In an exclusive interview Vincent Ramos, area director – IHCL, Goa and general manager – Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Goa shares his insights on the Goa hospitality market and the group’s future inventory in the beach destination
By Steena Joy
How has the Goa hospitality market evolved over the years?
Goa is a 365 day holiday destination. It is always seen as a place where you can unwind, can spend quality time with your family in today’s world of hectic times Goa has become more and more popular. It is a chemistry of everything which brings people to Goa. Room occupancies are rocking. It has been really good and great business for the hotels here and I think it will do a lot of good to the economy of India.
What about room inventory? Will the market stabilise with more rooms in the pipeline?
There is nothing like stabilise. In the luxury space, that is in the five-star category – the space we are in – everybody is doing great. The market stabilised long ago and now it has only grown stronger.
What are the challenges of your dual roles as area director and GM?
There are no challenges as such. It is really exciting to look after the eight hotels in my region. All the reports of these properties come to me so when I see these results, it is nice to see that Goa is growing and the graphs going northwards. Gives you a sense of satisfaction not just for us as hoteliers but also to know that the state is benefitting. In the end it is the money that is coming to India. We can show off our lovely hospitality to the world. Everyone benefits from this.
Has the market witnessed a demand shift from international tourists to domestic travellers?
Yes I agree that a lot of domestic people are travelling because we have so much to offer as a country. The United States of America thrives on its domestic market. Why shouldn’t India thrive on her domestic market which has not happened for so many years. We were always looking out at outbound.
Earlier, Indians usually had only one holiday when they used to go to their native place. Today the idea of a holiday has changed, we have more than one holiday. because the airports have expanded, the skies have opened up. Earlier there was only one flight which used to come to Goa. Today we have so many flights that land into Goa every day. There is more infrastructure in railways, more luxury buses, etc. As the infrastructure has improved with better roads and more airports, the domestic market has also shown an increase.
What about OTAs and aggregators, have they disrupted the market in any way?
If brand is strong it is strong. You don’t have to go through a middle man.
So do you think it is better to go through the company website?
Of course yes. The company website is the best and you get direct reservations. It really depends if the customer wants a middle man, he can go through a middle man. The choice is his. We are getting a lot from direct bookings, it’s like buying a Louis Vuitton bag – if you want to buy the real thing, I am sure you will go to the official company store or website to buy.
Is F&B driving revenues in hotels now?
It’s a balance of everything – you need to have good food and beverage and good room products. Nowadays people want to try out different foods. As a part of the Taj group hotels, we got experiential decades ago. Whether it is the first Thai restaurant in India or the Chinese cuisine at Golden Dragon in Mumbai. India has so much to offer in F&B and there are different regional cuisines. Here, in Goa there is Saraswat food; in Kerala the fish is cooked in banana leaf. India has such diversity in cuisines and that is why she is going to thrive on F&B experiences. Some countries have only one type of cuisine and no regional cuisines like us. And obviously F&B is going to drive the hotel sales. It is like roti, kapada and makann. You cannot keep the ‘roti’ out.
Speaking of hospitality education in India, is there a curriculum mismatch?
I don’t agree there is a mismatch. I myself am from IHM and I feel the curriculum completely matches. The problem is mostly with the illegal colleges. IHM is an institution that teaches you the best. The best general managers or hospitality leaders are from the IHMs. It shapes your overall personality.
Do you face any attrition challenges in Goa?
No challenges, we have hardly any attrition – maybe in one digit, very small, less than 10 per cent. If you take care of your people I don’t see why they should leave. A good 85 per cent of our staff are local.
The future pipeline in Goa?
IHCL is acquiring hotels in Goa and Taj is going to have the highest room inventory in Goa. We are going to be the market leaders in Goa. We shouldn’t forget that it was Taj who put Goa on the tourism map of India. When it comes to Indian hospitality, we take the credit for that. We are the guardians of Indian hospitality. It is one Indian hospitality company the world is proud of.