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‘The pandemic has encouraged the industry to think more creatively’

Vikram Lalvani Vikram Lalvani

Vikram Lalvani, Chief of Revenue Management, Sales & Destinations, Sterling Holiday Resorts shares his views on the changing Indian hospitality scenarios

Workation and Staycation have emerged as the latest trend in the hospitality segment. Despite demand, these segments may be short-lived.

How do you see the business shaping up post lockdown?

We’ve been seeing a pent-up desire to travel from Tier 1 & 2 cities. In places where restrictions are relaxed, we are seeing a sudden spike of weekend travellers. With more and more cities now entering an unlock phase, we are seeing a demand for advance bookings as well; this is to help guests secure the best prices. Apart from individual travellers, corporates are also looking at hosting small team meets, offsites and MICE in nearby locations.

Short-haul destinations that are just a short drive away from metro cities are now gaining popularity. Jaipur, Thekkady, Pallavelli, Mt Abu, Lonavala, Kodaikanal, Ooty, Mussoorie and Puri are among the destinations that are likely to witness a good influx of travellers owing to their proximity to key Indian cities. Many people are also opting for staycations at nearby exotic destinations in order to discover new cultures, cuisines, and art without having to travel very far.

The latest trend in hotels and resorts has been workcation and staycation packages, how is the response? Can this trend fill the void? What is your take on the same?

At Sterling, we believe that there will be a gradual uptick in ‘workations and staycations’ across popular and less-explored destinations. However, the primary criteria for choosing any destination will be accessibility and digital connectivity. Guests now prefer spacious rooms with access to open and green spaces.

A few of the popular workation hotspots are in Lonavala, Mussoorie, Mount Abu, Sariska, Palavelli Godavari, Thekkady, Yercaud, Ooty, Wayanad, Anaikatti, Jaipur, Kufri, and Puri. These are easily accessible from the nearest commercial and business districts of Tier-I & II cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar, Jaipur, Vizag, Pune, Calicut, etc. We have also featured these resorts in our list of popular ‘Workcation Hotspots’ in India.

However, workcations and staycations are not enough to fill the void caused by the pandemic. Small to midsized weddings, conferences and weekend trips are also expected to fill the missing void.

What are the key features of the workcation and staycation packages which you are offering? Are you offering flexible cancellation?

sThe key features offered include unlimited WiFi connectivity, a well-designed set of holiday activities including ‘Yoga’ sessions for small groups, dry kitchenettes in rooms, contact-less dining with take away options, QR code menus for room service, and quick mini-buffets in dining areas.

The package also offers an exclusive complimentary ‘Holiday insurance’. This insurance has been introduced keeping in mind the uncertainty caused by the pandemic. The insurance covers every individual traveller for up to Rs. 3,00,000 and it takes care of unforeseen circumstances such as loss arising out of flight delays, flight cancellations, baggage loss, medical emergencies, etc. The only condition here is that guests would have to opt-in for this insurance policy at the time of booking their holiday.

What are the permanent and temporary changes that you foresee in the hospitality segment operationally?

In the pre-pandemic era, the tourism and hospitality sector was one of the key segments driving the growth of the nation’s economy with a contribution of approximately 10 per cent to India’s GDP. Now, due to the outbreak and the necessary lockdowns, the industry has seen a major shift. The hospitality industry has obviously been through its toughest phase. However, the pandemic has encouraged the industry to think more creatively and act more energetically.

With work from home becoming a long-term strategy for many companies, is workcation going to stay for the long-term?

Work-from-home is certainly here to stay, at least until there is a vaccine that is developed. Scores of companies were compelled to adapt to WFH in order to keep their operational costs of offices low. Although workcations may not be a game changer, they are definitely a temporary solution for resorts that are easy to access from key commercial business districts.

Many companies and employees have now understood that it is no longer necessary to work from a designated office space. In fact, many employees have witnessed a spike in productivity when surrounded by a relaxed, comfortable, and spacious environment that resorts/hotels have to offer.

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