Digitisation Driving New Age Hospitality
Realty+ in conversation with Saagar Panchal, Founder & CEO started Hireavilla Hospitality Pvt ltd learns about his opinion on the future of the hospitality business in India. Panchal started Hireavilla Hospitality Pvt ltd at the young age of 21 years with a team of 4 individuals and worked hard to gradually expand the business & its properties to Karjat, Alibaug, Panchgani and other sectors of Maharashtra & Goa.
How will new age hospitality look like?
As a villa or a hotel owner or even a staff member for that matter, your first and foremost job is to ensure that your customers are 100% satisfied. But let’s rethink this, in a world where your customers are digital natives and have the ability to get what they need at their fingertips then what does hospitality mean to them? I believe it is important we ask ourselves this question – in the digital age, what does hospitality actually mean? The most important thing to remember is that the digital age means that consumers are always looking for reviews and information about holiday villas, hotels and properties. Good hospitality – and pretty much frankly good business – means you need to be as prompt as possible when responding to both positive and negative feedback from guests. The second most important development in the Indian hospitality industry is personalization enabled via technology and analytics. Born in the lap of technology, our new age Indian traveller has evolved with smart phone in one hand and ultra-fast internet in the other. This has resulted in more and more customers expecting their visits to be customized to them. I have realized over time that adding touch of personalization also means keeping up with the new age hospitality trends. New age travellers are looking to extract value and gratification from every moment with highly personalized travel.
How digitisation will shape the travel and hospitality sectors in India?
A growing wave of digitalisation is helping to drive growth across the travel, tourism, and hospitality sectors in India. For instance for today’s new age generation, travel is a necessary tool for growth and discovery, made incredibly easy with digitisation. Instant access to price information and feature comparisons has led to 57% of consumers believing that online channels give them better deals, while 41% find it more convenient to book facilities online . Everything is on the digital front now, and I have seen this transition over the past few years. There has been a tremendous advancement, not just in the way that we use technology to communicate with end users, but also how people are using it to travel. Furthermore, for millennials seeking a life of adventure and spontaneity, quality experience is everything and they are always on the look-out for experiences that keep them happy and satisfied. Digitisation enables via technology is at top priority, whether it’s a faster check-out system, vital Wi-Fi or USB ports in rooms, our new age travellers need to be constantly connected. You don’t want their phones running out of charge just as they’re uploading a drool-worthy picture on Instagram because digital natives are quick to take to social media and report dissatisfaction with 27% of millennials writing negative reviews online.
Is hospitality becoming more experiential than transactional?
Hospitality is becoming more experiential than transactional because they are dealing with a different kind of generation now whose priorities are vastly different from every generation that has come before. In a survey conducted by Goldman Sachs, 60% of millennials did not feel strongly about owning a house while 82% of millennials save up for experiences that they can connect to Opportunistic, energetic and young, they see great benefits of travel as they gain cultural experiences which add value to their personality as a whole. There was a time when the Indian luxury hospitality experience was synonymous with checking into a fancy property, enjoying a well-appointed technologically equipped room, and chilling in the pool or the spa with some good food and beverages for company. While all of that still holds true, today’s young and well-travelled Indian customers are more “demanding” of unique experiences, over and above a comfortable stay. As this generation enters its prime and makes its desires heard, hospitality along with travel trends will vastly shift.
What will be the drivers of change in hospitality?
Young Indians aren’t buying homes because they’d rather travel the world, for example today’s generations aren’t buying homes at the same rate as previous generations, and homeownership rates for the young have steadily declined. The world of hospitality is changing thanks to a rapid increase in traveler numbers. Not only are more people traveling, but the way we shop for, book and experience travel is too. Consumers are demanding more from hospitality providers, as they look for relevant, personalized experiences that fit their specific needs. So whether it’s about replacing the legacy technology with cloud-based system or whether it’s adding a touch of personalization enabled via technology and analytics – all of these factors will enable our hospitality sector to transition from a transactional to an experiential relationship with its customers. So whether it’s the hotel manager’s smile at check-in or the yummy food at the bar, the thoughtfully designed lobby, or an easy-to-use mobile app, the Indian hospitality industry is no longer a plain vanilla sector—every detail will plays an important part in how much customers enjoy their stay. Appealing to the millennial mindset can also be done through authenticity. Incentives like free breakfasts create loyalty among Indian travellers. It is safe to conclude that as India’s new age generation enters its prime and makes its desires heard, business policies along with travel trends will vastly shift.
What is Hospitality 2.0 to you?
Hospitality is a customer-focused industry, with the hotel, villa or resort’s brand reputation ultimate success dependent on the quality of the experience of its guests. It is no surprise then, that digital transformation efforts within the hospitality sector are focused on technologies that improve the guest experience, from check-in to check-out and everything in between. The hospitality industry has been undergoing tremendous changes and disruptions over the last two decades. In this environment, industry participants are trying to understand where we are coming from and especially where the industry is going. I strongly believe that India’s travel and tourism industry has huge growth potential. The tourism industry is also looking forward to the expansion of E-visa scheme which is expected to double the tourist inflow to India. India’s travel and tourism industry has the potential to expand by 2.5 per cent on the back of higher budgetary allocation and low cost healthcare facility, according to a joint study conducted by Assocham and Yes Bank. Also the launch of several branding and marketing initiatives by the Government of India such as ‘Incredible India!’ and ‘AthitiDevoBhava’ has provided a focused impetus to growth of hospitality 2.0.