Just before the first COVID lockdown this March I was fortunate enough to take a ‘grand tour’ of India visiting 10 great hotels in places such as New Delhi, Goa, Hampi, Bangalore, Rameswaram, Kolkata, Raipur and Chandigarh, nearly 5000 miles in 3 weeks.
Having been a Chief Security Officer it was fantastic being back in hotels. In large corporate security it is all too easy to lose sight of the people at the coal face being too busy ‘managing upwards’ and ‘business partnering’. My visit reminded me of the challenges hotels and hotel security teams face being sandwiched between the often-competing agendas. It reminded me of the realities of the impacts of corporate dictates on hotels.
More importantly, it reminded me of what great people there are working in hotels and that I am missing hotels and their humanity. Also, I must get back to India!
I had visited India on several occasions for business and pleasure but had only glimpses of this intriguing and great country. My ‘grand tour’ gave me exposure to a large cross-section of the country, its people, and hotels. The trip included 10 internal flights, based on India’s reputation for organised chaos, I was expecting some travel challenges – how wrong could I be. The internal airlines were easily on par, if not better, than European internal flights. The aircraft are new, crew professional, luggage handling efficient, no flight was delayed more than 10 minutes and fares extremely reasonable – hats off to IndiGo, GoAir and Vistara. Most flights were full, and it struck me the extent of the Indian burgeoning ‘middle-class’ being serviced by these airlines.
Complimenting the airlines, the hotels I visited were all a high standard and well run, notably to a man and woman the staff we genuinely warm, friendly, and hospitable. Hospitality was not formulaic as demanded by many guest service handbooks. The quality of the Hotel Security Managers was high and most pleasingly, the majority of Hotel Managers were actively engaged and supportive of security more so than found in many countries. I noted that there were some younger Hotel Managers who are dynamic and bring fresh ideas to hotel management and service delivery. In upper segment hotels, it was clear that there was far more local clientele than in my previous visits, which is a good indicator for the sector.
Having completed a hotel visit in Goa, I had time to sit on Candolim Beach on the white sand with an ice-cold Kingfisher Red beer watching the sun go down over the Arabian Sea, I pondered my latest and most extensive exposure to India. So, India has a growing middle class, huge economic potential, excellent internal airlines, that are being matched by the hotel sector, and first-class cuisine. All this set against the backdrop of a varied and fascinating country, what is not to like?
Once we get over the COVID crisis, I believe that Indian hotel sector could be one of the most exciting globally. Indian hotel companies are developing quickly and have the potential to give western brands a run for their money and in time surpass them. India has the advantage that Indians naturally ‘do hospitality well’. Of course, there are some high-profile Indian hotel companies such as Taj, Oberoi, Leela and Lalit, to name a few, who are already doing this. Other Indian hotel companies are well on their way and wish them good luck. Opportunities for these Indian hotel companies might be enhanced by established western hotel companies being transfixed on the China market.
India is a hotelier’s dream and I can’t wait to go back!