MS. What has been the story of Pullman-Novotel since the pandemic, has the hospitality industry recovered to its profitable phase?
Pavan Kumar. The strength of the hospitality industry lies in its ability to adapt, reconstruction has been the very basis of survival during the pandemic for every business and individual. With the rise in consumer expectations post Covid-19, the whole scenario has taken a new shape. This is why we have left no stone unturned in creating safe and thoughtful stays for our guests since the pandemic. From contactless technology services to re-inventing our brand messaging, we are on road to regain our pre-covid momentum. The industry in general has faced plenty of challenges in these years but in my better belief, we will bounce back very quickly with the right approach tailored as per the consumer needs and wants.
MS. Please describe some of the key aspects of Pullman-Novotel that distinguish it from other hotels.
Pavan Kumar. Pullman being a complex hotel, is a mixed bag of features. From a wide range of F&B outlets like Honk, Farmer’s Basket, Cafe Pluck, Pling, Food Exchange and Quoin to meeting avenues like co-meeting rooms and breakout rooms, Pullman serves as an all-in-one destination for all types of travellers. For weddings, we have a 40,000 sq.ft. pillarless mystical peacock inspired ballroom that has a clear height of 22 ft and is the largest in Aerocity, serving as a perfect venue. With their rain shower installations on the ceiling and lavish courtyard, the hotel proves to have a beautiful ambience. Having an extensive inventory of 670 rooms coming in different categories, Pullman & Novotel New Delhi Aerocity is a pioneer hotel in delivering democratised experience under one roof.
MS. How did you get into the hospitality industry? Please tell us about your professional journey so far in this industry?
Pavan Kumar. It all dates back to 14 years ago when I started my journey in the marketing and sales segment. Over the course of time, I have worked with leading Indian and global brands in the hospitality domain, such as heading the sales department in hospitality group Accor for their 51 multi branded hotels in India and South Asia. This opened the door for me to join Pullman & Novotel New
Delhi Aerocity as their Director of Sales and Marketing, where I manage overall sales programmes, annual budgets, revenue and distribution management. My professional journey has been enriching and exciting as the very nature of the hospitality industry itself. I hope to utilise my in-depth knowledge of effective sales strategies in order to achieve excellence and produce profitable results in the coming future.
MS. What are your differential offerings for MICE and weddings and which one is a bigger revenue generator for you?
Pavan Kumar. At Pullman, we attempt to create steadiness in our MICE and wedding segment as the two are the primary contributors to our revenue. With no doubt, the MICE segment generates greater revenue for the industry. It’s a profitable source throughout the year and is growing at a fast pace. To cater to this segment, we have meeting spaces like co-meeting rooms which offer high-level team and technology for amazing services. Our business playground concept features creative interior elements, modular rooms and tailored food and beverage options. Weddings being the second in lane, is a traditional source of income for the hospitality industry which never goes out of vogue. Being a very important part of society, is a segment that we closely enjoy planning and executing. We have a large ballroom which is inspired by the mystical peacock theme that can accommodate upto 1500 guests and have outdoor settings to serve as a refreshing venue for different occasions. We also have talented chefs and great f&b as a cherry on the top to create a wonderful experience for our guests.
MS. What should hotels be thinking beyond health and hygiene to attract guests?
Pavan Kumar. In the past 2 years, the entire dynamics of the hospitality sector has taken a shift. Traditionally, customers demanded comfortable stays that came with a touch of luxury and great F&B but now their expectations have become safety and hygiene centric. Guests are looking for digital reservations and check -out processes and as contactless experiences as they can get. Nonetheless, it’s a challenging task to provide great experiences keeping so many parameters in mind. We are making every effort and strategically planning our approaches to satisfy the consumers. According to me, hotels should think beyond the fixed trend of just providing safety and hygiene. It is how personally tailored the experience of the customer is that makes their stay great. With a holistic approach, we can surely meet and exceed the expectations of our guests which will result in not only more revenue but also will win their admiration.
MS. How do you overcome the challenge in initiating and conducting the events? Please share your experience on some of your recently held events at your venue.
Pavan Kumar. Hosting events is always an exciting opportunity but the management is always a task. Since the onset of Covid-19, safety has been a major concern and hence organising events have become even more challenging. All this while, we have been hosting quite a number of events with the necessary measures like social distancing, sanitisation etc.. For obvious reasons, we experienced that customers are more cautious in attending events and hence the events need to
incorporate buttoned-up segments of assurance. Some customers are not comfortable with buffets and they prefer individual portions, whereas others demand events with less gatherings. In the end, it all narrows down to planning the event in such a manner where all the suggestions and queries of the guests are answered without them even asking for it.
MS. In the age of social media and online marketing, hotels are increasingly interacting with their guests on these platforms. How well have your social media and online marketing strategies worked for you?
Pavan Kumar. Social media has changed the way of connecting with the audiences for every industry. Traditional marketing is replaced with digital marketing and the presence of a brand is mainly recognised by its social media profile. In times like this, we have been proactive with our approach to interact digitally with the customers. Our digital campaign “We will mind your business” disrupted the industry by showcasing Pullman as the safe haven for the business travellers and has garnered much love for it. By curating, resonating campaigns that have a broader perspective, we constantly reach out to the audience and create a relationship of trust.
MS. What are the big challenges facing the hospitality sector today?
Pavan Kumar. The only challenge today in my opinion is to meet the growing expectations and needs of the customers. The generalisation of the services is no longer an option and is replaced by personalised preferences of the travellers. It is critical to tailor services according to these subjective demands and hence the process can prove to be strenuous. To effectively carry out this, the idea is to create value and bring on board technology as an acceleration. Digitisation is becoming more and more important in the hotel industry and will be used to deliver tailor-made experiences to the consumers.
MS. What have been your biggest takeaways from the industry?
Pavan Kumar. In the process of thriving in the industry over the years and sustaining a global crisis, I can say that I have had my fair share of key learnings. The most important being the ability to adapt in accordance with the changing scenarios and crisis management because this is the most challenging part. As people are opting for more off beat locations, it is a good time for independent hotels to grow and create their name in this niche. Another learning is that traditional short-term stays are being replaced by long -terms such as full-house rentals by families and friend groups for many days are being preferred by the customers. So all in all, the capability of the industry to diversify and grow its potential is prevalent and there is only so much to learn from.
MS. What have been the crucial lessons learned and how has that helped changed your strategy?
Pavan Kumar. During the course of my journey, one thing that I learned in the very beginning only was that change is inevitable. The most crucial lesson had to be the one that we all learned in the past two years where pandemic taught us all the power of patience and flexibility. Our strategy is now to create introspective experiences and connect with our customers on a deeper level via social media as the impact of these platforms remains unchallenged in present time.
MS. Any message that you would like to share with us.
Pavan Kumar. To conclude, I would like to express my appreciation for the entire hospitality industry in regards to their dedication and hardwork to battle these unprecedented times. I am thankful for all my team members and the co-operative customers for their patience and trust in us. By supporting each other as industry colleagues, I think we all from the hospitality industry will continue to thrive in the greater future.