Features

India’s hottest hospitality trends

30 Aug 2019 by Business Traveller India

Bleisure

While the business travel segment amounts for a significant chunk of the revenue pie for city hotels, there is an emerging segment called “bleisure”. As its name suggests, the lines between the business and leisure segment is now being blurred, as many luxury hotels are marketing themselves to both segments, tapping into a larger client pool. Another way of interpreting bleisure travel is when business travellers extend their stay over a weekend, or indulge in leisure activities after work. A case in point is The Oberoi, New Delhi, where guests often combine breaks with business trips, reflecting a change in the very nature of corporate travel. “Corporates are now proactively seeking new experiences while on a business trip, and finding hotels that are located closer to work, which gives them more leisure time. Therefore, this new mixed segment has emerged,” says Jay Rathore, senior vice president and general manager, The Oberoi, New Delhi, whose location also works in favour of this segment.

What’s more, hotels are striving to offer curated experiences, targeting business travellers. For instance, The Leela Palace New Delhi that offers a guided art walk around the hotel and experiences suggested by the Les Clefs d’Or concierges, a cooking session and personalised
spa therapies.

As a result of this growing trend, hotels are incorporating lifestyle and leisure elements into business travel like redesigned pool spaces, dining experiences, wellness programmes and even visits to the nearby tourist attractions.

Digital concierge

Possibly the most debated subject in the luxury hospitality space right now is whether or not social media as a marketing tool is effective enough. In spite of this debate, hotels in India seem to be well ahead of the curve in incorporating digital techniques to enhance their guest experience. India’s ITC Hotels is a frontrunner in this space — creating meaningful engagement through social networks, as a core part of the brand strategy. “ITC Hotels was one of the first Indian luxury hotel brands to have a dedicated Twitter concierge (@ITCHotelsCares), which has been operational for close to a decade. Over the years, this has evolved into a robust digital concierge programme, spanning across social networks,” says Dipak Haksar, chief executive, ITC Hotels and WelcomHotels. “The digital concierge programme addresses all kinds of queries, offers proactive recommendations and connects online interactions through special gestures that are manifested on-ground,”adds Haksar.

Another example is Hyatt Regency Delhi, which became the first Hyatt hotel to have launched a Whatsapp number available to guests 24 hours for any service they need. This indirectly points to a gradual evolution of the role of the concierge. Parinita Samanta, director of marketing and communications at Hyatt Regency Delhi explains, “There is always a human element involved with hospitality, which is where the traditional concierge plays a role, especially with repeat guests. With a digital concierge, there is no human element, but new technology can actually enhance the work of concierges, allowing them to serve guests even before they arrive at the hotel. The idea is to strike a balance between the two.”

Hotel Residences

A prevalent trend in the luxury hotel space is that of adjoining premises, which include serviced apartments also referred to as residences. The new Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru and Andaz Delhi both with residences, are some examples of the growing segement of travellers who want to go beyond the regular hotel setting, and have a more homely feel, especially during longer stays.

“Full serviced apartments offer a perfect synergy between comfortable residential living and five-star hotel amenities and services. Such apartments work well for business travellers as they offer the flexibility to cook their own meal or make their morning tea just the way they like it,” says Madhav Sehgal, general manager at Andaz Delhi. “In the residence wings of such hotels, there is often a unique social environment where guests are encouraged to be part of a community, and engage with each other in public spaces. Many such residences are also pet-friendly, which most hotels in India are not,” adds Sehgal.

In the case of the new Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru, which owns Private Residences, the group considers the owners to be part of a growing tribe of brand advocates. “The idea of having Private Residences attached to a Four Seasons Hotel is a very novel concept and is part of the design brief for almost all new hotel openings in urban locations. In India, this is the first branded residence of its kind,” says Rahul Mamgain, director of Residences, Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru. He also highlights two benefits of this hotel-residence format, “For the hotel, there is the advantage and the possibility of a prospective guest for every ancillary service like F&B and spa, while from the developer’s perspective, there is ready return on investment on the sale of every residence.”

MICE

Rajan Malhotra, director of sales and marketing at Shangri-La’s – Eros Hotel, New Delhi believes that MICE is one of the key contributors for hotels across Delhi and National Capital Region (NCR).

On the subject of MICE being a key driving force for hotels, Malhotra says, “For us, the MICE segment contributes significantly to the overall hotel business and our focus remains to only cater to chic MICE business where we can help offer personalised, creative and thematic meetings that truly reflect luxury.”

“MICE tourism contributes approximately 22 per cent to the hotel revenue and helps in promoting the food, beverage and wellness facilities of the hotel.”

Likewise, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group generates about 20 per cent of its revenue through MICE. All their hotels, palaces and resorts offer state-of-the-art facilities for conventions and seminars, thereby making them an ideal hotel pick for business travellers.

Commenting on this rising trend, Rakesh Mitra, corporate general manager, sales for The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group says, “The MICE space has become more structured, the presence of large players and e-commerce has ensured a wider set of choices with more competitive rates. Clients are exploring more options with new destinations and cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Udaipur, Jaipur and Goa, capturing a keen interest in this segment.”

Redefined lobbies

The lobby is the most vital part of the hotel as it sets the tone for guests’ experience as soon as they arrive. It is now becoming a lifestyle space and a touchpoint for hotel associates to interact with guests. So, in the lobby you will find a front desk designed on the lines of a DJ’s console, colourful couches to laze around, a space to soak up the sun, a grab-and-go corner to catch up on some work or reading.

Saadhvi Mehra, assistant director of marketing, W Goa says, “We can see the trend catching up already at the W Goa as guests are looking to move out of the closed boardroom walls, and choose more outdoor and ambient settings to conduct quick meetings over a cup
of coffee.”

She adds, Our lobby space, which is called the Living Room by day and WOOBAR by night at W Goa has a different vibe altogether — the music, the ambience and lighting that changes from morning to evening, lounge chairs and sofas, the bar and DJ console – makes it a lobby space like none other.” Another Marriott International property, Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park sees this trend gaining popularity among business travellers. Sushma Khichar, hotel manager says, “Meetings in hotels are transforming quite quickly, with clients looking to modify their setting into something more informal like conducting meetings at various locations in our lobby or sometimes even over a game of pool. These meetings then also tend to breaks out into a quick social setting at our bar or a fun karaoke session in our lobby.”

Social media

The dynamics of the hospitality industry in India are now changing as social media has become a gateway to attract new customers. Hotels are now focusing on social media influencers as a marketing tool for business, since they have a niche audience with high engagement rates. Influencers give personalised reviews by documenting content on their social media platforms, which acts as a great marketing resource for the hotels.
Brands from Marriott International, ITC Hotels, AccorHotels to Airbnb are now investing in this new marketing method. Boutique hotels like Mihir Garh in Jodhpur, Rajasthan are not far behind. According to Saloni Mahajan Narang, brand marketing consultant for House of Rohet, “This trend really caught on in 2017 and 2018 like wildfire, especially for the hospitality segment as influencers showcased their experience at the properties to their audience, thus increasing the curiosity of the target audience towards the hotels.”

Mahajan believes that today’s guests don’t only need spacious and luxurious rooms with amenities but all their service requirements need to be met too. “It is surprising as to how many conversions we have had by just being active on our social media platforms as guests find this to be an easier way to communicate with hotels than emails. They let us know exactly what they like, what they don’t, and the hotel is able to cater to the minutest requirements with ease. Guests even share images and screenshots of the experience they want at the property and for hotels, it couldn’t have been more advantageous,” she adds.

However, Mahajan believes this medium will only work if influencers need are filtered, their audience meticulously checked and only if they bring value to the brand.

Mahajan also says that we keep the exclusivity of our hotels intact by making sure the content is tasteful, to the likes of the niche traveller and is not screaming for attention.

Thus, content here is the key factor, which helps hotels stand out, keeping the exclusivity intact.

JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar guestroom

Staycation

In recent times, business hotels in the major metro cities have adopted a new strategy to fill up rooms over the weekend — staycations. There is a rise in the number of people choosing to book luxury hotel rooms for the weekend, in their own city, for a quick break. Through digital and social media marketing, hotels often announce staycation packages at attractive rates, with additional pampering thrown in. These include happy hour, spa treatments and exclusive meal experiences.

One of Mumbai’s most popular staycation spots, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar customises its staycation packages for families by providing F&B discounts, late checkouts and spa therapies. The hotel’s general manager Dietmar Kielnhofer explains the trend, “Staycations have been the norm in Japan and other destinations which are catching on in India. It is a perfect way to escape city life and pamper yourself, without having to actually get away from the city. Hotel prices in India are still a lot more affordable when compared to similar hotels in Europe or the US, so it is a great bargain that an average customer gets in terms of the price value equation.”

Similarly, The Park Mumbai (which recently opened its doors in a largely residential seaside neighbourhood) is also taking the staycation segment quite seriously.  Targeting business travellers in the city, Rahul Makhija, director operations, The Park Mumbai says, “Our staycation guests can immerse themselves in local experiences like culinary trails, farmers’ markets and Bollywood tours.” The Park Mumbai thus focuses on the staycation segment with its weekend packages upwards of  `8,000, and added perks such as chocolate hour, a complimentary foot massage, buffet breakfast and room upgrades, subject to availability.

Sustainable F&B

The Indian hospitality sector is making a drastic shift towards sustainable dining, as today’s travellers are becoming more and more conscious about what is being served, where it is sourced from and why? “Sustainable food trends are picking up as travellers are well aware of their carbon footprint and would like to contribute positively to the environment,” says Uchit Vohra, executive chef at ITC Gardenia, Bengaluru.

“Organic food has entered in a big way, as guests are now willing to try locally sourced vegetables, fresh fish and meat which has not travelled across the seas to be on their plate,” adds Vohra.

ITC Hotels’ also has a Responsible Luxury initiative under which a plethora of sustainable food practices have been adopted like Luxury Single Diner Menus, Alert Meets and Pavilion PURE.

When we asked The Oberoi, Mumbai about what has spurred this new interest in eating local as opposed to imported ingredients, executive chef Satbir Bakshi states, “We continue to explore small-town markets in search of key seasonal ingredients and authentic regional recipes that are coupled with constant experimentation for our menu.” An example of this is the Earth, Land and Sea menu at Ziya, where the menu is bifurcated based on the origin or ingredients, and gives the guests a glimpse of regional Indian cuisine.

Fairmont Jaipur

Weddings

With smart eating being the need of the hour, couples today, are opting for local and sustainble food options at their weddings.

Varun Mehrotra, director of sales and marketing, Fairmont Jaipur says, “A new trend which has been gaining popularity is the inclusion of more local or traditional dishes in the menu with cuisines from the lesser-known pockets of the country. Hence, we have shifted our supply sourcing to local organic suppliers, to cater to all kinds of preferences of the guests.”

Along with food, one can see a visible change in venue preferences as well. “Couples today, look for personalised and unique celebrations, not a cookie-cutter banquet and hordes of guests. Intimate, non-traditional venues are now high in demand. Although, some people, still have big weddings, the average number of wedding guests has decreased, while budgets have increased. At present, the focus is on small, quality details that make for a memorable event,” says Rajesh Namby, general manager of The Leela Palace Udaipur, a prominent wedding destination in India.

Namby also believes that new-age event management companies and in-house wedding planners are also changing the dynamics of Indian wedding hospitality.

Adding to this, Mehrotra says, “One-stop solutions are being sought when opting for a destination wedding so that all the requirements for the couple and their family are met at one destination. Hotels are introducing the concept of one-stop wedding solutions with décor, menu, trousseau, it has allowed for the couples to spend more time with their families while the team takes care of all their wishes and requirements.”

Wellness

The wellness industry in India has evolved from being an unstructured ecosystem to a dynamic, steadily growing sector. Hotels are now looking beyond pampering guests with spa services and fitness sessions and are trying to introduce goal-oriented programmes and treatments.
The Ananda In The Himalayas, a luxury wellness retreat that focuses on Ayurveda, hosts many corporate retreats which are a mix of corporate training and yoga along with meditation workshops. Aashica Khanna, vice president, operations, IHHR Hospitality (Ananda resort) believes that this helps the participants to not only bond with each other, but also take back valuable lessons on self-care.

“The presence of India’s ancient and holistic sciences like ayurveda, yoga, siddha and sowa rigpa have put us at the forefront of this reform. Such rituals are perfect for a stressed out business traveller wanting to get on a path to a healthier future,” adds Khanna.

In addition to Ayurveda, corporate travellers also look for a quick yet effective remedy to curb stress and to maximise wellness while travelling. Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru says that there is a global shift towards health and wellness where people are putting both their mental and physical health first. Dr. Jazzy Nepram, the hotel’s director of spa, says “Guests at the hotel opt for treatments that aid in relaxation and sleep along with pain relieving therapies like a head or back-and-neck massage along with shirodhara and pinda sweda.”According to Dr. Nepram, “There is also an increasing trend of consuming power-packed bites such as moringa smoothies, green shakshuka, wheatgrass, yoghurt and ragi idlis. The inclusion of these dishes in the hotel’s breakfast buffet helps business travellers feel light and energetic through the day.”

Loading comments...

Search Flight

See a whole year of Reward Seat Availability on one page at SeatSpy.com

The cover of the Business Traveller June 2024 edition
The cover of the Business Traveller June 2024 edition
Be up-to-date
Magazine Subscription
To see our latest subscription offers for Business Traveller editions worldwide, click on the Subscribe & Save link below
Polls