Technology a great strength to pandemic-hit hospitality sector: Shruti Shibulal

Vinson Kurian Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on August 13, 2020


Technology has been, and will continue to be, a great strength in these times of the pandemic, and can only be a collaborative factor in our operations, says Shruti Shibulal, CEO & Director, Tamara Leisure Experiences.

“We have introduced a QR code method for making payments at restaurants, outlets, and receptions for check-in and check-out. For those guests who prefer card payments, the option is still available, but we will encourage contactless payments whenever possible,” she told BusinessLine in an interview.

All Tamara properties are now using a newly launched app (available on both iOS and Android) that will help with gathering critical pre-arrival information from guests (including travel and medical history), communicating the policies and protocols in place under the Rakshā Initiative (a detailed handbook on everything safety and hygiene-related being put into place in all Tamara properties), and making menus available for both in-room and restaurant dining. Edited excerpts:

What are your plans to ride out the difficult times?

As these difficult times pan out, we are putting our greatest efforts towards making hotels and resorts safe for guests. Cleanliness and hygiene were always at the highest of standards at our properties. Now, with the launch of our Rakshā Initiative, we are able to assure guests of their health and safety at our properties.

We are also trying to make hotels more relevant through packages that address the needs of the hour. We have launched a special Vivāham Wedding Package for intimate and elegant weddings at O by Tamara, and a Workation Package at O by Tamara and a Work from Paradise Package at The Tamara Coorg that offer elegant and comfortable work spaces, high-speed Wi-Fi, and all the requirements of a work-from-home environment, in the ambiance of an exquisite hotel.

Our 2+1 and no-cost EMI payment options make short trips, and easier payments immediate possibilities. We have introduced 24-hour check-in and check-out and a zero-cost 24-hour cancellation policy that accommodates flexible travel itineraries and the uncertainties that surround our lives at the moment.

Tamara properties are known to offer exquisite and memorable holidays, emphasising on traditional and local cuisine, and memorable experiences with world-class facilities. We are constantly updating our policies and facilities to help guests and travellers feel comfortable and safe at our properties, and we are hopeful that we have done enough for guests – both old and new – to choose a Tamara property for their next trip away from home.

Do you see a perceptible trend in terms of wedding plans proposed to align with the new normal?

In terms of enquiries, there have been quite a few in the recent past for weddings. Under these special circumstances, we have observed that those who may not have considered a destination wedding are doing so now.

With the government restrictions of 50 people for public gatherings, couples and their families are looking for 5-star experiences at venues with high standards of health, hygiene, and safety, which have become top priorities for all guests. As an established player in the hospitality industry, we are glad that our guests trust us to keep their best interests at heart at any Tamara property.

The Vivāham Package is at the moment available at O by Tamara, our property in Thiruvananthapuram. The package is designed to offer the couple an intimate and special celebration that can create beautiful memories despite the special circumstances that currently surround us.

We are also working on enquiries coming in to hold full-resort wedding weekends, where couples and their families can book out the entire property for their special event. We are hopeful that we will be able to create suitable packages to offer a memorable experience, while maintaining the health and safety of those in attendance.

Has the will to spend on weddings been so blunted that we may not see pre-pandemic levels being reached any time soon?

We have not noticed a decrease in guests’ willingness to spend on weddings or other special events. On the contrary, we find that those who wouldn’t have considered a smaller wedding may now think about spending more on an intimate event at a hotel or resort.

The restrictions have more to do with government guidelines, and what is possible under the current situation. As far as reaching pre-pandemic levels of business and revenue are concerned, we are likely to see difficult times in the immediate future, but we are hopeful that the industry will slowly recover as restrictions are lifted, and processes adapt to the needs of the hour, and as the country, and the world, slowly return to normal.

How much of a setback do you see the MICE (Meetings-Incentive-Conference-Exhibition) space confronted with?

The MICE space has definitely seen a setback in the past few months. Organisations are doing their best to tackle it by playing to their strengths, within the restrictions of the number of people they are permitted to cater to.

In terms of events, the challenges are many; not only with the restrictions on the number of people allowed in public spaces at a time, but also in terms of set-up teams travelling, gathering equipment, etc. However, the industry is resilient, and there are plenty of innovations and creative thinking around designing solutions to these issues — including staggered planning and the use of technology to reduce personal interactions — that are being put into place.

We, like many other organisations are working towards designing options that will make a certain amount of MICE happen, within the government restrictions in place.

Published on August 13, 2020

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