GM Speak

Amaan Kidwai GM, ITC Gardenia

According to a recent HVS Review, Bengaluru witnessed the second highest hotel brand signings with 2017 keys across 11 properties after Goa with 2209 keys. Steena Joy spoke to the General Managers of some of the Garden City’s leading hotels to get their insights on the market

Bengaluru as a hospitality market
This market is one of the fastest growing markets. We have got a lot of supply coming in across price points and specifically in the luxury segment. We have the Conrad which opened last year in the Central Business district. We also have the Four Seasons that opened in May this year, and also Renaissance opened here last year, and now they are operating at full inventory. We will also see a Novotel coming in here in the vicinity of our hotel, but that will take some time since its construction has just begun. The good thing that we see is, with the occupancy in the city growing, we see the ADRs are also growing and that probably could be due to tremendous commercial space growth rate in the city. The commercial space supply is growing, and with the decent rents companies are picking that up, so with that growth, there is a demand for hotels in the city. Also, the city is broken into micro markets now, so people are willing to stay in the North Bengaluru area as well, and the same is met with the supply of many branded hotels coming there as well. The CBD has been always in demand looking at its proximity to many of the government offices as well as many other offices. Initially, the demand for hotels started with CBD before moving out to the expanse of the city. The demand within the city continues to grow and we have not seen a drop in prices or occupancies for years now, which is good news. Also, Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru being the largest growing airport in the country, the demand will keep rising in the Bengaluru market. Earlier people could do a morning-evening trip, but because of the distance of the airport and the traffic scenario most people have to stay in Bengaluru for at least one night, so it the flip side of how the hospitality market encashes on the back of the infrastructural hurdles in the city. The ARRs are growing. The sentiments are positive and the hospitality industry will grow in the market.
ITC Hotels in general and ITC Hotel Gardenia in specific, we have always looked at both the business drivers i.e. room inventory and F&B. We are very proud of our F&B brands and also market them really well. So we have always been linear in terms of our F&B and room inventory growth ratios.

USP of ITC Gardenia
Apart from the location, ITC Gardenia has not one but many USPs. This is our 10th year of operation and since we started, we were Asia’s first and world’s largest LEED Platinum rated hotel, and the first for our company too. Now recently Grand Chola is the largest LEED Platinum building but until now it was a feather in our cap. As you see the design of the hotel is very open. It has a lot of greenery and also being in the heart of the city, you have a structure like this with balconies and also vertical gardens in our F&B outlets and the lobby. So a lot of greenery spread across the hotel is one of our USPs. We have international F&B brands like the Ottimo and Edo which is a Japanese restaurant. Apart from that, we have Kebabs & Kurries restaurant, hence taking the total to three signature restaurants in the hotel. And, of course, our brand Cubbon Pavilion named in tribute to Cubbon Park in Bengaluru, is our all-day dining signature restaurant. So our F&B offerings are also a great strength of the hotel.
Our rooms are spacious with size of 44 sqm in the basic category which is a fairly large size. The hotel also has an elevated helipad – ours is one of the few buildings in the country with a licensed elevated heliport, which makes us kind of precious. Many industry leaders and celebrities use that, because, by a chopper, the airport is only nine minutes away, so that saves a lot of time for them.
Attrition in the hospitality and services sector in India is very common and fairly high, but we have been seeing a trend at least for ITC Gardenia that it is coming down year-on-year. As a property matures, people also stay longer with the hotel and that is how attrition keeps coming down. Yes, attrition is a challenge in not just hotels taking people away but many other services sector industries as well. Most of the hotel employees are moving out to join cruise liners and international opportunities. We have seen very little attrition from our hotel to another hotel within the city, so it primarily has to do with better opportunities.
We have employee engagement and recognition wherein we have weekly gathering batches to discuss various different aspects. Then we have monthly team lunch, where we put themed lunch for everybody. We also have quarterly rewards and recognition. Also on a weekly basis, department heads interact with their teams to discuss any concerns. So the continuous process of communication has helped us reduce attrition. We also have a large group of employees who are local.

My Management Mantra
I personally believe in decentralising pressure and empowering my people because they are the people who are facing the guests, and if they are not empowered, they will come back every time which doesn’t leave a good impression on the guests. But, they have my backing, we are humans, we all make mistakes and if you learn from mistakes that is absolutely good.

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