Acquisition and retention of skill to remain a key focus area: Sunil Ghadiok

Sunil Ghadiok, CEO, Nidra Hospitality, spoke exclusively to TourismFirst and shared the GST implementation experience, some key focus areas, as well as discussed what he believes will be really important, in terms of technology, in the foreseeable future.

How has the GST rollout exercise been in terms of implementation?

sunil ghadiokIn terms of implementing GST, there were some questions going back and forth between our hotels and our accountants. As an exercise and in terms of knowledge, we are still gathering more information but we have implemented GST and I don’t see us going wrong with the process. The whole process will only get clarified once our returns are filed. In the meantime, there has been help available to understand this new tax format and I think hotels will be very accurate in the implementation. It has not been as difficult an exercise as one would have imagined. 

How have the occupancies been looking? What would you say has been driving footfalls? Is it Leisure, MICE..?

We have hotels in different cities and each city is specific to various segments but amongst our hotels we cover all segments of business, in terms of leisure, MICE, corporate. If we talk about the Delhi hotel, 95% of the business is corporate and there is a small segment of leisure. MICE is a part of corporate and socials are 3-4%. Occupancies seem steady. The hotels are doing well in terms of occupancies. Where we need to concentrate on is improving our areas. It is a combination of both these factors which ultimately trickles down to the bottom line. That is where we have to concentrate. The biggest challenge is to retain skill. Acquisition and retention of skill will remain a focus area.

Any new disruptive technology focussed idea that you would say has recently caught your eye that could impact the hospitality sector?

Technology is ever so dynamic in its creation that you have new technology coming in all the time. There is a lot of cloud based technology that is available in terms of making it easier for guests to make reservations and even go to the extent of choosing the room they want. I think that is a quick way of making a reservation. Technology has been used vastly in this industry and we see great improvements all the time. It is very dynamic and I would say cloud based technology which is helping hotels, especially those companies which manage multiple hotels and people across various locations and oversees, to connect quickly and not lose out on opportunities is something that possibly is one thing which is definitely going to be a part of the future in a big way.

Would you say that there is discrepancy in the growth of the overall tourism industry and hospitality?

In terms of occupancies, they have been steady. We have not really felt a drop there but what has been effected to a great extent after demonetisation is FnB, in terms of large social functions that were also a part of the mainstay of hotels.

What is the biggest change you have seen in the Indian traveller?

We basically operate business hotels and our clients range from the mid-upscale to upscale hotels. What we see in our hotels is clients who want to see humble efficiency and technology to complete their stay. We also get a lot of young travellers these days who view the efficiency of the hotel and the available technology in terms of their choice. This is something we really concentrate on. Of course, we also have clients who are very senior level position holders who also pay a lot of attention to the kind of engagement they get from the staff. Food and beverage also plays a large part in their stay, in terms of hotel deliverables. 

What is the biggest challenge in terms of running hotels today?

There are two. One is, as I mentioned, the acquisition and retention of skill and the other is completing projects on time. We need to ensure that the returns are better.

A recent google report claimed that the Indian domestic travel market will be worth around $48 billion by 2020. Do you think we are infrastructurally prepared for such numbers?

I think one has to view the entire industry in terms of not only hotel accommodation but we also have to see how the industry is shaping up as a whole. The government needs to concentrate on other infrastructure which would include roads, enabling travel by surface, whether it is roads or trains. Immigration at airports, easy visa facilitation is a very important aspect. The arrival experience in to the country needs to be one that is world class. We have good airports but we have to create more, which would lead to more connections through airlines. We have to make our surface travel, by road and trains, more acceptable and more international in experience. In terms of the overall public view on how to treat tourists and travellers is something that needs to be looked in to. There have been efforts to educate people about this in the past and this is an on-going process which the government must continue. Marketing the entire country as a destination and not just individual sectors is also important. If we can do that then I am sure we can get people to increase the length of their stay here.

On a personal level, what drives you? What is the impact that you would like to leave in the hospitality space?

Personally, I would like to complete my career by achieving results in terms of driving the company and managing excellent hotels and delivering excellence. The spirit must remain in driving excellence. That is what remains key to me in terms of my career point. I would be very happy in making a mark and be recognised for creating hotel properties that are recognised as the best in their segment. That is the most important thing for me personally. Of course, most important for me is to create new talent and helping young people achieve their dreams. I have been a part of it and if I may continue to do so then that would be something that would make me very happy.

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