Luxury leisure travel driving business in Central Delhi, says Vijay Wanchoo

Despite the ascent of Aerocity as a hub for business travellers, given its impressive infrastructure to host large conferences, the plush backdrop of central Delhi was still an attraction enough for leisure travellers, said Vijay Wanchoo, Sr. Ex. VP, The Imperial New Delhi. An exclusive on business trends in central Delhi hotels.

How is the general business climate for hotels in central Delhi? What is driving business for your hotel? 

Business has been affected a to a minute extent, due to a sudden upsurge of hotels in Aerocity. However, being a luxury hotel, and catering to leisure travelers, The Imperial clientele list includes loyal guests who have been coming to us for years. Also, the economic growth of our country has led to a number of guests travelling to Delhi and in close proximity to Central Delhi. So, the need of the hour is to create value in the minds of the guests, bundle services and offer them as a package.

For us, it is all about creating a home away from home for our guests. For instance, to bring home a true Indian experience at The Imperial, I introduced Namaskar to welcome guests. Further, we have been celebrating all Indian festivals to keep the guests abreast with Indian culture. I also pioneered The Imperial Culinary Club for promoting Imperial cuisine and even launched an experiential stay for single lady travelers with the Eliza wing. 

From specialized art tours to the Afternoon tea at the Atrium, we have a few exclusive programs and services for our discerning guests. Our award-winning restaurants and our Bars- 1911 Bar and Patiala Peg are reckoned for their royal fables and signature menus. The list evolves each year for making The Imperial experience unforgettable while driving business to us.

How much of the traffic is local and how much of it is national and international? What percentage of it are leisure and MICE?

The Imperial is a brand deemed internationally, so our key feeder markets are usually the USA, the UK, Germany, and France. We are now looking to reach out to new markets like Australia, Russia, and the Scandinavian region while India remains the base for domestic clients. 

In order to enhance our business, we focus on more specific road shows in our feeder markets to tap new leisure and corporate clients and participate in specific appointment-based travel marts like WTM, ILTM and other luxury travel marts to showcase our iconic hotel.

Leisure international and domestic market takes almost 50 percent of the revenue pie, but rest of the 50 percent is contributed by corporate as well – which are key to our brand sustenance and have been regular with us for quite some time now. Brands like Thales, Embassy of United States, Canadian High Commission, World Bank, W.H.O, Airbus Military, Safran and many more coveted names in the corporate world have been staying with us through direct or online bookings and have played a substantial role in our business.

How do you see the growth of new business centres such as Aerocity and Gurgaon, and soon to be opened Dwarka convention centre, impacting business prospects for central Delhi hotels? Is there enough demand in the city for all to thrive together? 

For the MICE clients, there can be some advantage with the Aerocity hotels because of the huge inventory and banqueting space these hotels have but they still do not mind the luxurious experience, central Delhi offers. Location wise, it is well connected and is surrounded by historic sites such as India Gate, Jantar Mantar, Rashtrapati Bhawan et al. Moreover, Delhi has lean and peak seasons and leisure guests usually increase from September till the first quarter of the subsequent year. In our case, as most of the luxury travelers are seeking leisure and many of them are repeat travelers, the business for us remains unaffected by the sprouting business hotels.

For business travelers, The Imperial has the capital’s first stand-alone Business Centre ONE IMPERIAL PLACE, providing an ultimate business experience amidst a five-star atmosphere. Launched in 2011, it is equipped with state-of-the-art technology and contemporary luxury which makes it an exclusive business environment. One Imperial Place offers the best of modern techniques coupled with impeccable service. Extensive conference convenience along with special working menu makes it an ideal venue for meetings. Five plush private meeting spaces are designed with a capacity of four to twenty people while one European style boardroom has a capacity of eight to ten guests to offer perfect meeting space. The experience becomes extraordinary with the twenty-seater meeting room, infused with uptown luxury and video conferencing facility to four locations through wireless microphones. This lavish meeting room comes with a fabulous pool view which is also an optional venue for post-meeting cocktails.

Apart from One Imperial Place, business traveller rituals at The Imperial Spa and Salon have also been designed to suit the needs of corporate guests. Even our Eliza rooms for Single Lady travellers fit the bill for business women who usually travel alone for meetings and conferences. So, the demand remains constant across the capital’s skyline.

We hear that occupancy rates have gone up across the board, compared to the previous year. How has your hotel fared on that front and when would we see average room rates growing commensurate to occupancy rates? When will this correction happen, if it has not started yet? 

Our occupancy trends have been more or less the same. We have not compromised on our room rates so there has been a minor growth, but our top line remains unaffected. As an iconic luxury hotel in India, we have managed to keep our ARRs and occupancy stable.

Occupancy rates have also seen a sudden rise due to domestic weekend travel. Millennials do not believe in the concept of “tomorrow”; for them, everything is “Now”. They usually de-stress on weekends and are ready to explore unique and offbeat destinations to rejuvenate. This is what sets them apart from the previous generation of travelers in the domestic market, especially in the domestic market. To match up to this trend, we have rolled out weekend staycations which are quite popular and are designed to suit the needs of couples or families interested in the unique legacy of The Imperial, whether it is art, heritage or history. Our public relations and marketing strategies are also aligned to target that and are exclusive in their propositions. 

We are very active in tapping key domestic and international markets, via print and online media and do select associations which match up to our repertoire. Social media too has propelled our outreach in both the markets very effectively with posts talking about The Imperial experience, offers and services. Also, most of our weekend staycations include holistic facilities like spa rituals, yoga and hand-crafted cuisines, completing The Imperial experience. The initiatives are, therefore, aligned in a manner to commensurate the ARRs and occupancy rates.

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