How has the PANDEMIC affected the HOTEL/TOURISM industry? | Sandeep Walia | TBCY

How has the PANDEMIC affected the HOTEL/TOURISM industry? | Sandeep Walia | TBCY

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Welcome to another episode of The Brand Called  You. A vodcast and podcast show that brings   you leadership lessons, knowledge, experience and  wisdom from hundreds of successful individuals   from around the world. I am your host Ashutosh Garg  and today I am delighted to welcome a very very   senior hotelier from the middle east and a fellow  YPO, Sandeep Walia. Sandeep, welcome to the show.   Thank you for having me over.  Sandeep is the Chief Operating Officer  

of the middle east for Marriott International.  He has worked in multiple countries and as I  just mentioned, he's a fellow member of the YPO. So Sandeep, let's talk about Marriott and tourism   and the top-of-the-line question for everybody is  how has the pandemic impacted hotel and tourism? It's a but obvious question and  I think somewhere this whole covid has   speeded up a lot of things. So, I think the  first and foremost is hygiene and cleanliness.  We have done a survey, I think  about six years back in the luxury space to   ask our guests, what's the most important or  the top three things you see in a luxury hotel?   And to a surprise what came out as number one  was cleanliness, as basic as that and I think,   this whole covid has just brought that in  the forefront that hygiene and cleanliness is   the most important. I think, what's become a bit  different is today, people like to see  

it a bit more measurable, people like to see a bit  more visual and I'll just share an example of the   fact that, if you're checking into a hotel even  if it's a luxury hotel. Today, people like to   see the fact that there are pens lying on a tray  which are clean and you sign on the reg card and   you're leaving it on another tray which says  used pens. Now, in the old times, you would say   this looks cheesy but in today's times it  conveys a sense of hygiene and cleanliness.   You find stickers to maintain social distancing  even in the best of hotels and that's a prime   example of that people want to see the hygiene and  cleanliness. So, I think that's kind of been the   one. The second I would say is communication  that's become even more important, it always was.  

But I think, people want reassurance. So,  there's a lot of focus we have had at Marriott on   pre-arrival communication but also at the check-in  as to what's open, what they can do, what they can't   do? Setting communication has become a  very important part and the last I would say is   technology is kind of I mean, here we are talking on zoom and hopefully, we would have   been meeting in person. But I mean, today  half the things are getting down on zoom or teams   but on the same front and technology, I think  what we found a guest kind of appreciating is a contactless approach to business. So, for  example, if you're a Marriott Bonvoy member,  

you can download the app check in on your  iPhone itself as you would do in an airport.   Setting technologies kind of getting  integrated into the industry faster. So I   would say these are the kind of things which come.  Fascinating and I am a   Marriott Bonvoy member and I have  tried checking in and it works.   So, tell me Sandeep in your  current role as the Chief Operating Officer. I've  

often wondered Marriott is the biggest chain in  the world and you have so many different brands. While on the one side biggest chain gives you  the largest market share but so many brands also   results in lots of challenges. So my question  is how do you manage so many different brands?   Yes, a good question but I see brands as strength. So, we have 7,600 hotels across the world and it's  about 30 brands that we have.

But I have to say that I think, one side  it brings a lot of strength to us because   whether there's a luxury brand  or a premium brand or a sedec brand.   I think every brand has its own  niche and its own guests or customers   and we are able to capture a wider audience. But to your question, what is the challenge?   I would say, I would equate it to a bit like  a swimming pool, its different swim lanes   and our challenge is that we need to remain if  each channel in this swimming pool is one brand,   we need to make sure that we remain within that  swim lane for each brand. Now, when you go deep  

into the water, the water might be getting mixed  because end of the day the IT processes   or the finance processes are similar between the  brands because it's one at Marriott International   but on the top the service standards are what  the brand stands for whether it's a Ritz Carlton   or a Saint Regis, we need to stay true to  that and I think, our challenge is that when we   travel across the globe and I'm looking at  your map behind you right now. We need to remain   true to each brand. A courtyard in U.S. should  be the same as a courtyard in Asia and so   forth. So I think, remaining true to each brand is  very important. Very well said and as you look at   the past 18 months from your  courtyard in the U.S. to your St.   Regis and all the other top names that you have.  One of the things that people often talk about  

is that because of technology which you just  spoke about zoom, business travel is going to be   taking much more time to pick up. I don't know what  your prognosis is? It's a very fair point   and I think it's one that one can't shy  off but i would say that one has started. It's a   bit of a staggered answer or broken up because  it really depends on which part of the world   you are in. One, I think travel is top  become a bit more dependent on vaccinations,   number of covid cases which eventually  leads to corridors being open or not today. But what's really encouraging is the fact that  there is a huge amount of pent up time and we've   seen it every time two corridors open to travel. You can see the occupancy is just shooting up   and we kind of seeing new markets. So when we  look at today, in Dubai we look at UAE,  

the highest today demand is actually the  domestic market which is the staycation itself   and we have 66 hotels in UAE. In fact,  in the month of June, we crossed the occupancies   of 2019, the ADR was actually higher but it  is all led by leisure. So your question is very   valid, it's led by leisure but we love to use different words it's called leisure   but it's a bit of a blend of business and leisure  coming together and it had started actually. It had  

started pre-covid where when people travel for  business, they would still look at a spa option   or F&B options to get some me time and  downtime and when they went for leisure, they   still looked at the speed of WiFi because they  needed to check email. So it had started but it   only got accelerated with covid. So people  are taking vacations which is kind of spending   time with the family, online school happening in  one room but then you're doing business as well.   So if you're seeing a bit of growth on that piece, the leisure has really exceeded. So it's kind   of compensated somewhere on the business piece. And you're right Zoom and Teams are here to stay  

but I strongly believe that a few years  later, it will not be zoom and teams. We will be back   meeting each other. There is no substitute to  human connection. Social interaction and actual   face-to-face meetings are the only answer to  doing business. Absolutely, my glasses are full.  

Well said and you said  very very correctly about staycations. I find, even here in say in India, the Delhi  hotels which have been affected because of   no business travel are suddenly seeing people  from Agra or people from Jaipur saying, let's go   and spend three days in Delhi and stay  in all these high-end hotels, so you're   absolutely right. But moving on, given your vast experience and traveling   all over the world, the more I see and   where we are very very ardent travelers but I find now travelers are seeking more  experiences rather than a great hotel.   I mean, they want a great hotel  but they want far more experiences.   How are your properties and your  brands adapting to this fresh demand? I would say, it is again a demand or a shift from  product to experiences. Even when we talk   about people you're celebrating  your anniversary and instead of buying a gift   or a show or a bag for your wife, you might be  taking her for a vacation or an experience.  

I mean, it's different that when you reach there  she might still ask for the bag but let's keep   that aside. But I think, somewhere we have moved  to experiences and it's only got speeded up. Now,   look at us as Marriott, we have 30 brands. We don't own hotels, we own brands. End   of the day what's brand? It is our people. So  today, if you had to go to a Ritz Carlton somewhere   have a great experience, you would say  you know, what Ritz Carlton was brilliant   and if you come across a person who's had  a bad day, an associate or a lady or gentleman   and they give you bad service, you're going  to say you know somehow Ritz Carlton is   not what it used to be. So I think people make the  brand and so for us the biggest focus is about   training the people we hire and they buying  into the story that we need to create experiences   or stories for our guests. So when they leave,  they're leaving with a story which they're  

gonna talk about. So we're finding different  ways that how we train them but we also then   empower them and I would say further to say, we  celebrate them as and when they create stories.  So I think that would be one but a lot of this  happens at the GM level. So it's the hotel level   and you might look at me and say, so what do you  do as a COO to create experiences or how does your role translate into this and here I think, it's the focus I feel we need to drive   and that's of a balanced scorecard. It's  about a focus on our people because they are  

the brand, they are our business. A focus on  guest satisfaction which today is very measurable.   People are very vocal today about whether  it's on social media or on the surveys,   people want to give feedback. So they're vocal  and therefore you can quantify that. So I think,   it's the guest experiences and how do we quantify  that and of course, one can't forget that you're   in here for making money for the owners. So there  needs to be a balance between these three and the   guests coming at the center of it. I think that  is somewhere if I can drive the focus with as I travel to hotels, I feel it's a job well  done. So I think that would be the second part but  

end of the day, we need to take one hotel at a time, one guest at a time and move forward. So I   think, that's the way forward to kind of focus on  those experiences. Very well said and I've   often had a question in my mind having  lived in hotels. There are some outstanding hotels,   there are some not so outstanding hotels and I've  often been told that this is because of the leader.   So, my question to you is what are some of  the qualities a good hotel GM should have?   For me, I think the most important because  you said most important because it's like a   long list here but I would say a GM should be  an entrepreneur. He needs to or she needs to be  

an owner of that hotel. If he or she has  the hat of an owner and is ready to do that,   I think then you have a good GM for  that one time because the end of the day   GM is the key to the success of the hotel. Yes,  product is important, location is important   but the person who drives, the swim lane  we spoke about for the brand, the GM drive is a   brand. We spoke about service, we said people drive  service he or she is a leader who instills that   culture so to speak but if GM is treating  that hotel or that business as his or her own,   he or she would do everything possible  to make every guest happy to the extent.   The hotels end of the day started long back  as INN's and the owner of the house used   to welcome you as if you're coming to his or  home, cook and so what he or she made.   Yes, at the end of this day there was a bill.  So if you had to go back from a hotel to in  

keeping, I would say to be an entrepreneur  would be the most important. Fascinating, so   Sandeep for someone who's really worked  right up to the top now and running such a large   region, what would you say is your leadership style? I would say, it's situational. You can't just have one style   fits all kind of an approach. So there are times when you need to be   hands-on as a leader, especially if there's  a crisis or there's a situation like covid where I needed to get a bit more hands-on and get  to it at the beginning and of course, then the different teams take on from there. There  are times when you need to be a strategic leader   and here I think, it's about the balance.  The balance between kind of watching the   dance floor so to speak. If your hotels are dance  floors and then getting on to the dance floor  

and being with the people to my previous point  about being hands-on but then again zoning out   and looking at the larger pictures I think, this  balance is certainly required but I also see that   as you grow into the organization and  you have larger number of hotels. Somewhere   a coaching side of leadership works very well for  me because the end of the day you're working through   people. Whether you're working through the Vice  Presidents or the GM's, end of the day that relationship of trust and transparency and  being able to coach the particular leader at   a particular time is one of the ways I feel, it's most conducive to the particular   situation. But I think the biggest one or the  base would also be, we need to get the   word right in terms of being a servant leader in  sense of being people leader. End of the day,   the most important in this business is  our associates, our people. I cannot  

even think or imagine that I would be meeting  all our guests to make a difference to our guest   satisfaction. It's our people who touch  the different guests, so it's about looking   after those people, it's about at a larger scale  but also at looking at seeing different leaders   or high potential how they are growing and  supporting them. It's almost like somebody   sent me the elevator to grow or to  come up or showed me the staircase.   So, sometimes it was fast and sometimes slow but  I feel I need to do the same now to send the   elevator down to bring more people up or ensure  that enough staircases coming up. Setting people   or servant leadership is another one  which should be the base leadership style. So   very situational. Fabulous. So one more question  for you before I move to the next segment.  

This is the age of the Millennials  and the Gen Z's and they're   inheriting the world and they're going to  take it forward. What has been the impact   that the Millennials and Gen Z's are  having on the tourism industry as customers? Good question. I would actually say the  Millennials and Gen Z by age and by heart   because I think, there are enough of us including  you and me Ashutosh who by heart are Gen Z. I think there are two pieces to this. One is, the  fact that they are even more into experiences than, I was about to say we were but I need to be  careful when I say that. But they are even more   into looking at experiences versus products.  So they were already on the journey well

before covid which ties up with our industry  end of the day, so I think it's a good news.   I think the second is, a big component is the  digital part of it. They're very digital savvy.   Everything is on our iPhone which is for  all of us but for them I think, it's even more   some of us still like to go and give a call  to the hotel, give a call to the travel agent   or go get on a laptop and kind of get a feel  of the hotel and then do it. Whereas, they're more   into technology and booking through the iPhone.  So that's a big piece and I was  

talking about Marriott Bonvoy and today, we  have about 153 million members including you   who are able to kind of get onto the app. You can book a room, you can see where you're   going next, you can put your preferences, you can  send a message to the hotel, you could check   in, you could use the iPhone as a key to the  hotel room. So I think, the technology piece is   certainly, a component which is there and  something linked to that would be social media   which is kind of changing how things work.  They're very active on it. They would like to   go to the trip advisors or different social media  sites to see what the feedback has been from other   guests. So I think it's become very active  and very live. So technology has been a big   change which we are seeing and therefore, our marketing strategies are more obviously online   versus more how it used to be or print media how  it used to be. So that's changed a lot. Fascinating.   So I'm now going to move to the last segment with  some questions for you personally. Our

viewers and listeners love  to get to know our guests a little more when they   hear the conversation. So my first question to  you is that someone who spent so much time in the   hotel business and who's now at such high levels  and I'm sure there's far more coming up for you.   What would you say are three key milestones  in your life for your career so far?   In my career, I would say the  first would be joining of hotels itself.  

A lot of times you're at an  age when you're not sure what you want to do   and you're trying in your mind to put the  different thoughts that cross your different   things that excite you and you hope  that all that would come together and you join   an industry which you would enjoy for the rest of  your life. Today, if you're to ask me,   if I had to go back in time  and choose what I had to do?  I would do this journey all over again. Amazing.  So I think somewhere that was my first   milestone when I joined this industry and  interestingly it's the month of August   and it was exactly 25 years back in  the month of August that I joined hotels   in butler's back in the Oberoi Mumbai. So  yes, it's been 25 years, so that that would be one.   The second I would say is, when  I first became a General Manager.  

I was the GM at the Ritz Carlton in Moscow. We were opening the hotel. Going back to my example of being an innkeeper  I felt that was my home, that hotel was   mine and everybody who walked into the door was coming to my home and had to leave happy.   All the people working with me in that hotel were  my family and I think, somewhere it was my first   baby so to speak. So that's that's one experience  or one milestone I can never forget.   But I think getting to today, I'm most  excited about my current role I've taken over   as the Chief Operating Officer from Middle East, Egypt  and Turkey. We have 170 hotels in this market and   what's exciting is the growth. It's about 100  hotels in the pipeline which if I had to round  

off my maps a little bit, it's 60 to our existing  portfolio and it's markets that are really   doing well whether it's the UAE, it's Qatar,  it's Saudi Arabia, it's Egypt or Turkey,  all are on a path of growth. So when I look back,  the fact that the worst is behind us with covid I look ahead I look at the glass getting  more than half full now and the growth coming in.   I think, I find this point a very exciting part of  my career as well. Amazing. So, we've  

got time for one more question but I  thought in your silver anniversary month in the   hotel business, my question is what  would your advice be to a young   individual starting off on her or his  career in the travel and tourism business?   Good question. I would say, it would be about  consistency and passion. There is a lot   of hard work in this industry, it's long hours  and it's very easy to kind of stay at the   top and ensure that you're doing whether you're  in the kitchen or service or housekeeping to   start with but a lot of times it can get tiring  and the consistency can come down or your energy   levels or your enthusiasm or your love for the  industry to keep everything very consistent   of your values is very important and the second  is to stay very passionate about what you're doing   and I'll try to because it's a very broad  term this being passion and we often use it   saying, be passionate about this or stay  passionate. I kind of give this example of a train. So when you take a hot water, you  boil it at 99 degrees. It's hot water, I mean if   you put your hands into it you're going to burn  your hands. You heat for one more degree,   it's going to become 100 degrees and then it's  steam and I think, at least when both of us had   more black hair, trains were run on steam. So that's  the power of steam and all it took was at one  

degree more and I think that's passion but I think the youngsters need to keep finding their   passion as to what is that one thing they're  gonna do every day, every week, every month. What is it one thing that they're going  to do at work which can make a difference.   One guest more they're going to look after, the one  book more they're going to read. If we can  

all continue to do that one degree in everything  we do I think, that's passion and that can truly if   consistently kept to my first point for sure  is a story to success. Fabulous. Sandeep, thank you so much. It's been such a pleasure and  privilege speaking to you. Thank you for taking me   down this journey of the travel business. I mean,  I've just loved the examples you've given of   branding through a swimming pool, for example. I mean, these are things that I'll probably   remember for a long-long time. Thank you again  and good luck. Thank you so much.

Thank you for listening to The Brand Called You,  videocast and podcast. A platform that brings you   knowledge, experience and wisdom of hundreds of  successful individuals from around the world.   Do visit our website to watch and  listen to the stories of many more individuals. You   can also follow us on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram  and Twitter, just search for the brand called you.

2021-09-04 23:44

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