Hospitality In India

Jean-Michel Cassé, Chief Operating Officer ­ India & South Asia, AccorHolding a Masters in Hotel & Tourism, Jean brings over three decades of industry experience and deep understanding of varied cultures, garnered while working across multiple international markets in Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa.

1. What are your thoughts on the current hospitality sector in India, and what are the various influencing trends that are augmenting the growth of this sector?
India's hospitality industry has witnessed tremendous growth. In last year, the industry has witnessed the highest occupancy and ARR in a decade, thus continuing to show promising progress. This is true across segments from luxury to premium and economy.

One of the evident trends is the guests now get to chose from a gamut of brands and properties panning across luxury, mid-scale and economy. They have many options to decide based on the nature of travel, be it for leisure or work. MICE is also an important aspect which is helping this sector grow. Guests are selecting one venue for all their events; be it wedding, offsites, conferences, award shows and much more. Hoteliers provide customised solutions and ensure to accommodate various demands of the guests.

We also cannot deny the contribution of digital and technological innovation to the hospitality industry. Be it internal processes or software for multiple functions and departments or the social media platforms being used by guest, technology has eased-down everything for both hoteliers and guest.

2. According to reports, the hospitality sector is likely to witness an annual investment of $0.5-0.6 billion during 2018-2022, and a total investment of up to $2.8 billion by 2022. How is this trend going to impact the development of the sector in the tier-II and tier-III apart from the obvious tier-I cities?
With multiple government initiatives that are boosting the travel and tourism industry, this has also given an impetus to the hospitality industry. These initiatives have improved and increased connectivity through air, rail and road across the country to various Tier-II and Tier-III cities coupled with states promoting tourism and other initiatives will propel the growth of branded hotels focussing on Tier-II and Tier-III markets, changing the face of the hospitality industry in those markets.

3. By 2020, the global millennial spending power will dominate every other generation, witnessing major shifts in customer preferences and values demanding for rapid innovation, propelling business competition. How in your opinion is the Indian hospitality sector going to channel this transformation?
We are already witnessing the increasing demand for personalised experiences, customised services and innovation in food and beverage industry. Hoteliers are quite aware of this fact and have in-fact already been strategizing and channelizing marketing spends towards newer initiatives. Bringing-in more localised
experiences in food, re-inventing lost food recipes, and specialised sit-down dinners. are already quite popular amongst guests. Folklores, traditional music & dance, meeting with natives, and experiencing their lifestyle is also in trend. Focus towards wellness, healthy eating, spa and massages. is also something the millennials enjoy, and the industry is focussing on that too.

Also, loyalty programmes are popular amongst millennials, as they can benefit from it even when not staying at the properties. At Accor, in the last quarter of 2019, we will launch our newly revamped loyalty lifestyle program: ALL ­ Accor Live Limitless ­ which will focus on providing exclusive experiences for our guests across dining, entertainment and sport, three areas we know travellers are passionate about. We will also use the richness of our brand ecosystem to engage with our guests more in their day-to-day lives, so even when they are not travelling, we can help make their lives better. This will enable us to get to know our guests even better so that we can deliver services and experiences to enrich their lives.

It is easier to give guests a well-rounded international and local experience, given that procuring ingredients both locally and internationally are much easier

4. India's rising popularity as a major hospitality tourism destination as well as a patron for the MICE segment and the increasing fondness of international travellers to the country is transforming conventional cuisine trends. How is the current hospitality sector bracing to cherish these impacts in terms of reforming its cuisine, food & beverage styles?
Food and beverage experiences are a vital part of the hospitality industry, and providing offerings that are unique, localised and appeal to the guests ensures that your guests are happy. Today, it is easier to give guests a well-rounded international and local experience, given that procuring ingredients both locally and internationally are much easier. With various food trends & fads, cookery shows, and international travels, guests have widened their culinary palates and their demands also reflect this. Chefs and the culinary departments of various hotels have already adapted to these changes and are offering foods that are vegan, gluten-free, special diet food items, and local specialities.

5. For hospitality brands to attract and retain customers, offering distinct experiences to meet their needs and expectations are necessary, of which security, quality & hygiene mark prime importance. How is the industry armed to tackle these concerns?
As a guest centric company, we at Accor take the security of our guests, quality & hygiene of our services and staff very seriously. We follow strict rules & regulation in terms of quality and hygiene across all guest touch points from the front of the house, rooms, food and even the back of the house. We conduct regular checks and tests to ensure quality is maintained across all brands and properties.

6. What in your opinion are the various infrastructural, technological and design shifts, the hospitality industry is going to witness in the near future. Also, what are the ways in which the Indian hospitality workforce is preparing to be future ready?
Design is so much more than just an aesthetic discipline! This is especially true in the hotel industry, where design strategies have a real impact on the customer's experience during their trip. From the architecture, the interior design, the organization of the spaces and the programming, to the entertainment, objects, artworks and staging, design strategies influence the whole guest experience, their perception of brands, both on the physical and digital points of contact.

But not only that! It also affects how travellers live, evaluate their journey and how they feel - not only about the hotel brands they interact with, but also about themselves as people.

Guests are looking for localised experiences that are also flexible, open, inclusive and themed. Be it the façade, the technological adaptation or just the colour scheme. While developing hotels, it is critical to ensure that the hotel is designed keeping guests needs in mind.

Today's guests are demanding for quick, hassle-free and easy-going experiences from the time of booking until check-out, and these must be amplified through technology as well. For example, in the rooms, guests expect free high-speed WiFi, USB charging ports, or even the ability to use their devices to order room service.