Leadership Series Fireside Chat with Mr. Chander Baljee - CMD, Royal Orchid Hotels
Powerful personalities make for the best stories. They bring along with them a legacy, adventure, and experience which are more than words. They are metamorphic, captivating and creative. The videos in the leadership fireside chat series focus on speaking with eminent leaders from the travel and hospitality industry. The aim is to understand their stories and learn from their experiences. For the first edition, I hosted one of the finest minds, a humble pioneer, and an inspiring leader, Mr. Chander Baljee CMD, Royal Orchid & Regenta Hotels. Below is a recap of the 10 highlights which emerged:1. Dekho Apna Desh: We are in the midst of a crisis but things could have been worse. The properties are not damaged so it’s a temporary setback of operations. It might take some time for the market to recover, but things are still bright for India. 26 Mn travel out of India and they are not going anywhere. They will travel within India to a drivable distance. International travel is not as easy as pre-crisis. Travelers will discover India with “Dekho Apna Desh” and be #VocalAboutLocal.2. Multi-skilling: To survive the crisis, multi-skilling is the need of time. Front office, housekeeping etc. will train themselves in many skills. With tougher times, hospitality execs are for the first time willing to do this. This indicates a mindset change on a positive note. Hospitality trained exec's are very versatile as a talent source because they are well groomed, disciplined and have excellent communication. Some hotel mgmt. trainees join other sectors so they will always enjoy employment. Our industry is a great supplier of net talent to other industries.3. Cost-Effectiveness: In today's context, budget only for “must-have” costs and avoid “good-to-have”. Hotels are looking at a 30-40% reduction in fixed costs. Consider reducing overheads such as manpower and electricity. 4. Gradual Recovery: Recovery will happen in 6 months. Flights might start from June, but pickup will be gradual. In the start, people will be afraid of traveling because of safety or expensive tickets. Trains might start in July. With borders closed, people won’t be able to cross states to go to a nearby destinations. Travelers are staying indoors and would want to go out so expect latent demand.5. Recovery: MICE will take a long time to recover. Online meetings will become permanent. Events and exhibitions will get postponed. Guests will book after a recce of the venue. Recovery in weddings will get delayed with a ltd. number of people allowed. Many things like tasting the local cuisines have its charm, and video con can't help with that. Restaurants in hotels will witness a growth in demand. Customers might have apprehensions about visiting non-branded hotels and restaurants. 6. Relaunch: The entire staff of Royal Orchid are already using the “Aarogya Setu” app. The screening will take place as per the decided zones of the Government of India. Staff will wear face masks and headgear. They will use hand sanitizers and change uniforms daily. Plan many improvements to provide a contactless experience to the guests. No-touch check-ins and sanitized key cards will become a norm. Reduce the number of people in lifts etc. All the hotels are preparing for these hygiene practices and procedures.7. Revenue Management : With lower prices size of the market increases so it might end up attracting guests who ruin the property. For individual bookings, reduce the prices but not below an acceptable rate. If there is a corporate group booking then consider more flexibility on pricing. Cultured guests will not usually harm the property. Prices can go down as much as 50% compared to the pre-crisis rates. Hotels are planning to reduce 30-40% of fixed costs, so this is still manageable. Leveraged hotels with an interest burden can suffer. Hotels with minimal loans can plan to raise some debt to tide them over. 8. Sales Strategy: More bookings will happen and close on digital channels. This will save the unwanted travel time of corporate sales executives and make them more productive. Leverage OTA as an integral part of the distribution mix. Travel agents are there to help.9. Advice : It’s becoming difficult for single hotels to survive. They need manpower, sales & distribution muscle to thrive. They could affiliate with foreign or Indian chains. Consider Indian chains for flexibility, deliverability, and manageable contracts. The franchise model allows independent hotels to take brand name and guidelines but run it themselves. Advice for hotel would be to be judicious about spending. A hotel determines its ARR by the market and not only by a fancy product. Perform a proper evaluation of spending on spas, gyms, and specialty restaurants and take a good look at essentials for your guests.10. Financials: The 1rst quarter will be a loss. It will be lucky to break-even in the 2nd quarter. The 3rd quarter can witness profits and the 4th quarter can see more profits.