A befitting finale to the Food Hospitality World exhibition in Goa was the Hospitality Knowledge Exchange session where thought leaders of leading hotels and villas in Goa spoke on the different aspects of the business of hoteliering in the state By Rituparna Chatterjee
The highlight of the concluding day of the 26th edition of Food Hospitality World (FHW) exhibition was the Hospitality Knowledge Exchange panel discussion on ‘Goa as a Resort Destination: The Business of Hoteliering’. The exhibition was held from September 29-October 1, 2015 at Dayanand B Bandodkar Ground, Campal, Panaji. Moderated by Reema Lokesh, editor, Food & Hospitality World, the panelists included Rajendran Menon, GM, The Zuri White Sands, Goa Resort & Casino; Piyush Tyagi, GM, Royal Orchid Beach Resort & Spa; Siddharth Savkur, GM, Alila Diwa Goa; Satish Dodani, co-founder, The Weekend Plan; Zoheb Sayed, sales manager, Chances Resort & Casino Vainguinim Valley; and Sushant Kudav, GM, The Goan Village (Toshali).
Kick-starting the conversation was Tyagi who shared information on various properties being developed under the Royal Orchid brand in Goa and his expectations from the resort market. Sharing details about the projects, Tyagi informed, “Royal Orchid is one of the most premium, sought after resort destinations in South East Asia and we have been present in Goa since the past six-seven years. We are very bullish in this market and a 50 key property is scheduled to open next month at Varca beach. We are also planning to open our third property in north Goa in the next financial year.”
He also informed that the present government is aggressive in developing this market and is introducing new concepts like hot air ballooning, nautical tourism, among others. Taking this conversation forward, Kudav spoke about the challenges of running a resort and the initiates being undertaken to bring business to his property. Elaborating on this, Kudav opined that they have been providing lucrative offers and impeccable service to their guests.
A complete experience
Stirring the discussion onto the integrated resort (IR) concept, the panelists deliberated whether an IR needs to be developed in Goa similar to that of Venetian Macao or Sentosa, Singapore. Sharing his views, Savkur stated, “We have adopted a strategy of trying to please every segment and profile of traveller. Over the long term it is probably to the detriment of the destination. Alila Diwa is a boutique hotel brand so we are unlikely to build a mammoth Sentosa island or a Venetian Macao kind of a complex since it is not a part of our DNA. Personally, I do not think this is the right direction to go since Goa already has many options to explore. Instead of investing huge capital into one mammoth enterprise we should look at developing multiple destinations within the state to offer travellers a range of experiences.”
Goa is primarily known as a beach destination but interestingly its coastline is only 101 km, constituting approximately two per cent of its total land mass. “Imagine the pressure that falls on this two per cent of the state’s land for a bulk of tourism promotion. If you see the leaders at the helm, they are now looking at promoting Goa’s virgin territories,” added Savkur.
Goa has emerged as a major wedding destination in India in the past five-six years attracting not only domestic travellers but also NRIs and foreigners. There are around 25 five-star and five-star deluxe hotels in the state and on an average 800-1000 weddings are held generating a revenue of around Rs 450-500 crore every year. Elaborating on this, Menon mentioned, “Wedding is a business that is year round and is recession proof. Last year we did more than 50 residential weddings which added 50-60 per cent to our topline.” He also highlighted the need to focus more on the domestic market than the international market considering the constant rupee depreciation against the dollar, the collapse of the European and Russian markets and the crash of the oil and gas prices. He added, “Last year we had more than 3.9 million domestic tourists and nearly a million international tourists coming to Goa. Domestic tourism has grown by more than 30 per cent and international tourism has shrunk by nearly 20 per cent.”
Taking the discussion forward, Sayed spoke about the property owner’s expectations, the way to match those expectations and the steps to bring more domestic travellers. “Owners want loyalty from the guests and the challenge is to get new guests. Domestic business comes majorly through online and to have visibility in this space is an added advantage. Hence the information provided online needs to be descriptive. The charter market is unpredictable; in my previous property there was a drop from 90 to 20 per cent in the charter business despite the property being located in a prime location like Baga. Also to improve domestic inflow the government should improve road infrastructure,” suggested Sayed.
Giving a different perspective to the discussion was Dodani who spoke on the operational challenges of a villa. “We essentially provide super-luxury properties and our biggest challenge is to make guests realise our concept and that we are giving them maximum privacy. Another challenge is getting skilled manpower since most are unaware of The Weekend Plan and we have to convince them about joining us,” rued Dodani, adding that, they presently have 23 villas in the country and plan to have 125 villas by next year. They also want to have around 500 villas in Goa.
Women safety in Goa was another issue touched upon by the panelists. Dodani highlighted how they change the entire staff when they have a women traveller coming in. While Tyagi informed that though having the latest technology is imperative to ensuring maximum security, tourists/ guests also need to manage their own safety. “We have identified few rooms specific to single women travellers and our specific SOPs are in place to handle this segment of guests,” he added.
Though social media and technology has come to play a crucial role in the hospitality industry, there is a need for digital detoxification voiced the panelists. Sharing his views on this, Menon stated, “Interestingly, OTAs have been contributing nearly 20 per cent to our room nights. Complementary Wi-Fi has become more important than complementary breakfast. Technology is also simplifying hotel operations and has become an irreplaceable part of our lives. Though we need to respect that but going forward digital detoxification will be the future.”