim settlement track record to go by. But most importantly, be clear of your own needs and expectations from a travel plan to adequately take care of your journey.

 

By Parag Ved, EVP & Head, Consumer Lines, Tata AIG General Insurance

 

Buoyed by a healthy load factor between India and Kuwait, Kuwait Airways is looking at enhancing the seat capacity. In India, the airline has Interline agreements with most of the major carriers.

“India is a very important market and it stands at the top of our strategy. The focus is to be the main service provider and reach out to more destinations. India is also important for Kuwaitis as a tourism destination, especially for medical tourism. We witness very healthy load factors from India to Kuwait. The only issue is the capacity, we need to enhance it. There are no seats available for many seasons,” Amin Alhaimy, Director-Sales, Kuwait Airways, said.

Both the Kuwait and Indian governments are in talks to further increase the seats. Currently, Kuwait Airways flies 49 flights a week to seven destinations in India.

“We now have very little capacity to increase seats in India. We are actually operating less than what we use to earlier, after it was decided that we have to share the capacity with other airlines. We have made the point and talks are on between both the governments and Civil Aviation Authorities to try and increase capacity. We are trying to team up with all airlines. We have agreement with Air India, Vistara, and we also in communication with IndiGo. We are trying to work with Indian airlines via such interline agreements,” he added.

The airline has recently undergone a major transformation in terms of technology and software. “Kuwait Airways is in the final stages of undergoing a total transformation, which was really important. This decision was taken up from the government level that the carrier needs to adapt the new era of aviation in the region. We have changed all the IT, software, processes to become more than a fast developing airline. We recently launched a new onboard entertainment system by doubling the content we offer. This year, for the summer, we are opening Malaga, Nice, Larnaca, Baku, Tbilisi and many other new destinations. Guangzhou is planned for later this year. We have big plans for Indian market. There is a community of over a million working in Kuwait and they are very important for us and we want to serve them better,” Alhaimy informed.

In terms of fleet enhancement, the airline has placed order A350 aircrafts and expects to receive it in the next couple of years. “We are now operating on a totally new fleet. It’s the youngest fleet average age in the region. We are receiving additional six aircrafts this year and more aircrafts in the coming year. We are also opening new destinations wherever there is business. This year, we are getting A320s, next year we will get A320s and A330-800. In a couple of years, we will get our first A350,” he added.

The traffic from India to Kuwait is 70 per cent point to point and 30 per cent is beyond Kuwait. Tourism also has now started picking up in Kuwait and the airline is also looking to grow these numbers. “In our strategy, we have decided that Kuwait Airways must become more than just a local airline. Our plan is to be a global airline. As of now Kuwait is slowly opening up for tourism, we want to promote tourism and attract more travellers. We do carry a lot of tourists from India, but majorly points beyond Kuwait,” he said. 

Priya Paul, Chairperson, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels, speaks about her visionary move behind reconfiguring simple hotels to boutique hotels

 

With an aim to further expand into various geographies, Paul believes that design is the key differentiator for hotels, which is an integral part of their brand strategy

You being a pioneer in the boutique hotel concept, how has THE Park Hotels grown over the years? Also what are your expansion plans?

The Park is a 50 year old brand and we started developing contemporary boutique hotels in India. Earlier when we had redone our brand architecture, we decided to have The Park Hotels in City Centers. Those are the hotels typically in Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai and these big cities. And then we developed The Park Collections which are usually 20 to 40 room boutique properties located in interesting unique destinations. So, we have two properties in Goa and both are 30 rooms boutique properties. Baga is an adult’s only property so it has its own unique proposition. We also have two heritage properties under this brand which are open now. One in Serampore in the North of Calcutta which was actually probably India's first hotel in the 1700’s when it was operated by the Danish East India Company. This property will be converted into a six suite hotel which will open in the next 2-3 months. Second property is in Chettinad which would be a 21 room palace hotel. Currently, these are going through the whole conservation and restoration. Also at The Park Hotels, we have two management properties and we are opening one in Juhu. This will be our second property in Mumbai area. We are also opening another property later this year in Indore.

What was the strategy behind introducing ‘Zone’ by The Park?

We created a new brand, ‘Zone’ by The Park, because we knew our strengths are in food and beverage and we felt that we needed to create something unique for the Tier II & III fast growing cities. We launched it a couple of years ago and we now have 11 properties open under that brand in places such as Raipur, Coimbatore, Bengaluru etc. We also have many other developments in the pipeline. We just recently opened one at New Town in Kolkata. We are opening another property in Jaipur where our focus is mainly on the banqueting and wedding market outside the city and called Zone Palace by The Park as it is a modern heritage property.

With design being your core focus, how important is technology for you? Also do you think technology will be the key differentiator in the future?

Technology is an enabler and it’s fantastic to have technology. Whether you are a traditional or a contemporary hotel, technology is really part of the whole experience but I think technology can only be a differentiator for a short time. Hospitality is all about the human touch. So, that's how a good hotel and not so good hotel differentiates itself.

You started developing design based hotels in the 90s when the market was not even mature, what is the shift which you have seen since then to now?

We have started using design to differentiate ourselves in the 90s and that's what we continue to do and we continue to do it well. This is what our customers value at The Park or at Zone as they look forward to new experiences. I think the trend of looking at design and contemporising it has been done by a lot of the larger companies and some of them looked at it very late because they realised the whole world was changing. For any hotel company to be relevant you have to look at what is the trend around and what do your customers want. If customers are all this young millennial then whether you are a traditional hotel or a brand new company you have to address your market and have to create concepts. So for us, in the 90s, when we reconfigured our hotels we were doing something that was maybe ahead of the market. But it still has value and something that drives us even today.

The world’s first ANGRY BIRDS WORLD entertainment park marked its grand opening at Doha Festival City recently, welcoming guests into Qatar’s unique indoor and outdoor destination. Home to the world-famous Angry Birds flock, the 17,000 square metre nest brings a riot of fun for the whole family.

Following the launch of its indoor section last year, the park extends the same excitement to its enchanting outdoor section, as part of the second phase. New attractions include the 42 metres high Super Slingshot themed around the classic bird-flinging gameplay that catapults guests more than 60 meters into the air, offering a truly heart-pounding experience. The Red’s House offers sand play activities for little ones while the Raft Battle takes visitors on a voyage from the Bird Island to the Piggy Island in an interactive cinematic experience. For a hearty dose of thrill, guests can climb aboard the Angry Coaster or simply head to the park’s City Studio to experience wall climbing, parabolic slides, roller gliders and ropes course.

Once indoors, visitors can enjoy exhilarating rides or a laser tag battle. The park also boasts the world’s first indoor/outdoor karting track and The Big Tree – a multi-level creative playground offering a variety of edutainment workshops for little ones, and exciting challenges such as ropes course and zip line. Visitors can keep the energy soaring at the Trampoline Universe, comprising a basketball court, foam pit and a kids’ court.

With family entertainment at the heart of its offerings, the park is rolling out a host of attractions that will engage and entertain one and all, including an array of F&B outlets with an exclusive angry birds themed menu in addition to private birthday rooms and official merchandise from the cluster of retail stores across the site.  

Rashed AlQurese, Chief Marketing Officer, Qatar National Tourism Council (QNTC) said, “We continue to deliver on the Next Chapter’s promise of enhancing the Qatar visitor experience and our private sector partners’ support in this regard is of high value to us. Urban and family-oriented entertainment is one of the six areas that we are focusing on for the development of tourism sector. We are pleased to see the Angry Bird World added to the list of Qatar’s unique visitor experiences. Such amazing indoor recreational facilities combined with our calendar of festivals will give tourists more reasons to visit Qatar throughout the year.”

Ali Bin Mohamed Bin Khalifa Al-Attia, Deputy CEO, Leisure, Owner of Trimoo Parks – the company operating the entertainment park said, “We are extremely delighted to open our doors to a first-of-its-kind indoor outdoor destination.  Visitors can enjoy a uniquely immersive experience that will delight the whole family – children and adults alike.”

Over the last couple of years, the Indian hospitality industry has witnessed a slump when it comes to any significant increase in RevPars. The occupancies have gone up but with a little or no movement in the ARRs.

Speaking about the trend Manav Thadani, Chairman, hotelivate said, “The market turned 18 to 24 months ago. The occupancies have been improving over the last couple of years, but there has been hardly any rate movement. But, there has been some level of rate movement in the last six to eight months; therefore RevPars have grown by 8-12 per cent. In the previous cycles when the occupancies cross a threshold like say 70 per cent, the rates would go up by double digits. That is no longer happening. Potentially, as per my opinion, it is not happening as a lot of unorganised brands have now become organised and also a lot of discounting has been taking place by the OTAs. This is kind of holding the industry back.”

The overall supply in India has slowed down when compared to supply 7-8 years ago. But, this slowdown has only been witnessed in the branded space. “The supply has slowed down; it has gone down in the branded segment space. The branded hotel space is only about five per cent of the total accommodation segment. This is very small number, but the trend is the same. Today, there is less supply coming compared to a few years back” he further said.

Hotelivate, with over a year of operation now, has witnessed a 25 per cent up in their overall growth. The group is also now looking to open a office in Jakarta.

“We have had a very nice first year of operations. We closed with 25 per cent higher topline growth. We closed in the month of March and had the highest collection in between HVS and Hotelivate. We are getting good response. We are also a getting a lot more feasibilities, asset management and revenue management related work. We have an office in Singapore and we are planning to open one in Jakarta. We are more focusing on one or two countries rather than entire Asia Pacific. When we started the company, my focus was in some of these larger cities in Asia, but now that focus is changing and rather I will look at couple of smaller countries, grow there and increase our market share. In North America, we have a strategic alliance with LWHA,” Thadani informed.

Recently the group organised its flagship event HICSA in Mumbai which witnessed a great response. This year, Hotelivate is set to organise its THINC Innovate conference in Singapore which was previously held in Bangkok.

 “We continue to do the THINC Conference; we are doing the THINC Indonesia which happens every September. We do THINC Sri Lanka every two years. We also do THINC Innovate which we did in Bangkok and next we will do it in Singapore this year. In Singapore there are a lot more technology based company and THINC Innovate should work better there. We are changing the format,” he informed.

The Industry has witnessed a lot of consolidations over the last couple of years. Major chains are now consolidating its brands and also a lot of rebranding has happened. “Consolidations is the way forward. Samhi did a few consolidations by acquiring the Premier Inn and some Accor portfolio. Now with Brookfield taking over Leela, I think there is consolidation taking place in ownership of hotels. Brand consolidation we have seen in the past and that will also continue to happen. Interestingly, there is a lot more foreign capital that is coming into the hotel sector in India. Whether its Brookfield or investments into Samhi or Lemon Tree, this will increase.”

 

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