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Sudeep Jain: We at IHG are expecting to sign and open more hotels in the mid to long term

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How did IHG properties in India optimise costs during the pandemic-induced nation-wide lockdown? 

Many of our 5,900 hotels around the world, including India, represent small, individually owned businesses, and we recognise the very real challenges that they face in light of this Covid-19 crisis. Many are running at the lowest levels of occupancy ever seen and others have temporarily closed their doors.

It has been our priority to provide the right support and protection for our hotels and owners, alongside the plans and programmes needed for a recovery. Our market-tailored fee relief packages and options to defer payments have been warmly welcomed by our owners, providing the flexibility they need to use cash in other ways that protects their business during this difficult time. Globally, we have also paused renovations and relaxed our brand standards to help lower hotel operating costs for owners.

What initiatives has IHG devised to ensure support to all the stakeholders?

As hospitality industry faces the biggest challenge in history, we’re doing what’s right to support all our stakeholders, including our guests, colleagues, hotel owners and communities.

During this time, we have stayed focused on:

Being there for our guests: Flexibility is high on customer priorities at such an uncertain time, which is why we moved quickly at the onset of this crisis to waive cancellation fees. We’ve followed this up with a Book Now, Pay Later offer for the rest of 2020, which makes travel planning commitment free, with no deposit required, and cancellation possible up to 24 hours before a stay for direct bookings.  We have also launched enhanced cleaning standard to make sure our guests feel confident in staying with us, whenever they are ready to travel. Recognising the importance of our valued IHG Rewards Club members, we have also extended member status to January 2022, reduced Elite qualification requirement by 25%, and paused points expiry until the end of the year for Club members.

Being there for our hotel teams and owners: As a company, we stand beside all our owners. We are deeply committed to doing all we can to quickly reopen closed hotels and offer the flexibility, support and expertise they all need to protect their businesses, reinvigorate travel and bring guests through their doors as demand recovers. Our hotel teams are some of the industry’s most talented and passionate, and we want to make sure they can continue to offer True Hospitality for everyone in a way that protects both themselves and our guests. We’re introducing a number of measures including clear standards on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and rolling out training and certification.

Bringing True Hospitality to one another and our communities: Having a positive impact on the thousands of communities our hotels and offices are a part of around the world means so much to everyone at IHG, and we know that our care and support has never been needed more than it is right now. From food deliveries, providing hotel rooms for frontline workers to participating in relief efforts, we are stepping up in many ways.    

How does the investment scenario look for IHG in South West Asia & India in the post-Covid period? 

Our growth driver in the country has been the Holiday Inn Brand Family, which includes Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express. These brands have worked extremely well for the market which is primarily driven by domestic tourism.

Holiday Inn Brand Family continues to remain at the core of our growth strategy in India for the coming years. In fact, with a low cost of development, these brands make for an attractive investment choice for our owners, which might be a priority for many at this time.

How is IHG re-inventing the various operations including – hosting MICE, F&B operations, in-room safety, etc, to be Covid-ready in the new normal?   

As more visitors start to travel again, the concern for cleanliness will remain universal. We want guests and B2B partners to feel confident in booking an IHG hotel, comfortable in the knowledge that we can consistently deliver a safe, healthy, and clean stay, when the time comes.

At all areas and functions of our hotels, we have introduced enhanced health and safety standards, in line with guidance from global bodies and local public health authorities. All of our hotels have been given best practice guidelines, which have been supplemented with additional Covid-19 cleanliness-specific guidance, training and information, consistent with our own very high standards.

We have a well-established ‘Culture of Clean’ across our brands, which gives us a strong foundation on which to implement specific measures for dealing with the pandemic across all operations. Leading this is our new Global Cleanliness Board, which is responsible for understanding best practices, defining solutions and implementing processes to address short-term needs that are sustainable over the long-term.

To do this, they are working with new partners, Cleveland Clinic, and long-time collaborators Ecolab and Diversey, to further strengthen the IHG Way of Clean programme with new science-led protocols and service measures which reflect the advice of the World Health Organisation, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and local public health authorities around the world.

With these updated measures in place, we have launched our IHG Clean Promise to reassure guests that their rooms will meet our industry-leading levels of cleanliness.

IHG’s future roadmap in India?

The pandemic has proven to be extremely challenging for the hospitality industry, but we are committed to accelerating growth and meaningfully expanding our presence across key markets in the country in the long run. We recently signed a management agreement to bring the Crowne Plaza brand to Lucknow. We are also in discussions with other owners and are expected to sign and open more hotels in the mid to long term.

The tourism sector in India is primarily driven by the domestic market – with our brands that are loved so fondly by our guests, we are well placed to cater to the demand once the crisis is behind us.

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