With the firm belief that every crisis is an opportunity in disguise, The Indian Hotels Company Ltd (IHCL) has implemented the R.E.S.E.T 2020 strategy to mitigate the impact of the crisis and explore new revenue-generating avenues while optimising costs and maintaining excellence in operations and corporate overheads. TTJ speaks to Rakhee Lalvani, Vice President – Public Relations and Corporate Communications, IHCL, to know more about new developments at Asia’s largest hospitality company.
Q. What are the key indicators you have been watching or following which can/will help the recovery of the travel industry?
We have been seeing green shoots of travel emerge lately as some of the travel restrictions across the country are slowly being lifted in a phase-wise manner, with hotels and even restaurants being allowed to operate in certain states. Possibly one of the most resilient industries, the travel and hospitality industry will definitely revive itself, even as it undergoes a sweeping change. With the key focus being safety and health, which is a priority for all, people will gravitate more towards trusted brands with strong precautionary measures and SOPs laid out.
Moreover, with travellers itching to scratch that dormant travel bug and take a much needed break after months of being confined to their homes, domestic travel will lead the industry’s revival in the short- to mid-term. In fact, domestic travel, which contributed to 87 per cent of the bulk of India’s leisure travel in 2018, is expected to grow with renewed vigour, marking the beginning of a new era of travel in the coming months.
We have been seeing a rising trend in staycations and driving holidays, with people looking to discover lesser-explored destinations within the close vicinity of their residence. The growing focus on overall health and wellness too has resulted in a growing demand for workcations – where one can balance work with a much needed getaway – and wellness-focused travel experiences. IHCL has launched a number of exciting initiatives for guests to cater to these trends – be it the 4D – Dream, Drive, Discover, Delight offer that gives travellers the perfect opportunity to drive with families and friends to discover, unwind, and be one with nature once again at idyllic locations such as Coorg, Rajasthan, Chikmagalur, Rishikesh, Shimla and more or the Urban Getaways offer for those looking for quick staycations. IHCL’s Bizcations offer caters to those looking for a slice of paradise whilst at work while the Taj Wellness Retreats, with Jiva Spa’s decades of expertise deep-rooted in the Indian traditions of Ayurveda and healing, allows travellers to embark on a soulful journey to revitalise mind, body and spirit.
We have also seen a growing demand in the weddings segment, with guests looking at hosting intimate but unique wedding ceremonies while meeting the required government regulations. With Taj’s Intimate Timeless Weddings, couples can transform their dreams into reality at unique locations, with carefully curated menus, exotic themes and the quintessential Taj service.
Q. What programmes/projects has IHCL been working on (or your strategies) to be successful post crisis?
What the pandemic has brought to the fore is the increased focus on safety and hygiene and the need for social distancing measures. With the health and wellbeing of all our stakeholders being of utmost importance, we have implemented enhanced safety and hygiene measures across all our hotels under our Tajness – A Commitment Restrengthened program, which follows the highest precautionary standards of in accordance with the guidelines published by the World Health Organization (WHO), Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the Government of India. Keeping in mind the need for minimal contact, we launched I-ZEST – IHCL’s Zero-Touch Service Transformation –a suite of digital solutions across our hotels that further ensure social distancing for both, guests and associates, while offering the sincere care, warmth and guest-centric service that we are synonymous with. These digital enhancements span guest experiences, from pre-arrival to departure offering zero to minimal touch options through innovative facilities such as digital pre check-in registrations to contactless guest access to their rooms via optional digital key cards, while maintaining the highest levels of safety and security. Check-outs too are optimised with online invoicing services without the need to use card machines while digital menus installed across restaurants facilitate dining orders through QR codes.
At IHCL, we have always believed in harnessing the power of innovation to meet dynamic consumer and market requirements while creating a robust hospitality ecosystem. We recently launched Qmin – a repertoire of culinary experiences, which brings signature dishes from the company’s iconic restaurants at guests’ fingertips, offering them an opportunity to enjoy Taj@Home across nine cities, with a tenth in the pipeline. For the ease of use, we also launched a mobile application for Qmin, becoming the first large hospitality brand to launch an F&B centric delivery app in the country, completely conceptualised and created in-house within the Tata group. Qmin will also expand its scope to launch a gourmet Qmin shop and will also extend to the Company’s loyalty platform, where guests can earn and burn points using Qmin.
Keeping in mind the key role digital and e-commerce platforms play in meeting customers’ requirements, we have leveraged Tata Group synergies to launch our signature Taj Hospitality@Home luxury collection on Tata CLiQ Luxury, with the curated collection to expand further soon. This retail collection comprises some of the finest quality products from the signature bed and bath linen to time-honoured wellness products and signature memorabilia designed to pay homage to the iconic Taj Mahal Palace & Towers.
Q. What are your thoughts on the ‘New Age in the travel industry’ post the pandemic?
While the pandemic is unprecedented and something the world and the industry has never witnessed before, the world has and will continue to adapt to the new normal. Emphasis on overall health and wellness will make safety and hygiene the new currencies of luxury, and guests will continue to choose trusted brands with strong safety standards.
Digital innovations and interventions will continue to lead the way to ensure zero to minimal contact without comprising on the care and services that hospitality brands are known for. And while travel will resume – if fact, travel will return, and when it does – may well surpass pre-COVID numbers when a full recovery happens, the way people travel will change.
Travellers are and will continue to become more socially conscious with increased awareness about the environment and community, and one’s impact on it. Travel in the future will be increasingly influenced by a growing sense of responsibility towards the places one visits and local communities, with greater demand for slow and sustainable travel, and immersive experiences as people look to explore authentic local traditions and culture, with sustainability at their core. Value-driven experiences will lead the way when it comes to the new age traveller making their travel choices in the future.