20 Pieces of Business Advice for the New Year

STRATEGY 

Words by Srishti Jindal

Setting new goals and adapting and revising business practices are the hallmarks of a successful business. Considering there is something about the excitement of a New Year that inspires us to act energetically and effectively, there are few better times to implement these actions than at the beginning of the year.

So, this year we’re going to provide you with some astute business advice straight from your peers. Of course, you know your organization best, and we’re certainly not here to tell you how to run it. Our goal is merely to plant the right seeds, by organizing the recommendations
from business leaders across the industry, that will help you best lead your business this year.

“The New Year will spell revival of the hospitality industry. There are two main things to remember: first, pay attention to your target audiences, whether they are guests staying with you or potential customers looking to book online; second, consistently communicate via all customer touchpoints. Always listen and then communicate, this is key to earning their trust and loyalty.”

Sarbendra Sarkar, Founder & MD, Cygnett Hotels & Resorts

“The pandemic threw the hospitality industry into a tailspin. My piece of advice to businesses in the sector, as well as to the consumers would be to be ‘Vocal for Local’ and restructure their strategies keeping in mind the domestic market. This will also be in line with the
government’s call for building an Atmanirbhar Bharat.”

SN Srivastava, President & Co-founder, Clarks Inn Group of Hotels

“My business advice for tourism businesses in 2021: Recreate products and services innovatively, market them effectively, use technology to its best in marketing
products and also in service delivery, train human resources to deal with new needs and
challenges, develop good leadership, use online platforms effectively to promote products,
plan the year forward well, both activity-wise and financially, and create a short-term and long-term plan for the business.”

EM Najeeb, Sr Vice President, Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO)

“Concentrate on domestic business and simultaneously develop new itineraries for the
inbound market away from the main cities.”

Rajiv Mehra, Vice President, Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO)

“For 2021, I would advise everyone to stay calm and try to adjust to changed business conditions. Undoubtedly, we all need a new approach to rebuild our businesses with caution, to save our energies for favourable times.”

Ravi Gosain, Hony. Treasurer, Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO)

“My advice for the New Year is that don’t be under any false illusion!! Inbound will not restart just because vaccinations for COVID have begun. The earliest we can expect some inbound is the last quarter of 2021 or early 2022. Hope for the best and plan for the worst.”

Tony Marwah, CEO, Indian Travel Promotion Company & EC Member, IATO

“Exceptional times call for exceptional measures. The resilience of the tourism industry fuelled by all its stakeholders will trigger the momentum required. Focus on product experience, better pricing, ROI and cooperation will define the new era post-COVID.”

Amaresh Tiwari, Vice Chairman, India Convention Promotion Bureau (ICPB)

“2021 brings great hope and renewed optimism. The goal of our industry should be to create a sustainable business ecosystem. It will now be crucial for businesses to stay resilient and agile in their operations, as the consumer needs and habits have changed in the wake of the pandemic.”

Dev Karvat, CEO, The Karvat Group

“Following a year of most unexpected events, my prime advice for businesses would be to brace the new trajectory with diligence and rational resilience. This is the most evolutionary period that our generation has witnessed, and therefore calls for an innovative mindset to appease the modern buyer. Instead of waiting for or expecting normalcy, refine your outlook to take a fine view of current developments and mould your offerings for the new demand. Bring cost optimization to operations and offerings, as a key strategy to survive any business jolt. Offer effective deals to customers, enhance service delivery, and adopt a broader view towards the industry as a means to advance in these times. Succinctly put my suggestions are: develop a lean plan; assess risks in advance; define a committee to regularly evaluate plausible developments at the consumer, national and global level; ensure transparency in customer deals; plan digital growth; bring more agility to operations; diversify when possible; rebound internal culture bringing empathy to the core for the committed workforce and act as a consultant to your customers rather than an agent.”

Sandeep Dwivedi, Chief Operating Officer, ITQ

“The travel & tourism industry has witnessed various challenges, but so far the year 2020 has been the most challenging for the indsutry worldwide. The pandemic impacted each and every person and each and every segment of the travel & tourism Industry. While we all are very optimistic about the year 2021, as the initial signs of travel & tourism recovery that have emerged, are very positive, we still have a long way to recovery. We need to be prepared for new normal practices.
With respect to our businesses, the general feeling is that volumes are going to be limited initially and will increase gradually. Clients will look for value, so we need to adopt cost-effective means of functioning as well as enhance the quality of our services as per expectations of the New Normal Scenario. It’s going to be a challenging phase but the industry is resilient and has been adapting to new normal practices. We are looking at a future with lesser people to people engagement and more online and digital interactions. Even though travel & tourism has always been a high people to people contact industry, the Year 2020 saw a quick digital transformation from the way we conducted business earlier. These new systems are going to stay on and will make communication easy and virtual. Let’s adapt to the New Normal and get the travel & tourism business flourishing again.”

Rajeev Nangia, Chief Operating Officer, TRAC Representations (I) Pvt. Ltd.

“For the New Year, my advice to inbound tour operators is that they should look for alternate income generation to tourism in order to survive till October 2022, as the revival of inbound tourism is not expected any time soon. They should prepare themselves for domestic tourism which has vast potential.”

Lajpat Rai, MD, Lotus Trans Travel Private Limited

“My advice is two-pronged. The first is for the inbound segment to remain visible and relevant to their customers and contacts in the international market. The second is to join their heads together and aggressively lobby for a conducive and all-encompassing tourism policy for the overall betterment of the sector to ensure India is a truly welcoming, sought-after, attractive and competitive destination.”

Sarab Jit Singh, MD, Travelite (India), a unit of KTC India, Former Sr. VP, IATO & Former Vice Chairman, FAITH

“We should look at 2021 with more optimism. The past year has taught us to innovate and adapt to scenarios. Let’s put those learnings to test. It’s now time to adhere to the new regime, utilize the tools at our disposal, be data intelligent and take action. Issues will remain. Instead of panicking, start meeting and engaging and working together towards revival.”

Pallavi Mehra, Group Director of Informa Markets in India

“My advice would be that you must look at your business carefully with regards to how you price your products, how you keep your margins, and how you ensure that you have savings. This pandemic has shown us one thing, that our industry-wide poor pricing practices have left so many of us with very thin savings and that is one of the biggest consequences of the pandemic that we have to face. We need to have a healthier industry and that will require everybody to work together.”

Rajeev Kohli, Joint MD, Creative Travels

“My piece of advice to all hospitality professionals is that they always remember that change is the only constant in our industry and in these unprecedented times, we are all gaining experiences that will help us our entire lives. Please ensure whatever be the scenario, your self-learning and self-improvement always continues and also work on the principles of TIPS (transparency, innovation, passion, simplicity). We must understand that the tourism and hospitality industry is still on a recovery path with travel constraints. So it is even more imperative that through our work, we express our loyalty towards our employers and towards the brands that we have nurtured together.

As mentioned above, constant learning is something that I always advocate. But working for a dynamic industry like ours means the learning is usually focused. Hence, to broaden one’s horizon, I suggest adding one extra skill a year which might not be something directly related to one’s work. For example, F&B personnel could pick up some social media skills or say a Front Office operator could learn about the new wine collection at the hotel.”

Kush Kapoor, CEO, Roseate Hotels & Resorts

“This is a year of introspection, digitalisation and multi-tasking. A shoestring budget of expenses coupled with a hawk-eye on finances would help smart hotel operators stay afloat. Truly this is an era of touch-less technology and adhering to the necessary evil of social distancing. Time to keep our teams intact and motivated yet connected as everyone, at different levels have gone through their own share of troubles. All in all, this is a period for the industry to tread with caution before we bounce back. We may be down at the moment but surely not defeated.”

Rishi Puri, Senior Vice president, Lords Hotels & Resorts

“I hope, pray and wish that 2021 is the year of recovery. Tourism will only see recovery as people will feel safe to travel post-vaccination. International traffic to India in 2021 will largely comprise of Indian origin travellers visiting home. We may see a trickle of foreign travellers by the end of 2021. Domestic travel will continue to grow strong as more and more Indians will explore their own homeland. Digital channels and technology will play a crucial role.”

Ajay Bakaya, Managing Director, Sarovar Hotels & Resorts

“The last year was a challenging one for the Hospitality Industry, but I believe it has taught us the importance of resilience and has shown us how we as an industry can adapt and change. I believe that we should carry forward these qualities and bounce back stronger. The most important business advice I can give for the new year is that we need to give regard to every piece of business and improvise and strategize with every step forward. Quarter IIIonwards opportunities should be galore.”

Greesh Bindra, Vice President – Operations, The Suryaa New Delhi

“It would be an understatement to say that 2020 was a challenging year in every way possible on the business front. In our lifetime we have seen huge swings of ups and downs in business but this time it is different and different times as these ones mean we have to think differently to survive. For business owners in the hospitality and travel business, I would say, cut costs as much as possible, save money to keep the business afloat till at least 2022. For the middle-age professionals, if you have any other skills this is the time to use them and start another chapter. For the youngsters, learn new skills, this time shall pass and you will be better placed with newer skills.”

Vasudha Sondhi, Managing Director, OMPL Group

“The challenges that the travel industry faces are not yet over. Unpredictable demand and the risk of unexpected travel restriction will continue for at least a few more months, till there is reasonable success in vaccine rollout. Hence, it is important for businesses to learn to thrive out of their comfort zones, identify and convert every opportunity to real business, maintain healthy finances and keep the team motivated. Businesses that manage the next two quarters well would be in a very good position to take advantage of the post-pandemic travel boom. 

Jaal Shah, Group Managing Director, Travel Designer Group

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