Cover Story

The Rain Formula

From reaching out to previous guests to holding flash sales to upgrading the property to become a complete holiday destination, hotels are using every strategy to tide over the lean monsoon season in India By Saloni Bhatia

When it is time for the monsoons in India, there is a fall in the number of domestic tourists visiting popular tourism getaways. While some hotel chains claim to see no significant change in the bookings during monsoon, others plan their monsoon strategy to attract more travellers across the country. Hotels create different package offerings for potential clients during the months of June to September. The packages might include spa day at the resort, a pool picnic, or an extended stay over the weekend, etc. Some hotels also give out vouchers for food, merchandise and spa massages to members in order to fill in for the off-season.

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Shelley Thayil

Foreign tourists are keen to see the country during this season and enjoy the destination and the hotel in the rains. Many international tourists visit the country during the rainy season to undergo Ayurvedic treatments. Shelley Thayil, chief operations officer, Kumarakom Lake Resort, Kerala states, “As nature recoups with the rains, it is rejuvenation time for people too. According to Ayurveda, monsoon is the best season for rejuvenation therapies. During the monsoon season, the atmosphere remains dust-free and cool, opening the pores of the body to the maximum, making it most receptive to herbal oils and therapy.”

Tourist footfall

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Varun Sahani

While some properties see the domestic tourists empty out, others see a constant flow of international tourists. Thayil shares, “For the past few years monsoons have been attracting guests from all over, but mostly from the Middle East and non resident Indians from the US and UK. They come to the resort to enjoy the rains and the lush greenery all around, and to experience Ayurveda. We have several packages running from the summer months that extend through the monsoon season. Our most popular offers include- book three nights with us and get the fourth night free. Early bird offers along with rejuvenation and honeymoon packages.”

Varun Sahani, general manager, The Orchid, Mumbai, acknowledges that during the rainy season,  hotel occupancy is not at its peak. “However, looking at the forecast and trends of the past years,  room occupancy looks satisfactory. With regards to walk-in footfall/ customers coming to only dine in the hotel, the trend is looking good,” he adds.

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Siddharth Savkar

The situation differs when it comes to monsoon destinations in the country like Goa, Munnar, Darjeeling, etc. There are people who visit to enjoy the weather and also indulge in Ayurvedic therapies at a resort. Siddharth Savkar, general manager, Alila Diwa Goa, informs, “Earlier monsoons were considered as off-season, but now the scenario has changed. I think everyone does a fair amount of business, especially with the domestic clientele. People also opt this season for events, weddings and corporate meetings due to the lush green environs and peace around the property.”

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Satyajit Kotwal

However, there is a difference in trend with business hotels and domestic properties in cities that do not see many international tourists. There might be low occupancy over the week while the weekends are a full house. Saurabh Gahoi, area general manager, Lemon Tree Hotels, Bengaluru region, mentions, “We have three hotels in Bengaluru, namely Lemon Tree Premier, Ulsoor Lake; Lemon Tree Hotel, Electronic City and Lemon Tree Premier, Whitefield. All our hotels average around 75-80 per cent occupancy. Being a business hotel and situated in prominent business districts, monsoon does not really affect us. However, there is a slight decline in leisure segments especially for our resorts down south.”  Talking about seasonal occupancy, Satyajit Kotwal, general manager, The Resort, Mumbai, says, “Definitely the leisure travellers go down for the three months during the monsoon season.  Weekends are usually packed but the weekdays see vacancy. Therefore, there is a need to introduce more weekly and corporate packages.”

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The right strategy

Hotels are more calculative in planning marketing strategies and packages during the monsoon season to ensure that low occupancy can be transformed into tourist arrivals. Thayil remarks, “We have several packages running from the summer months that extend through the monsoon season. We particularly focus on domestic tourists, honeymooners, families and Ayurveda, the latter more so for monsoons are the best time of the year to practice Ayurveda to its fullest. We have various attractions for corporate clients, but we mostly choose to offer tailor-made deals that suit the requirements of each client.”

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Narotam Singh

Narotam Singh, area general manager, Lemon Tree Hotels, Hyderabad region agrees that change in offerings is much needed. He states, “Yes, we definitely change our offerings and F&B menu based on change in seasons. At Lemon Tree Premier, Hitech City, to compliment the wet weather, the hotel is currently running a beer and barbeque promotion, in its hip-recreation bar Slounge. Besides, jazzing up the evenings with a live band performance, karaoke evenings or ‘Become your Own DJ’ Nights, the exciting menu and finger-licking food is adding that extra oomph to accentuate the guest experience. The hotel has also just recently introduced ‘lazy weekend brunches’ to entice the guests to step out in the rainy weather and catching up with friends over food that compliments the weather.”

The Resort in Mumbai does extensive email marketing to its clients to tell them about the packages. “Recently we started a membership programme that has around 85 members. We inform them about the day packages and picnic offers so they can enjoy a nice day within the city itself. This way they come up in the morning and are able to enjoy a good day at the pool or playing outdoor sports on a pleasant day. These packages usually include breakfast, lunch and evening tea. There are menus on handmade cards that include dishes like pakodas and masala chai to treat the guests,” mentions Kotwal.

Sahani adds, “Few of the marketing strategies that we adopt during the monsoon season are online and offline promotions, tie-ups with online travel agencies, special promotions for corporate, pre – purchase offers, advanced bookings coupled with extensive marketing on social platforms.”

Decision on rates

There is often seen a change in the hotel rates during this particular season. Many properties offer special discounts or bring down room rates in order to appeal to a wider audience. However, the change in rates can be instantly checked on online and offline channels. Thayil informs, “Our rates are dynamic and are divided into different periods – May to September, October to mid December and March to April, mid December to mid January is our peak rates and mid January to February .”

The Resort reduces the rates during the monsoon season. “The same price would be displayed at our promoting channels. But, more than reducing just the rack rate, what is most important is that you offer a package of, may be, food and stay to lure in customers. It needs to be a combination of services, which stands out in a better way. We would be introducing a weekend package that includes check-in on a Saturday afternoon till five the next evening, but the guest only pays a little extra charge for the stay. We would only be promoting this through our offline channels.” Kotwal mentions.

Savkar believes that it is better to have dynamic pricing for the entire year than changing rates every season, “The average rate might be lower in the season if compared, but it’s best to follow a certain policy. The rates would also fluctuate for weekdays and weekends.” Talking about how to survive amidst competitive rates, Sahani adds, “Our rates are dynamic to ensure we achieve an optimum occupancy and revenue levels.”

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Facilities for the guests

If the guests don’t prefer going outside during the rainy season they like indulging in indoor activities in the hotel. A property must have in house activities where guests can spend their time. Thayil states, “Of the many activities we have, are yoga sessions every morning, daily sunset cruise on the lake, where guests can relax and enjoy nature at her best to the accompaniment of live classical music. We also have daily cultural entertainment programme at the Ettukettu restaurant for all our guests. Whilst the rains are a sight to behold during the monsoons in Kerala, we do make sure that all our guests are comfortable and enjoy our hospitality to the fullest.”

Singh informs, “There are a lot of activities that we routinely organise for our in-house guests – from attending classic cooking classes hosted by our chef to planting saplings in the outdoor, from participating in interactive games and contests indoors to celebrating special festivals in the hotel.”

Alila Diwa Goa has introduced a luxury residential wellness programme a while ago known as the ‘Detox Detour’. “We have professionals who can help guests undergo a wellness journey during their stay at the resort. These things work out best due to the importance of Ayurveda in the rainy season,” mentions Savkar. Talking about taking care of the guest’s basic needs during the season, Sahani adds, “There are umbrellas on offering for our in-house guests which are placed in our hotel limousines. Our hotel is equipped to cater multiple F&B offerings, for which we have created artificial shade in order to ensure uninterrupted services for our guests.”

A property that has connectivity through outdoors should have umbrellas for guests and rain wears for staff members. A hotel / resort needs to be fully equipped for the season with a thorough check on the hygiene section. Gohai specifically mentions, “A property needs to be prepared for the season and make sure that there is better managing of housekeeping and engineering services to avoid customer complaints. The pool area should be timely maintained along with guest rooms. We make sure all this is in place through a routine follow up of the pre-monsoon check list.”

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