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Roping the Post-Recession Traveller

As with every other luxury category, the luxury traveller has changed too. As Grand Hyatt Mumbai celebrates 10 years, they tell us how to do it right

By: David Mansfield, General Manager, Grand Hyatt Mumbai
The dream run of the hospitality industry, characterised by a boom in 2006-2007, was cut short in the following years in the wake of global recession. The industry, however, has started picking up pace in the last couple of years despite widespread economic uncertainty and political flux in Middle East, European debt crisis, stunted growth in emerging markets like India and China, among others. As the world’s economy steadies itself, and disposable incomes rise, the global lodging industry is making headway to achieve sustainable growth.

With the dominant sentiment in the industry being that of careful optimism, the industry needs to unlearn the earlier accepted norms of the game and redefine strategies to capture demand. While pre-recession times built up the demand for high-end and luxury properties, the characteristics of post-recession demand are different. Governments all over the world are engaging in innovative destination marketing, with hoteliers highlighting ‘value’ as a key attraction – whether through positioning MICE tourism or the promise of full-service essentials at lower price points. This has made the post-recession customer, not necessarily a budget traveller, but a discerning customer with a clear preference for value proposition. This scenario presents a compelling question of sustainability in front of luxury hotels.

The answer to this is – staying relevant to your target audience by constantly reinventing yourself. Easier said than done!

Brand as a driver
While the domestic traveller and the budget traveller will continue to feed the growing mid-market and budget hospitality product, what will drive the upper-end of this market is the Brand Experience. At the core of the luxury traveller’s preference is the brand and that alone will continue to capture his/her loyalty. Luxury hoteliers, thus, have their task cut out, to chalk strategies including, but not limited to, reenergising their brand, highlighting their consistent, best-in-class brand experience, as well as providing something totally compelling to their guests. This compelling or ‘wow’ factor will continue to bring back guests again and again.

For instance, Grand Hyatt Mumbai, a luxury business hotel, offers a world of possibilities to its guests such as – rewarding experiences to guests who choose extended stays with a gamut of compelling services such as spa credit points, complimentary breakfast and late checkouts. Giving us those extra brownie points are innovative, experiential programs such as the Nin Hao program, which provides authentic hospitality to our Chinese guests where they can enjoy the basic comforts of their home away from home with destination specific information for an enjoyable stay at Grand Hyatt Mumbai; the Woman’s Experience program that has been specially launched to cater to the customised needs of our single lady travellers where they can now look forward to a welcoming and unique experience with optimum safety and security, amongst a host of other offerings; and the Japanese traveller program which will offer extra touches to the needs of our Japanese travellers from April 2014, with the help of a Japanese city guide and compendium, a Japanese speaking Guest Relations associate to communicate with and Japanese chefs, who will oversee the Japanese section at the hotel’s multi-cuisine restaurant Fifty Five East.

Constant reinvention
For the delight of both the international and the domestic guest, global brands need to consistently deliver their global brand experience yet localise the context. Brand customisation and localisation by investing (culturally, socially, politically and economically) in the local scenario will help global luxury hotel brands reinvent themselves and stay relevant. At Grand Hyatt Mumbai, localisation has been implemented with services such as art tours of contemporary Indian art by established and upcoming artists, spreading the core elements of the city of Mumbai seamlessly in the hotel’s interiors,  and last but not the least, a thorough customisation of banquet spaces based upon guest requirements for auspicious and momentous occasions.

Brands that are seen to connect with local preferences yet meet uncompromised global standards have a brighter future. Reinvention is not just limited to localisation. Customising to meet a spectrum of desires of the upscale guest is another way to grow and retain business. World over luxury hoteliers are taking note of this and offering specialised services in response to demand. Be it customised wellness programs, better air quality in rooms or healthy meals aka ‘home cooked style’ for long stay guests, brands are constantly innovating to pre-empt the needs of their guests and make them feel special by offering them specialised services. At Hyatt we focus on human care, human spirit.

Invest in talent

In the end I believe that none of the above is possible if you don’t build the right talent. People are the one of most important assets in the business of hospitality, more so in the case of luxury brands, and we often tend to forget this. To create a great brand experience and advance it constantly, you need to have a great team of committed, passionate, skilled and trained people. Hiring the right people, up-skilling them, keeping them abreast on major trends that impact the industry, and building the passion to excel are critical factors for the luxury hotel segment.

Ultimately, success will come to those luxury hoteliers who can crack all of this – create an unmatched and compelling brand experience, deliver the brand promise consistently, and increase engagement with consumers in newer and innovative ways delivered by a team of best-in-class professionals who are able to exceed guest expectations.

A hotel community guided by clearly defined, culturally embraced ‘values’ is the key differentiating factor for Hyatt, and the way to go ahead in the near future I think.

David Mansfield is the General Manager of Grand Hyatt Mumbai and Area Director of Mumbai, Pune and Goa. He oversees the strategic and financial performance of Grand Hyatt Mumbai and leads a team of 1400 employees. As an Area Director, he provides support and strategic oversight to Park Hyatt, Hyatt Regency and Hyatt brands in West India. David has been associated with multiple Hyatt properties globally, having being the General Manager at Hyatt Regency Kuantan Resort, Malaysia and Grand Hyatt Melbourne, Australia, before moving to India. He has been honoured with the prestigious Datoship by the HRH Sultan of the State of Pahang, Malaysia in 2010. An avid reader with a penchant for languages and photography, David loves to indulge golf, swimming and surfing in his leisure time.