Priyanka Saxena Ray
Hospitality industry, at one point in time, was heavily dependent on Inbound traffic. Has the scenario changed in the post-pandemic scenario?
Yes, post-pandemic the scenario has changed drastically. We are no longer inbound dependent. To cite an example Hilton Garden Inn Bengaluru Embassy Manyata Business Park had close to 80% of occupancy generated from domestic travellers. At Hilton Bengaluru Embassy Manyata Business Park, over 70% of occupancy had been from domestic travellers when we opened in Q1 of 2022. As a country, we have been largely insulated against recent global events such as the Ukraine-Russia war or the risk of an impending recession in the United States of America. This can be attributed to the increasing cost of global travel and a shift of preference for destinations within India for events.
Will Domestic Tourism take a back seat, now that Inbound is picking pace?
The pandemic and post-pandemic travel was highly reliant on domestic travel, however, we are slowly seeing the transition towards foreign inbound being a major contributor in the past 2 months. GOB mix has moved to a 60:40 ratio for domestic to international share as of today for Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn Bengaluru Embassy Manyata Business Park which was at 80:20 in May 2022.
We, however, do not anticipate domestic tourism taking a back seat in the near future since domestic tourism is what helped hotels tide through the post-pandemic recovery; achieving near 2019 occupancy levels. Leisure travel within India has steadily increased and that will continue to grow as people want to travel more frequent than in pre-pandemic days. Since businesses have seen the advantage of hosting events with India as against overseas destinations, this will continue.
The Weddings industry helped the hospitality sector stay afloat during the worst of times. How was it at your property?
We opened Hilton Bengaluru Embassy, Manyata Business Park, on May 1, 2022 with a wedding and sold out! The Hilton Hotels at Embassy Manyata offer aspirational experiences for the weddings and social events segment especially because of our unique product, price offerings, and convenient location- under 40 minutes from the airport and key places of interest. So definitely we welcome large-scale wedding events as we have the capacity to host over 1500 pax under one roof over many days.
How hopeful are you for the revival of Inbound Tourism? When do you think we will go back to the 2019 figures?
We have already exceeded 2019 occupancy figures in year one of our complex operations and that has helped keep stakeholder and industry sentiments positive. Overall group business brings a solid 30% base occupancy for our complex consistently.We are recording a consistent increase in foreign inbound business too, primarily in corporate travel space, and anticipate that Q3 of 2023 will see the complete revival of foreign inbound similar to pre-covid levels.
What is the USP of your hotel, especially with regards to the MICE Sector?
The Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn Bengaluru Embassy Manyata Business Park is a confluence of diverse experiences with two hotels offering multi-price point advantage and an expansive 60,000 square foot convention centre. With 619 rooms, five dining options, 18 event venues, and a retail zone within the premises, we are able to tailor-make personalized event packages to cater from 2 to 2000 persons. We offer the highest twin bed inventory in the country currently and the largest room inventory in Bengaluru.
Further, the complex is run as a model sustainable business operation using clean energy sources such as solar and wind for its energy needs. The hotel also has a zero single-use plastic policy and we manufacture our own line of water bottles.
In your opinion, how has the travel preferences changed/evolved in the post-Covid scenario?
It is safe to say travel has been permanently impacted by the pandemic. While essential business domestic travel has completely resumed and individuals want to travel twice as much as pre-covid levels during leisure, hybrid events and technology-enabled platform meetings continue to hold sway.
It has become more expensive to do in-person hotel-based meetings/events due to rising travel costs. As a general guidance business in India are inclined towards domestic event destinations that are well connected through short-haul flights.
Managed travel channels, including online corporate booking tools and travel implants are of greater significance currently as businesses want to ensure employees travelling for work are staying with hotels that offer heightened care and sustainable hospitality. Also, this allows companies to better manage cost and environmental impact of travel as the booking process is completely automated.
We believe we have a greater responsibility in hand to work more closely with business and event organisations to achieve common ESG goals as the future of hospitality lies in our ability to create mindful experiences with minimum impact on the environment.
The hybrid model of events will continue for the association events – and therefore technology is a very central part of any meeting planner conversation post covid and is here to stay.