The Claridges, New Delhi: a happening place of modern luxury

The Claridges, New Delhi beautifully amalgamates the nostalgia of yester years with contemporary luxury. In an interview to TnH, Atul Lall, Vice President – Operations & General Manager, The Claridges, New Delhi talked about his new initiatives and achievements at the hotel and new trends in the industry.

Q. What are the new initiatives you have undertaken recently at your hotel?
The Claridges, New Delhi recently opened its door for the luxury beauty Salon Silhouette which moved here from The Oberoi, New Delhi. We also launched a new art showcasing modern contemporary artists in association with Crayon Art Capital. The art initiative at The Claridges seeks to capture the essence of a history of art and cultures with some of India’s most celebrated artists. We have also recently done a soft refurbishment of our lobby lounge making it for kitschy and contemporary.

Q. Kindly throw light on your achievements in the last oneyear? How has your hotel performed in the last one year?
The Claridges Hotel Group bagged top honours at the highly esteemed Times Food & Nightlife Awards 2016. The event attended by top hoteliers and food critics saw Sevilla known for its Mediterranean and European fare win the ‘Best Restaurant in the European Fine Dining’ category. Named after Seville, the famous art and cultural capital of southern Spain, Sevilla at The Claridges, New Delhi is the city’s most recognized European restaurant known for its new-style cuisine with European and Mediterranean influences. At The Claridges, we constantly strive to surpass our previous performance and do better in terms of revenues, QMS scores and achieve highest guest satisfaction scores.

Q. What a guest expect from a hotel like yours? How do you meet those expectations?
At The Claridges, we believe that, the journey toward creating a “guests for life” begins with his/her first stay or dining experience with us Guests expect a great deal of personalization in terms of services; we ensure we take note or our guest preferences, whether it is their room preference or F&B choices. We have a lot of guests who have a very strong sense of nostalgia for The Claridges, we try and ensure we bring about the positive nostalgia with our seamless service every time.

Q. How do you maintain the high standards of your services?
In hospitality, your reputation is under constant scrutiny. It is essential to create trust and confidence in your services to provide positive customer experiences and encourage repeat business. Maintaining high standards of hygiene, health and safety is crucial to your business success. Your operations need to meet or exceed industry standards and comply with relevant health and safety and environmental regulations. At The Claridges, we strive to offer our guests an inspiring and an enriching experience. Our repertoire of collection of restaurants offering culinary experiences is the finest in the city.

Q. What is your strategy to retain the loyalty of your customers in the current competitive environment?
The Claridges remains one of New Delhi’s most iconic hotels till date. Built in 1952, a perfect amalgamation of elegance and contemporary luxury. High quality service is the only way to ensure loyal customers for the hotels. Innovative technology is a must to have: electronic /mobile check-in time is here. Reputation Management is on focus by guest reviews and comments. Know your guests, satisfy their needs and create your services around them is the best recipe of a successful hotel operation. Due to new technologies, and changes in guest behavior, consumers’ satisfaction is everything, but not easy. I believe our guests appreciate the warm hospitality and luxurious experience that we have provided them, and we continu- ously strive to do the same and aim higher every time.

Q. How important is the MICE/event segment for your hotel? What is their contribution in your total business?
Industry predictions indicate that the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions) sector is poised for vigorous growth. Recuperating after the recession, it is springing back, stronger than ever. The demand for meetings is on the rise and though companies are not splurging, luxury venues are not being ruled out either. In general, there are some emerging trends which have been observed. The Claridges is the ideal setting for corporate events and conferences. The stateof- the-art conference halls and meeting rooms are equipped with modern technology and facilities along with latest audiovideo equipment and Wi-Fi. Despite growing as a MICE destination, India is yet to attract a sizable amount of international travellers from the segment.

Q. According to you, what are the new and emerging trends in the hotel industry?
Changes in the macro environment in terms of technology, economic situation, cultural and generational differences, political uncertainty, etc. cause shifts in the hotel industry cycle. In recent years consumer behavior in the international hospitality sector has changed dramatically. The ’new’ consumer has become the fastest growing customer segment within the hospitality industry. The ‘new’ consumer has always the problem with the shortage of time. The ‘new’ consumer base includes people born between 1980 and 2000, hold $200 billion in spending power and represent the most lucrative market for hoteliers.

Therefore all the solutions that are effective and fast mean the way to success. As a result, the importance of the up-to-date information has increased. This consumer segment is interested in utilizing technology to do things that many others have adopted to do manually: checking in at hotels, paying their restaurant and bar bills and looking up places to eat, shop and play to name a few. This new segment is very demanding and expects high quality services from the commercial accommodations. Therefore customer service is strongly highlighted among the new trends in the hospitality industry.

Easily accessible information coupled with economic uncertainty has made today’s tourists extremely discerning in their choices regarding the hotel properties they book and how they book them. Meanwhile, hotel keepers are under pressure to maximize occupancy, fight for every guest and earn their loyalty. Simply relying on offline marketing practices, offering a promotion or two, or counting on online travel agencies (OTAs) to fill rooms is not enough anymore. It is obvious that this is a disrupted marketplace for hoteliers.

If the hospitality industry wants to react immediately on the arising demand, it should be aware of the new emerging trends.

Q. How do you look at the current state of hotel business in the country? Has the situation improved as compared to a couple of years back?
The Indian tourism and hospitality industry has materialized as one of the key drivers of growth among the services sectors in India. It contributes to 6.23 percent to the National GDP and 8.78 percent to the total employment in the country. Constant transformation, functional growth and improving standards have gained the hospitality industry of India approval all over the world. Tourism in India has generated immense employment opportunities and is a vital source of foreign exchange for the country. The travel and tourism industry contributed Rs 2.17 trillion (US$ 36 billion) or 2 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013.The figures are expected to rise to Rs 4.35 trillion (US$ 72.17 billion) by 2024. The revenue from domestic tourism is likely to grow by 8.2 per cent in 2015 as compared to 5.1 per cent a year ago, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). The Indian hospitality sector has been growing at a cumulative annual growth rate of 14 per cent every year adding significant amount of foreign exchange to the economy.

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