In Conversation With Karthik Ramdas, Director, Sales & Marketing, JW Marriott, Aerocity, New Delhi

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The graph has been steadily increasing since the time we were officially allowed to reopen in the last week of August this year. Presently, as we speak, we already have decent groups and catering leads under discussion for the next year. In all likelihood, we expect to recover 40% of our lost business in Q1.

ES. How has the pandemic or Covid-19 affected the hospitality industry and your hotel?
Karthik. The ongoing pandemic has in a way, acted as a speed breaker across segments but has also given everybody an opportunity to think differently. Post March until August, it was purely a survival mode and it continues to be there even today, but now we do see business picking up which is expected to pick up momentum further in coming days.

ES. Had your venue been a quarantine centre in the past few months? If yes, please elaborate.
Karthik. As a hotel, we did participate actively keeping in mind the Vande Bharat Mission to help our citizens come back to their home country for their stay. We were never a part of hospitalisation or any isolation program.

ES. How do you see the Government announcing the reopening of B2B exhibitions?
Karthik. We are very hopeful as business needs to come back to its normal cycle at the earliest. The Government has cautiously formed norms and given relaxations. Presently, there has been a lot of flexibility put in place and I am sure that in the next couple of weeks, more will follow.

ES. Please throw light on the safety measures you have adopted to cope up with Covid-19?
Karthik. As a hotel, we have ensured that there is absolutely no compromise when it comes to safety and hygiene. Under Marriott’s Commitment to Clean, we have aligned the hotel services and operations as per the current need of contact-less stay, safe travel and dining with care.

With more than 200+ new Standard Operating Procedures, we have identified around 145 touchpoints across the hotel that come in direct & indirect contact of our guests and associates. And, we have streamlined our processes around those supervised by our in-house Hygiene Manager. This is an indispensable endeavour towards welcoming the guests back and ensuring associates’ safety while delivering ‘The JW Treatment’.

ES. Did you Have to hire some compliance officer at your place, to look after the safety measures adopted by you?
Karthik. Keeping in mind the ongoing scenario, we have a taken a very conscious decision to have a Hygiene Manager dedicatedly on board to audit Hygiene and Sanitisation practices of the hotel. There are proper checks with technology intervention conducted all across the hotel which is further vetted by ICMR labs.

ES. You hosted the two-day ICPB CIC Conclave recently. What were the measures you ensured then?
Karthik. The measures we ensured for the two-day conference by ICPB are:

  • The Buffet was set in the ‘Buffet per plate’ concept where the food of your choice is plated and served in person.
  • Social Distancing signage was as on the other days, placed across the hotel and this is maintained as per the government guidelines.
  • AarogyaSetu app was as always checked on the guests’ phone at the hotel’s entrance.
  • Temperature check with thermal scanning temperature gun was done at the hotel’s entrance as usual.
  • Guests are always advised to always put on face masks in the hotel.
  • Electrostatic Spraying: We are utilising enhanced technologies, including electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectants, to support our already rigorous cleanliness protocols.
  • Cleaning and sanitisation are performed as per well-defined Standard Operating Procedures at frequent intervals diligently.

ES. How do you ensure social distancing?
Karthik. Social Distancing signage is placed across the hotel and this is maintained as per the Govt’s instructions, for example, Gloves and Face Masks are a part of our associates’ uniform.
For our associates’ safety, they go through temperature checks, checking of AarogyaSetu app and they wash & sanitise their hands every 20 minutes.

ES. Have you adopted some contactless/touchless methods for the guests?
Karthik. Mobile check-in and key, service requests, and room service orders are delivered right to the guest’s room door via the Marriott Bonvoy™ mobile app. To ensure complete adherence to safety and hygiene, we have placed QR codes across all the essential areas in the hotel. It’s a very simple process where in the guest just has to scan the code via hand phone camera and will immediately come across all the information be it menu, facilities etc.

ES. Do you see any changes in the number of guests/events coming during the months of January-February and now in the months of October-November this year? If yes, how?
Karthik. The graph has been steadily increasing since the time we officially were allowed to reopen in the last week of August this year. Presently, as we speak, we already have decent groups and catering leads under discussion for the next year. In all likelihood, we expect to recover 40% of our lost business in Q1.

ES. What is your hotel doing to remain ahead of the curve in these time?
Karthik. Business is tough out there and all the hotels are trying to put in their best to get the maximum. We have ensured not to compromise in any ways when it comes to hygiene and sanitisation. Business is important but not at the cost of safety. Post check out, all the guest rooms are kept vacant for 24 hours before offering it to any other guest. Likewise, all the sanitisation measures are properly timed and documented for the ease of tracking.

ES. Are you giving concessions to some event organisers or the guests?
Karthik. There are not any specific rates that are being offered basis the volumes and time of each week/ month. In the past, we used to sell our Banquets on the minimum revenue basis which has now been reduced and in some cases, we look at per person’s budget.

ES. What do you think about international visitors? How long will it take to resume business from them?
Karthik. International travel yes, will take time and assumingly, is not expected to resume before Q2 next year depending upon the advisory and other travel-related norms.

ES. Has your hotel arranged some digital studio at your place so that virtual events can take place?
Karthik. We do make arrangements as per the requirement of the event that we are hosting since we have event management company partners who bring in the best of technology and set-ups. The prime events hosted were from the Automobile industry like the launches of KIA, Hyundai, Mahindra etc.

ES. What are your upcoming plans?
Karthik. The keen focus is on long stays and office requirements. The team at the hotel has been aggressively working with domestic clients which will remain as our key focus moving forward and may extend depending upon business needs. We have also been looking at increasing our crew base which helps increase the occupancy addition to the Rev par.

ES. How do you see 2021 in terms of business?
Karthik. 2021 will definitely be better when compared to 2020 as half this year, everything was shut. Now with every passing day, the client is also getting more agile and open to get out of respective virtual world to get in to the real world with live interaction. There has to be a change and the present cannot be permanent but yes, in all this, what will benefit in moving forward is, in case of any large gathering, there will be a likelyhood of live and virtual (hybrid) both coming together giving more advantage to the event management company/ planner and the hotel when it comes to business.

Given the present situation and the pace, we see the hotel averaging an occupancy of 50-55% YTD in 2021 which will gradually move up in 2022. In all certainty, business will look at achieving 2019 post Q4 of 2022.