After a long halt, how can industries do more than just safety protocols to regain their guests? Hoteliers have long known that the notion of guest experience is changing. Equipped with safety procedures, the sector also unveiled features and offerings to elevate and enhance the experiences and beyond.
The heightened deal of uncertainty that came with the pandemic knew no boundaries. For the hospitality industry, ‘revised’ situations meant getting the primary and most important factor hampered – the human interaction. Hotels all over are working overtime to improve the safety and hygiene standards. Most of the hotels have reopened its gates with a set of new features, different offerings, ‘stay now, pay later’ options – boomed to build back relations with consumers and visitors after a long wait. The COVID-19 situation has put in tectonic transformations in both hospitality and wellness spaces. Along with safety protocols, there is more to the hospitality world. But, how to win back the audience, the trust and pivot all of these strategies effectively?
Of course, safety, health and sanitisation procedures are something that guests would certainly want to be assured about, but travellers are also seeking for features and ways that can help them to unwind themselves from the mundane and stagnant lives.
Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa, India
Relishing the same experiences, hospitality groups have come up with a “Work-From-Home” offering that allows a family to take an extended break from the hustle-bustle of the rushed city life and yet remain connected at work. Located in the pristine Shillimb valley of the Sahyadris, Maharashtra Mr Srikant Peri, General Manager at Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa notifies, “We have introduced several stay packages and most queries landing on to our reservation console are for an extended stay with family with lengths of stay in excess of 7-nights.” ‘The Re-vitalise’ and ‘Great Small Breaks’ at Shillim offer is an extended stay offer including accommodation, a complimentary wellness consultation per person, forest walk, cooking class, group Yoga and meditation. Nestled among the lush Garhwal mountain range, JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa also offers nature’s bounty packages that include curated wellness sessions with a guided in house instructor, kid’s special wellness sessions, recreational activities like painting masterclass, nature walk in the resort among luscious surroundings.
In India, hospitality groups are allowing travellers to indulge in some unique local travel experiences within the safety and comfort of the hotel itself. Allowing travellers to relish a distinctive experience, Sarovar Hotels have come with a variety of refreshing options – ‘Take your life on a Holiday’ for its South India leisure hotels. The Estuary Sarovar Portico at Poovar Island offers unique Kerala dining experience, Mangrove boating; Vasundhara Sarovar Portico at Vayalar includes exploring the quaint backwaters, alfresco dinner with traditional Syrian Christian cuisine, sunset in a Cabana; and Poetree Sarovar Portico at Thekkady offers culinary secrets of the Mannan tribes, Ayurveda sessions and more. Similarly, JW Marriott Mussoorie has come up with exclusive packages that include indulging with local Garhwali delicacies from the local culinary maestros, Garhwali tea traditions over Kachdi amongst others.
JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa, India
In the space of luxury dining too, a new era has dawned upon to inspire guests to the new protocols of dining experiences. The Ritz Carlton Bangalore has launched two new dining concepts, General Manager Mr Amitabh Rai, adds, “Luxury Dining is reimagined with 99 Pop-up restaurants at The Ritz-Carlton, Bangalore. We have innovated a ‘New-Dining’ experience fulfilling the needs of our guests to be pampered as they dine with us. We offer exclusivity and security as they dine in the comfort and privacy of a Ritz-Carlton guest room, catering to a wide range of cuisines.” Starlit by the Pool offers exclusive and limited seating with dining in private cabanas.
Luxury hospitality continues to be one of the biggest, most lucrative and fastest-growing of all hospitality sectors. According to research analysts, the global luxury hospitality is set to grow to $222 billion by 2024. Amid the pandemic, guests still crave for unforgettable, personalized services, fine food and wine or a relaxing spa – components that can help them rejuvenate. The more a group can adhere to the wishes of its guests, the better it would shape their future. The international hospitality groups are coming on board with the ethos of intelligent luxury and rare experiences.
The Ritz Carlton Bangalore, India
Ultima Collection is a unique group of award-winning luxury boutique hotels, villas, residences, and spas located in Switzerland, France and Greece. The villas and residences are very private, allowing guests to both slip away and keep a safe distance from the common areas, to stay there exclusively and with complete autonomy if necessary. The hospitality group has started with their unique offerings in Ultima Gstaad (Stay for 3 nights and pay only for 2), Ultima Crans-Montana and Ultima Megeve (private chalets complimented with spa amenities and wellness programmes)
Max-Hervé George and Byron Baciocchi, founders of Ultima Collection Hotels tell, “Definitely, this stage is not just about adding some safety measures, a lot of operators will have to review their strategy and business models. Ultima Collection was founded to revisit the concept of luxury hospitality for the next generation of travellers by creating unique experiences in exceptional destinations, with bespoke services, authenticity and raison d’être. So the brand is naturally in a strong position to adapt its offer to both the current situation and the highest expectations from the clients. We offer the right concept at the right time and will adapt our safety measures to the client’s expectations. This makes Ultima Collection even more relevant in the current situation.” The ultra-luxury group also includes the limitation of all human interaction to the strict minimum on request. The chalets will also be available with no house-keeping for guests requiring an extra level of privacy or additional seclusion related to their COVID-19 requirements.
Ultima – Courcheval, France
With interesting concepts, international luxury groups are coming up with features and communications to keep the guests engaged. For those who had to cancel or postpone their honeymoon in 2020, Bawah Reserve in the remote Anambas Islands in Indonesia had offered to win an incredible honeymoon trip. The new programmes incorporated the wild, natural elements of Bawah with welcoming Indonesian hospitality, expert spa treatments, healthy organic meals and recreational activities.
In hospitality, too, digitalisation and technology seemed to be making a grand entry. Hotels are continuously making marks with contactless ways, zero human interaction and so on. But, can the personal touch and tradition of hospitality be replicated digitally?
Bawah Reserve, Indonesia
DigiValet, the makers of the innovative guest-facing technology across luxury hotels like Armani, Raffles, Bvlgari, Aman, Oberoi and W has introduced ‘Thru’, an end-to-end cloud-based solution for hotel guests to complete their entire check-in process from their own device, without having to download any app or software. “There are many enhancements that technology can bring to improve the efficiency of the hotel associates so they can have more face time with the guests rather than running around to make things work. In short, technology should be seen as an enabler to smarter hotel operations.” Mr. Rahul Salgia, Founder and CEO, DigiValet tells.
Not just guests, Thru assists hotels by improving their operational efficiencies, reducing manpower costs and preventing lobbies and receptions from getting crowded during peak check-in and check-out times. Thru’s multilingual support ensures that language is no longer a barrier for the modern-day traveller. He adds, “Technology replacing humans is a myopic way of looking at the value that such solutions bring. Imagine if the guest can complete all the check-in formalities from his smartphone before coming to the hotel and as he walks into the hotel he finds that the keys are ready and he can walk straight into the room. Now imagine the delight a guest gets in reaching his room faster than waiting at the reception in a queue and then waiting for the front office executive to complete the formalities – all this after the hassles associated with travel.” However, increased investment in digital technologies has always brought concerns over a battle between the automation of jobs and the human workforce.
Ultima – Megève, France
The essence of warmth and hospitality traditions cannot be tossed out in the name of ‘pandemic’ and ‘social distancing’. With the reopening episodes, the pandemic led the intervention of unique features, technology, social responsibility, sustainability into shaping the future of luxury hospitality and guest experience. More than ever, communication and consumer confidence have to go great ways and make a balance with technology. Hotel groups need to create effortless, authentic guest experiences that streamline operations, deliver value and safety protocols; strong relationships should be at the heart of every guest interaction.
Banner Image: Bawah Reserve, Indonesia