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The transformation of the Indian Hospitality turf

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hospitalityBurneet Kaur

A hot destination for hospitality majors, currently, the Indian Hospitality landscape is witnessing a massive transformation as the balls to its growth trajectory are set in motion. Of late, the Indian hospitality industry has reasserted its valuable position as one of the key drivers of growth in the service sector of India as it sets a record of robust growth with a massive inflow of foreign tourists and a significant rise in domestic travelers, thereby leveraging the tourism industry as a whole. Despite a rise in competition and niche market segments like that of hotel aggregators and prominent homestays, hotel rooms under branded chains are still growing in volumes as the demand increases. All of this, is largely a result of the ongoing transformation and the ever evolving nature of the Indian hospitality sector.

Digital hospitality

One of the most noteworthy features which has contributed to the ongoing evolution is the onslaught of digital innovation and disruption in the Indian hospitality domain. This has led to a stark change in how hotels engage with their consumers. Hotel chains in India are ramping up their digital drive through massive investments in employing the latest digital tools which are further in line with their digital plans. With OTAs gaining prominence, hotels have realized the ever growing importance of online hotel booking platforms and are going all out on coming up with their independent platforms or collaborating with some existing ones in order to boost their bookings. Major hotel chains are also racing towards the acquisition of travel software companies in order to meet this end. In order to meet the spontaneous demands of the new-gen travelers, hotels are pushing themselves towards creating interactive experiences through providing keyless access to rooms, mobile check-ins, virtual concierge services, smart e-menu apps, guest room services through mobile apps and various other customized guest experience enhancement solutions to suit the budding travelers.

Technology and design

The last year has witnessed hotels across the globe invest heavily in state of the art technology and design to appeal its ever demanding travelers whose demands are based on technology led services.  The in-room technologies and unified communication systems which a hotel employs goes a long way in satisfying and fueling the guests expectations. The entertainment options within a room are experiencing a paradigm shift as they are constantly striving to come up with better and more improvised offerings. Alongside the in room expectations, a hotel’s integrated communications approach also plays a major role in setting the required promptness to its services as guests are always on the lookout for immediacy in terms of services. Hotels have been placing great focus on streamlining their operations in such a manner that they are able to enrich guest experience by providing them with improved service timings and quality and customised assistance.

Loyalty programmes

Hotels endlessly strive to convert each guest booking into a potential loyal customer for the future. Hotels in India have now realized the importance of their loyalty programmes and spare no effort in showcasing their wide customer base. Its importance cannot be overlooked considering the significant amount of costs that can be cut if each hotel has its own customer base. The recent hotel chain mergers and acquisitions contribute to the same cause of widening the loyal customer base. Hotels are devoting a lot of means to be able to better understand the GenY consumer behavior towards them, as a result of which there are periodic reviews of their loyalty programmes so as to remain a source of constant appeal to them. These include offers ranging from special upgrades, benefits on certain occasions, internet access, complimentary breakfast and other valuable and prestigious services which provides the travelers with an elite feel.

Mergers and acquisitions

The recent years in the Indian hospitality landscape have seen some of the biggest names come together in the form of mergers or being acquired by another hotel chain such as the recent Marriott Starwood mega-merger. All this is based on efforts towards consolidating synergies and achieving high levels of growth across the sector by implementing multi-location strategies and putting up a stiff competition to the increasing number of hotel aggregators. Through such acquisitions hotel chains are aiming at augmenting their manpower, offerings from loyalty programmes and the merger of loyal customer base, extra services, improved branding, and a significant cut down of costs alongside access to markets which one hotel group or brand might already has.

Growth in Bleisure and MICE

Gone are the days when hotels were merely about providing accommodation to travelers, where again, the travel would majorly be for vacation or business purposes. New categories of travelers are ruling the travel space and hotels are actively modifying themselves to be able to tap these travelers. In such new category is the bleisure trips being made by corporates. It has been observed that corporates nowadays merge their official trips with leisure time by extending their holidays, thus making way for both. Based on this observation, new hotels are coming up which exclusively cater to the above like. Also, the past decade has seen a growth in MICE needs in India, leading  to the rise in Convention centres across the country. Other categories of travelers such as bagpackers and solo women travelers are also being treated as a special category which hotels are constantly looking at tapping through their exclusive offerings.

The present and the upcoming years of the hospitality sector will be marked by the emergence of new hotel brands, renewed associations and influx of more and more global brands in India which will willingly go ahead to make the most innovative offerings. What remains to be seen is how well does will the Indian hospitality sector adapt to the ever ongoing disruption and cater towards restimulating and recreating exceptional experiences.

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