Travelling within the country has gotten easier this September with Unlock 4.0 relaxing COVID-19 travel restrictions. #Wanderlust city folks are finally daring to step out to nearby destinations for their much-needed vacation. Be it the calling of the hills or the urge to take a plunge into the deep blue sea, these options are not faraway dreams anymore. The hospitality sector, which has been among the worst hit industries in the pandemic, is stepping up their game with thoughtful and creative initiatives to not just attract guests but to ensure a safe and worry free stay.
In the digital age, smart technology is being used in various applications for a contactless experience. Sachin Mylavarapu, General Manager of JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa said, "Our team has worked relentlessly to create an environment committed towards 'Safe is the New Luxury' with contactless experiences for all. Guests can enjoy their stay without physical interaction with our hotel associates, which has been made possible by the use of innovative technology like mobile key check-in and check-out, QR code scanning for menus and other hotel information, and contactless payments as part of our overall 'Commitment to Clean' program encompassing all hygiene and sanitation steps taken for a guest journey."
For Taj Hotels, a spokesperson for IHCL said, "We have implemented I-ZEST, our suite of digital solutions to offer zero touch experiences to our guests for check-in, check-out, billing etc. These solutions harness technology in a meaningful way to ensure minimal contact while offering the sincere care, warmth and guest-centric service that we at IHCL have become synonymous with."
Commenting on the new normal, Anil Chadha, COO of ITC Hotels said, "Integrating the best of technology in hotel operations is key to low contact or contactless services. The new normal will be built on health, hygiene and safety. We understand that right now the customer is very anxious. Our 'WeAssure' programme of an upgraded hygiene and safety protocol (to ensure stringent clinical levels of hygiene and safety) is introduced to bring a sense of calm and reassurance. We not only need to eliminate the germs but also anxiety."
Secluded getaways have seen a surge in recent months, with more travellers opting for destinations away from touristy hotspots. Hotels are also ensuring that guests enjoy their exclusive time, with less interaction or contact with others.
Nakul Hada, General Manager of Suryagarh Jaisalmer said, "In Jaisalmer, we are very lucky that we are in a remote area. Our Suryagarh property is spread across 40 acres of land, with large garden areas, courtyards, corridors and private spaces. Guests have ample space individually to lounge, dine and walk around. We also have exclusive havelis (each comprising 3 bedrooms and a living area) with individual swimming pools that are ideal for families."
"Our hugely popular offering 'Destination Dining' has become an advantage for us now, as guests can enjoy exclusive dining experiences with their family such as sundowner or picnic at an oasis, dinner on the dunes or early morning breakfast with peacocks with no interaction with other guest," added Nakul Hada.
Sunjae Sharma, Vice President and Country Head of Hyatt India said, "At some of our hotels, on- and off-property events and excursions are being reimagined as private bookable leisure activities, such as garden or rooftop yoga classes, private bee-keeping experiences or trail expeditions with guided maps. At Hyatt Pune, we are converting two of our garden suites - which include rooms that open onto private gardens - into premium dining facilities. The hotel has also converted its poolside lawn into a sprawling outdoor restaurant, and the executive lounge into a Deli snack bar with tables placed according to social distancing guidelines."
Staycations is once again the buzzword, as working professionals are switching mundane 'work from home' schedules with a week or month-long stay at a hotel. Sachin Mylavarapu of JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Resort & Spa said, "We have launched exclusive long stay packages that have been curated as part of the new normal. It includes customised room tariffs (inclusive of meals) for a safe paradise termed as High on Work, urging guests to own their personal Himalayan workspace. They can enjoy majestic views of the Garhwal Mountains and serenity of the luscious surroundings while achieving their work goals seamlessly. We have imagined our resort to boost creativity and productivity."
Sunjae Sharma of Hyatt India said, "As remote working gains prominence in the #newnormal, Hyatt has been reimagining spaces and experiences to provide comfortable, luxurious and safe spaces for guests. We have introduced new workspace concepts across several of our hotels and brands to help guests maintain their work routines while being ensconced in luxurious and safe surroundings. For meetings and events, Hyatt hotels are exploring audio-visual technology that offer customers hybrid meeting options - on-property and remote - for large-scale events with social distancing in mind."
Hotels have restructured their layouts to enforce social distancing guidelines. Rajesh Namby, General Manager at The Lodhi, New Delhi said, "Our highest priority is to create personalised experiences for our patrons, delivered with utmost care and emphasis on safety protocols. The Lodhi has introduced the 'Stay Safe Assurance' programme with enhanced safety and cleanliness measures across all touchpoints of the hotel."
"Keeping safe distancing in mind, maximum two guests can use an elevator at a time. Seating in our restaurants has been reconfigured as per safe distancing norms and we have introduced virtual menus offering easy navigation. All our staff members wear prescribed Personal Protective Equipment and we are taking temperature checks of everyone entering the hotel premises. All cars, supplies and materials are being sanitised before being admitted into the hotel," added Rajesh Namby.
An IHCL spokesperson said, "We have launched Tajness - A Commitment Restrengthened, which gives guests the assurance of heightened safety and hygiene protocols. We have reconfigured layouts of restaurants, lobbies, banquets and all customer touch points to factor in physical distancing. We have also suspended self-serving buffets wherever possible. To add to this, all guest-facing employees have been adequately trained on physical distancing norms as well as the latest precautionary hygiene and safety guidelines."
Federico J. Gonzalez, CEO of Radisson Hospitality AB and Chairman of Radisson Hotel Group's Global Steering Committee said, "At Radisson Hotel Group, we are committed to delivering a clean and safe environment for our guests and team members. We have thoroughly examined all areas of the hotel experience, and we are proud to have partnered with SGS to create our Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol program." This is a new program of in-depth cleanliness and disinfection procedures, in partnership with SGS, the world's leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company.
Radisson has in place a 20-step protocol for hotels and 10-step protocol for meeting and event spaces. New cleaning and disinfection procedures, increased attention to safety in communal spaces, protective equipment, and updated training for team members are included. These protocols describe specific processes and measures - from improved air circulation, sanitising stations, protective barriers to temperature checks - that are designed to make guests feel confident when they visit the hotel.
With meticulous standards of cleanliness and hygiene, safety of guests is paramount for hotels, who are also introducing exclusive experiences for an exciting and safe stay.