The four noble truths

The first sermon Buddha delivered after enlightenment was on the Four Noble Truths.

  1. The truth of suffering
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering
  3. The truth of the goal
  4. The truth of the path to the goal

Quite often it is felt that Buddha was pessimistic and was against the good things in life when he uttered the first noble truth that ‘Life is Suffering’ (Dukkha). It is not so. The term suffering can be interpreted in terms of day-to-day anxieties, irritations, etc. When we are all by ourselves, the thought of something missing, that we are not our ideal self, the current problems, start troubling us. The truth is: we do not think, the thoughts happen to us by default; without our choice. These random thoughts include the pain of earning a living, keeping the near and dear ones (and also the professional colleagues) happy, job uncertainties, etc. For those going through an existential dilemma, the pain of being me, the purpose of my life, Who Am I maybe also a part of constant irritation. The constant chattering of the mind from past to future is THE first noble truth, the truth of suffering!

How do we address this perennial irritation? We feel by working hard in our existing jobs or business, we may be able to address the uncertain future. Some people feel that the latest mobile or car may make them happy. Those with an intellectual/spiritual disposition of mind may resort to reading self-help books or attend spiritual retreat/personality development programs. People work on these different options hoping to calm their chattering minds. But beyond a superficial feeling of well-being, the pain resurfaces!

Do self-help books really help? In the US alone, self-help is around a $50 Billion industry. Despite being the pioneers in self-help along with the latest objects of desire, the country has an alarming crime and divorce rate, with a pervasive feeling of loneliness. Bhutan, a country without a commercial self-help industry is considered as one of the happiest countries. Incidentally research shows that people who are dependent on self-help books invariably tend to buy another book within the next 18 months! Paradoxically it is only the (fake) Gurus who make money, leaving their subjects poor, and the latter looking out for new techniques all the time! Our constant endeavour to drive away the pain either by acquiring new objects or self-improvement techniques is the root cause of suffering; the second Noble Truth.

After running on this hedonistic/spiritual treadmill for long; somehow the mind gets exhausted. You say to yourself: enough is enough, and stop trying! You accept the way you are; you accept your chattering mind. And lo behold, magic happens! There is a gap between consecutive thoughts. Your thought process slows down. Now you start seeing gaps, the emptiness between two thoughts, and you start arriving at peace with yourself. Your mind shifts from the past/future treadmill to the present moment! This is the third noble truth, the truth of the goal.

But these gaps are intermittent, ephemeral. If you start craving for the gaps, you go back to the first noble truth. The truth of suffering!

The media has conditioned us in making us believe that multitasking is good and that one should try to compress as many activities in the shortest possible time, which can make us productive and in turn lead to happiness. Nothing can be farther from the truth than this view. While watching TV, if a commercial appears, immediately we turn to the remote. We drink coffee while watching TV, we read a newspaper while having breakfast, and we WhatsApp messages during meals. We are trying to keep our minds busy to avoid the pain of the chattering mind. Most of these activities we do are in an auto-pilot mode: fingers on the mobile, with eyes on the TV screen, while sipping tea; but with the mind chattering at the speed of light about an important client meeting!

Let us understand the fourth noble truth, the truth of the path to the goal. Imagine you are making a cup of tea. Pour the water into the kettle, feel the sensation. Watch the water boiling and feel the steam and the warmth. Pour the tea powder into the kettle, smell the aroma of tea leaves in the boiling water. Allow the tea to percolate, watch your mind while pouring the tea slowly in the cup. Sit comfortably in your chair, and start drinking it with mindfulness. Observe the sensations at your lips, the tongue, and the way it travels down your food pipe. While doing this, you are in the present moment all the time and appreciating the tea with all the five senses: the aroma, the taste,  the colour, the warmth of the cup as well as sensation while tea is going down the gullet. When you perform every action in a similar mindful way, you are disconnecting the chattering mind and that is the fourth noble truth: the truth of the path to the goal! Practise even ordinary activities with total awareness and complete attention. Let it be choiceless.

All actions are intrinsically noble: sending a mail to a client or a WhatsApp message to a friend is in no way superior to cleaning the sink or washing the clothes! You do not have to outsource the latter activities to servants thinking them (both the activity as well as the servant) to be inferior! Every activity whether small or big, if done mindfully leads to salvation! And that is the truth of the path to the goal.

When we are multitasking with a chattering mind hovering in the past or the future, we are nowhere; acting like a zombie, no different than a robot – but perennially suffering. A robot in a way is still better, at least it does not suffer!

When we are doing one task at a time with complete awareness, we are in the present moment. That is the journey from nowhere to now and here, a paradigm shift from confusion to enlightenment! Be Happy!

Rajan Parulekar – Director, Hospitality Paradigm

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Avoid like the Plague

Avoid like the Plague
Hospitality Covidioms ~ an idiomatic approach to the ‘Covidian’ era.

In these masked, socially distanced times never has the idiom “Avoid like the Plague,” been understood better.

Though I wish nothing better than for us to dodge the Covid-19 bullet, reality augurs on a different plane. This hurtful lallapaloosa has been thrown smack dab at us and has kept us under siege. It is now for us to mask it out effectively. This ain’t a time to cry me a river or behave like a cat on a hot tin roof.

Experience (positive or negative) is one of life’s biggest teachers. Negative experiences wire humans to learn quicker. Were we to avoid it like the plague and steer clear from being thrown under this Covid bus, would we emerge stronger? We would surely not have developed into what we are today if we had not experienced this calendar year 2020. Woody Allen rightly said, “we are the sum total of our choices,” – it is these choices we make during distraught times like these, which will define us.

Covid-19 falls into this category of negative experiences, something one would desire like a hole in the head.

We cannot avoid it like the plague that it is, so why not be stoical about it? Rise to the challenge, and look for the silver lining instead.

The inefficient boss has been a kick-ass contributor to my life’s learnings. This personage would preen like he/she were the cat’s whiskers, yet scrape the barrel of managerial effectiveness. I learned to use this to my advantage as an effective case study… Of what I would never want to grow to be! Here is a situation where one can learn first-hand from another’s hair-raising stultifications, that too at close quarters. Most well-wishers would recommend you to ‘avoid an inept boss like the plague.’ Antithetically speaking, I encourage spending time studying the boss’ management style of ‘not knowing his arse from his elbow.’ For, this may not be entirely bereft of its benefits. When viewed from this angle, maladroit leaders may be well worth their weight in gold!

My own personal implosions have been another great teacher, for it is by seeking and blundering that we learn. It is only when we learn from our botch-ups that ‘Bob’s your uncle,’ viz. success is guaranteed. Thomas Alva Edison once famously said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

We are with our backs against the wall today, and there is no eschewing this dark cloud on the horizon. Things have come to a pretty pass. Business is down, unemployment is up. The shit seems to be not just hitting the fan, but also spreading itself across the ceiling. ‘Tis a heavy cross for anyone to bear.

Yet, could this really be an ill wind (that blows nobody any good)?

The Great Depression, a severe ‘riches to rags’ era, began in late 1929 and ran through the next decade. By 1933, the economic decline had pushed world trade to one-third of its level just four years earlier. Yet, through this ‘tough row to hoe’ time, there were some sterling examples of companies that hit home runs and brought home the bacon, becoming howling successes.

In 1929, the onset of the Great Depression saw the incorporation of Walt Disney Productions. Walt & Roy Disney knew that America needed to laugh their way to their ‘bottomed out’ banks more than ever. WDP was able to swim through the tide and navigate through the deep waters of the depression. They grew their business to the point where they could subsequently begin work on their first full-length animated feature right after The Great Depression ended.

During national Prohibition in the U.S.A. from 1920 to 1933, the country’s breweries were ‘going to hell in a handbasket.’ Many closed their doors for good. Pre-Prohibition, more than a 1000 breweries had made hay while the sun shined. Amidst the dark clouds of the Great Depression, most landed up paying the piper and eventually kicked the bucket. By 1932, there were only 164 that could be ready to make beer again.

These surviving brewers realised that when life gives you lemons, one needs to make lemonade. They stayed ahead of the curve by running dairies, selling meat, and venturing out into other agricultural enterprises. Breweries innovated against the grain and created ‘Near beer’ that had only trace amounts of alcohol. They also applied their expertise to non-alcoholic tipples like root beer. As of 2019, the five best-selling beers in America are all produced by pre-Prohibition/pre-Great Depression brands.

The Indian hospitality industry has shown a great fighting spirit.

Almost as dead as a doornail during lockdown 1.0, it refused to throw in the towel. With little or no support from the government, it has ‘not allowed Elvis to leave the building’. Hanging by a slender thread, the resilient hospitality industry believes that ‘it ain’t over till the fat lady sings’. The pandemic has thus pushed the hospitality industry to throw down the gauntlet and walk the tightrope creatively.

New life is being breathed into Room sales through workcations, office space, drivable revenge travel, etc., to keep the wolf from the door,

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, F&B and other ancillary revenues (laundry, spa, housekeeping, etc.) are upping the ante. They are raising the bar, through ‘break the mould’ concepts. These range from cloud kitchens to home delivery to DIY meal & cocktail kits; from individual experiential home parties with chefs and a bartender to food retail; from drive-through F&B parcel pick-ups to online sessions, etc. Brands today are now ring-fencing their P&L by curating ‘out of the ballpark’ experiences. And, these are not limited to locations, time zones, demographics, or generational cohorts.

If Covid-19 had not come along now, would we have burned the midnight oil so diligently, to discover the potential within our very own country, to the extent we are doing now?

International travel is at ‘sixes and sevens’ and will continue to be in limbo for some time to come. Targeting inbound tourism would be akin to flogging a dead horse and be as successful as a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest. Brands have understood the need to reposition their strategies to now better target a domestic clientele, that too at drivable distances.

The pandemic has pushed us to the wall to better understand our profit margins and keep our heads above water. It has led to an increased understanding of the P&L and helped us better re-engineer our expenses to emerge from ventilator support. On payroll manning, I’d go out on a limb to forecast that our industry will never return to pre-Covid-19 levels. ‘He who pays the piper, calls the tune’ – and so when businesses eventually return to normal, manning will not. This crisis has taught us to live in dearth and insufficiency and how not to spend a pretty penny. We are now learning the ropes on how to manage with less and be more circumspect on our expenses.

The new bag of tricks we have learned from this Covidian era should develop our hoteliering chops vastly. It will be some time until we can ride the gravy train again. In the meantime, we should be sharper in running a tight ship and delivering the goods positively onto the P&L sheet.

A smooth sea has never made a skilled sailor. So, the next time you use the idiom “Avoid (someone/something) like the plague,” think about what Covid-19 has taught us. Oft-times, we may be better off taking it on the chin and confronting it, rather than avoiding it!

This article has appeared in ET HOSPITALITY WORLD.COM

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Personal Selling – Will it survive WFH?

The other day in our town hall meeting our VP-Sales announced that henceforth all sales folks are to work from home. I have been in the sales profession for the last fifteen years, and with this company for the last five. I could see most of my colleagues clapping with their emojis during the zoom meeting. And the thought process started working… Why did I join Sales as a profession in the first place?

Being a B.Sc 2nd class graduate from a mofussil town in North Karnataka, I had no option of pursuing further studies due to my precarious financial position and my mediocre academic background.

My first job was as a sales executive in a weighing scale company in Bangalore. The pressure on numbers was part and parcel of my sales job. Incidentally, a few of my colleagues left the sales profession within a year. Those with a better academic record decided to opt for a full-time MBA while others opted for a factory job. I still remember one of them, Ganesh, who told me on his last day, “Ravi, I have decided never to get into the sales profession again in my life. Travelling daily on a bike on traffic-congested roads, customers reluctant to meet you, and if this is not enough, my manager screaming down through my throat asking for the numbers is more than I can bear.

Somehow or the other, I had started enjoying the profession very much. Within the first month, I was able to close a major order and there was no looking back, thereafter. All these years I have been reaching or surpassing the targets. Even in my company, only I would turn up to the office on Saturdays, and my colleagues from production, design, and QC were envious of me. Their tone would express their envy that salespeople have all the freedom in life, they come and leave the office whenever they want, etc. Bhaskar from the accounts department, while clearing my conveyance and outstation claims, once commented, “you lucky guys, you travel by taxi, live in five-star hotels, dine in the best of the restaurants; and all this at company expense.

I could not explain to my colleagues doing their desk jobs in an air-conditioned and predictable environment that I was in the field most of the time, working in ‘unpredictable enemy territory,’ where even getting a glass of water, leave aside a cup of tea, was a luxury.

But then, how did I survive and grow in this sales profession? Was it the salary and incentives? It was much more than that. As a salesman, I was not perturbed with rejections. Even though seven out of ten prospects did not show interest in my products, it was the sheer thrill of meeting new people every day. Was meeting these prospects easy in the first place? A friendly conversation with a security guard or complimenting the receptionist to get the decision maker’s name was more of a fun game than a chore.

Quite often a client would be reluctant to share competition details. Going out of factory premises for a cup of coffee or a cigarette, discussing office politics, and sympathising with him on his personal challenges would help break and melt the ice.

Talking with security guards with key phrases in their mother tongue also revealed crucial information about competition activities, which was not only fun but also adrenaline-boosting. However one needs to have a considerate manager to encourage you. My first manager, Mr. Inamdar recognised my passion for sales and the results I was generating. He once said, “Ravi, I do not care what time you come to the office, or how many calls you make. You have been given targets in terms of the number of units, value, and profitability. You know the company guidelines and policies. Within that framework, please get the results. If you need any help, please let me know. However, keep me updated on important developments.” He turned a Nelson’s eye if I crossed company limits on my daily expenses. Once in a while, he would say “I trust that you have spent money from your pocket during this outstation call. The company rules do not allow me to pass your travel expenses, and I have to follow company rules. You may cover this amount in your local travel.”

Mark Twain once said, “I did not prevent my school from getting me educated.” On similar lines, my manager, Inamdar was never an obstacle between me and my targets. He was an exception. Most of my subsequent managers were sadly, otherwise.

Pradip, one such manager used to always hanker about reports. I once told him, “I have surpassed my targets, why then do you insist on daily activity reports?” He said, “In our company, we get orders even otherwise. What I need are reports.”

The town hall meeting on Zoom was in progress. I was drawn out of my reverie. The people who were clapping for WFH sales, did they ever have a passion for sales, I wondered? Both the stakeholders, the management as well as the salespeople were gung-ho about WFH selling, but what might be the real issue?

Harsh Goenka-led RPG enterprises have announced that the sales force henceforth shall work from home. The group has companies like CEAT Tyres, Zensar Technologies with a Global employee strength of 30,000. The office-bound staff is to work 50% from the office. ( WFH: Home will Always be an office for RPG Staff ) . WFH has the following advantages for management:

  • Lower office procurement costs in terms of rentals or purchase
  • Lower operating overheads in terms of electricity, house-keeping, tea/coffee, cafeteria, etc.
  • Lower sales expenses in terms of local and outstation travel, lodging, and boarding expenses. The company also claims that for the salespeople it also amounts to the following: Lesser fatigue, lesser travel & quicker TAT (turnaround time)

In the above article, it was claimed that this would lead to higher employee efficacy and business output with an improved work-life balance.

WFH may be the need of the day. But will the management ever realize that there is another side to the story? For a few star performers, Selling is more of fun, passion, and a personal adventure on a daily basis, which distinguishes them from the crowd. Will WFH and its related efficacy claim, ever address this passion?

And, how will star sales performers differentiate from the crowd?

For details: Contextual Selling – A New Sales Paradigm for the 21st Century

Rajan Parulekar – Director, Hospitality Paradigm

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Salary – A philosophical & aphoristic perspective

An 'Aphoristic' perspective
The tragedy of our age is salary”… writes Sunday Adelaja in ‘No one is better than you.’

My fellow working hoteliers are mostly receiving their salaries in part and the extremely fortunate few, in full by now. One’s reaction to a truncated salary receipt, while not initially positive, must compel ourselves to look at our half-filled glass and consider that ‘I have a salary,’ if even in part; for there are many who have not been fortunate to have retained their employment in these trying times. Thus the need to look at Salary from a philosophical & aphoristic perspective.

Those of us who have a passion for hospitality have chosen our own area of calling and purpose and we are working and converting our life into that area of calling. If you are such a passionate employee, you will realize that if you genuinely believe you are not being compensated with salary, it is then that you become the boss over your own life, for you have not allowed money to rule your life.

Mokhonoana in his aphoristic style writes “The reason that man is seldom satisfied with his salary is that when it increases, he increases his expenses.” For those who have received a 50% deduction, a positive way of approaching the current salary crisis is to remember how one lived when one’s salary was half what it is now. The answer perhaps may startle us – we were equally happy and experienced the same level of wants, needs, and satiation at that time. It is only then, that we began to view our Salary from a philosophical & aphoristic perspective!

This tells us that money is a means to an end and not an end to a means.

There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either,” said Robert Gravesthe Poetwhile Voltaire, the writer said, “Don’t think money does everything or you are going to end up doing everything for money.” Profound statements, both eviscerating the ideal stance in the prevailing scenario.

At the pandemic’s outset many months ago, most international & domestic hotel chains in India took policy decisions to cut salaries as per grades and retrench employees in order to stay afloat. These chains are mostly managed or franchised where individual owners come into play. Those employees who were, and still are blessed to receive any salary, need to maintain an aphoristic perspective, to retain their philosophical sanity. On the other hand, some of the larger Indian chains with self-owned properties did not withhold salaries (barring performance bonus), making their employees amongst the fortunate few in the industry – these few and rare instances display the company’s courage to pay complete salaries during these stressful times and it clearly reflects the importance they give to their human capital.

Salary - A philosophical perspective

On the other end of the spectrum, there are some hotels which have retrenched and cut salaries quite ruthlessly. A luxury chain has rationalized all salaries above Rs. 50000 p.m. to the base amount (a Manager earning 60k p.m. will get 50k, and a GM earning 500k p.m. will also earn 50k) while several luxury chains have asked its people either to leave or to sit out until further notice. Dickson G. WattsAuthor states “Not to have the courage to accept a loss, is fatal. It is the ruin of many.”

Such are the vagaries of business that in order to survive, a business has to reengineer expenses in tune with market trends. Frederic Bastiat, a French economist of the 19th century once famously said “Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state wants to live at the expense of everyone.

Airbnb Chairman, Brian Chesky released a note a few months ago, announcing layoffs and the surmise behind it. In the note to his employees, he writes:

“We don’t know exactly when travel will return. When travel does return, it will look different. While we know Airbnb’s business will fully recover, the changes it will undergo are not temporary or short-lived. Because of this, we need to make more fundamental changes to Airbnb by reducing the size of our workforce. It was important that we had a clear set of principles, guided by our core values, for how we would approach reductions in our workforce. These were our guiding principles:

  • Map all reductions to our future business strategy and the capabilities we will need.
  • Do as much as we can for those who are impacted. 
  • Be unwavering in our commitment to diversity. 
  • Optimize for 1:1 communication for those impacted. 
  • Wait to communicate any decisions until all details are landed — transparency of only partial information can make matters worse. 

The result is that we will have to part with teammates that we love and value. We have great people leaving Airbnb, and other companies will be lucky to have them. To take care of those that are leaving, we have looked across severance, equity, healthcare, and job support and done our best to treat everyone in a compassionate and thoughtful way.”

This seems to be an empathetic manner of approaching severance and salary cuts.

In the book To Kill a Mocking Birdby Harper Lee, Atticus Finch tells her daughter: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

I sincerely commiserate with all my industry colleagues going through this current crisis and do pray that we all live through this period with grace, equanimity, and a strong belief in the Almighty and faith in recovery to better times ahead. It is not easy to have to receive wages less than what has been contracted for and I trust owners will empathize with their employees’ pain whilst implementing such measures.

At the end of it all, we must remember that there is that which is in one’s hands and then, that which is not… As an employee, the quantum of salary pay-out may not be in your hands. However, accepting the inevitable that salary is transient, would be a philosophical way of looking at this aphorism.

In the meantime, it is highly recommended that we invest this time in upgrading ourselves in various areas. You are the best judge for what you need to upskill on, professionally or otherwise. “Better capital in a man’s head than capital in a bank.” – Dickson G. Watts

So keep your thoughts positive. To quote John Assaraf, “Keep your chin up. No one expected you to save the world, otherwise, you would have been born wearing a cape and tights. Just do the best you can.”

#hotelsalaries #hotelindustry #hotelowners #hoteliers #hoteliernews #salarybenchmarking #salarysurvey #salarysacrifice #hotelmanagement #ownershipchallenges #covid #leadership

This article has appeared in ET HOSPITALITY WORLD.COM and ET HR WORLD.COM

 

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A Successful Failure

Circa 1988, I was chosen for the Management Trainee Program of the fabled Oberoi Centre for Learning & Development aka OCLD, then known as Oberoi School of Hotel Management (OSHM).

Interestingly, the path to this successful selection involved a lot of drive, humility, diligence, and industriousness.

I had always aspired to join the hotel industry. In the 1980s, there were very few people who wished to truck with this industry, unlike now. I learned of the OSHM during this time and read whatever magazines I could on the industry and Oberoi Hotels.

Gen Z (students and new industry workers) may have heard of such ‘prehistoric times – the non-internet age’ from their parents but may find it difficult to comprehend; nowadays any thirst for knowledge is easily quenched online.

A distant relative worked at Oberoi Hotels, Bombay and I requested to be connected with him. I met him for the first time and went to his home to try and understand something about an industry I knew practically nothing about. He was most helpful and supplied me with magazines, newsletters, and brochures, etc., apart from tutelage on the Oberoi way.

IHM Bombay had a professor who was a family friend and I connected with her, to understand what the hotel industry was about. She was very kind to allow me to use the institution’s library to study books on the industry. Lillicrap’s Food & Beverage Service – a reference used even today, was one such book. I poured over all this reading with keen interest, making notes along the way.

All this preparation began a year earlier while in my second year of graduation, and I used this time to also prepare for GMAT and GRE as I was told this would be useful in the OSHM selection process. I simultaneously worked hard to develop my General Knowledge using library time effectively.

Come D-Day, I was all fired up and floated through my college selection (I was the only one selected from at least 100 students). The next stage was at The Hotel Oberoi Towers where I got through the Group Discussion, the written test, and the pre-final interview.

Having got through four stages, 3 months later I was called for my final interview with PRS (Biki) Oberoi and the board of directors at The Oberoi New Delhi. Of all the hundred-odd selectees called in for the final interview, I found myself in the final 18.

Imagine my dismay, when this final 18 were assembled at the end of the interview selection process and told that 15 of them had made the grade. I was among the rejected 3 candidates, who after seemingly getting through the 5th and final stage of selection, had to now fly back home downcast and woebegone and take fresh stock of my life.

I analysed the reason for my rejection and figured that the uncertainty amongst the interview panel, of my passion and sincerity for the hotel industry, probably weighed heavily against me. Being an Economics graduate, my seriousness for this service industry was probably in question. I realised that to show my seriousness for the OSHM, I would have to prove my passion for this industry, the next time I came up before the Oberoi Panel.

I joined a two-year course in Hotel Administration and Food Technology at Sophia Polytechnic, Bombay. During this time did my industrial training at Oberoi Towers, Nariman Point, and then at Sea Rock Bandra.

A year later, when the OSHM selection began, I requested my graduation college to allow me to attend the 1st stage of selection. The rest is history. I sailed through all five stages successfully. In Delhi, at the final interview, I was quite startled when Biki Oberoi told me I had put on some weight since my previous attempt a year ago!

And, that is how I joined the OSHM batch of 1988-90.

Well, the learnings I would encourage here are:

Failures happen… They must encourage and exhort you to do better. Look at ways to convert failures into success. Many of us may achieve success without going through the failure stage and this is dangerous as it does not prepare us for the real world. Popular belief says that ‘failure is bad.’ You need to redefine this for your situation.

Analyse failure. Do not simply disregard it, as it could happen again in a different form unless you are able to fathom the reason for it.

Hard work, hard work, hard work. There is no better formula for success.

Focus on what you want to achieve. Keep your focus constant. Do not say ‘I will try this and if it works – well and good, else I will do something else.’

Without passion for what you want to achieve, you are like an empty vessel. Aspire for something by design and not by default.

For Gen Z who has passed out this year from their catering schools, it is indeed a trying time. Many of you are waiting for the appointment letters you were promised during hotel selections done pre Covid-19, and many are still sitting out waiting for employment.

This is not your personal failure… it is the environment that has played a trick on you. Instead of rueing your luck, look at how you could use this time to upskill yourself or possibly join an organisation as a trainee instead of an employee – for the experience.

Create your future instead of waiting for the future to create you.

Ramiah G. Daniels – Director, Hospitality Paradigm

This article has appeared in Champions of Hospitality, Oct 2020

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Pandemic breaks Pricing Myths

Are hotel pricing myths being busted simply to offer Luxury at lower rates?
Picture credit – Ramiah Daniels

Covid-19 has busted hotel pricing myths even as we are in the worst performing year for hotels in a century. This pandemic is nothing like 9-11 or the 2008 global financial crisis – Nor even India’s demonetization or GST implementation!

As a result, corporate travel, leisure (inbound, outbound, domestic), heritage, adventure, MICE, religious, spiritual events are all smitten. Also, the same holds for upcoming high-value niche tourism products. Culinary, Wellness, Sea & River Cruises, Glamping, Rafting, Sports, Wildlife, Agritourism, and many more are all affected.

The harsh reality of Covid-19 has busted a few hotel pricing myths:
  1. “Our brand image will take a beating if we offer lower rates.”

    We (the industry) are now on a survival mode. Your guest will not necessarily perceive lower rates to equate with a lower quality. Consequently, market perception during such extreme times will not necessarily define rates. Aspiring travellers are looking for a deal right now and hence being cautious with their money. This is even more relevant for independent and boutique hotels that have spent millions building a brand and a following. Therefore, give guests a chance to experience your product for the first time or as returning guests. Besides, their money will help your cash flow. That is how global recovery starts… one room at a time!

  2. “Sub-optimal rates will adversely affect the quality of our guests.”

    Millions have lost their jobs in 2020, thanks to the pandemic. Since mid-March, the impact on organised and unorganised tourism has been severe. The result is a very high unemployment rate in the industry. These are numbers not seen since the Great Depression (1929-33). There is a very good chance the same people who paid a high rate at your hotel pre-pandemic are now under or unemployed. So, are the same people now undesirable because they are financially stressed and clawing their way back up? Why would you not want to get them back at a lower rate for now? After all, they are the same demographic, but with a reduced propensity to spend.

  3. “Lower rates will lead to a decline in product quality.”

    In today’s times, this is a misnomer. Without yielding on quality, hotels are now learning to trim costs more effectively. Hence, there is no need to sacrifice quality to match the drop in ARR.

  4. “If we lower rates now, it will take years to rebuild our ARR.” 

    In light of the current life-changing pandemic, this does not apply. The world economy has come apart this year. Also, people are still severely travel-restricted. As hoteliers, we must reflect this in our dynamic pricing. Concentrate on occupancy over ARR from the RevPAR perspective for the nonce and therein fill your rooms. You may subsequently pull up your rates when the pent-up demand returns. The same applies to RFP rates – hence a proactive approach to negotiated rates during tough times is the need of the hour.

Based on market conditions, airlines have always relied on massively varying rates. So why shouldn’t hotels do it too?

This article has appeared in TravelDailyMedia.com

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Have you found your Niche?

“Charles, you care for nothing but shooting dogs and rats; you will be a disgrace to not only yourself but to your family too.” This was a father’s prophecy about his son. The father wanted his son to be a doctor like him. Charles entered Edinburgh University for medicine at his father’s behest, found it unattractive, later joined Cambridge, and earned an undistinguished bachelor’s degree in theology. He had no firm idea what to do. Charles was an aimless youth at 22. He wanted to do something different. He loved flora and fauna but did not know whether that love could be transformed into a livelihood.

Captain Fitzroy on his ship HMS Beagle was looking out for a naturalist. Charles asked for his father’s permission. His father refused but with a caveat, “If you can find any man of common sense who advises you to go on the discovery, I shall give my consent.” Neither the father, nor the captain were ready to grant permission to Charles.

When Charles approached Captain Fitzroy, the physiognomist in Captain Fitzroy said, “I doubt anyone having a nose like yours can possess sufficient energy and determination for the long voyage.”

His uncle drove thirty miles to convince Charles’ father to grant him permission to undertake the assignment on HMS Beagle as a naturalist.

The Beagle Voyage which included the circumnavigation of globe would be the making of the 22 year-old Darwin. Five years of physical hardship of mental rigour imprisoned within the ship’s walls, offset by the wide-open opportunities in the Brazilian jungles and the Andes Mountains, were to Darwin an eye opener in finding his muse. It took him 22 years to publish his theory of Evolution by Natural Selection in The Origin of Species.

  1. The conventional way of selecting a profession for self or for others is primarily decided by the demand for that profession, coupled with tangibles like salary and perks. No wonder Medicine, Engineering and MBAs among others make the cut.
  2. A niche-driven approach on the other hand is decided more by finding gaps in the market and differentiating oneself from the crowd to address that gap (as discovered by Charles Darwin). Niche is defined as a comfortable or suitable position in life or employment. Alternatively, it also means a shallow recess especially in a wall to display something of value – a statue or other ornament. (please refer the image)

Is it necessary to be a school or college topper or those in the top percentile rankings to find one’s niche? Quite often the converse is true as ‘brilliant’ students have the best choices in selecting the conventional options in career and institution.

What can happen when one selects a career in a conventional way but is at the bottom of a pyramid in a specific career stream? Getting a job may look easy but one may be competing with a very large number of aspirants. For example: Rakesh had scored 100/100 in Sanskrit in SSLC. Having felt he had a flair for Sanskrit he decided to pursue his college education in that direction. He completed his BA in Sanskrit from Ruia College in Mumbai.

At this juncture he had two choices in further studies – to continue his studies in Sanskrit or look out for a qualification which is marketable in the job market. He decided to pursue a MBA in Finance instead. After spending around Rs. 8 lakhs in fees itself what can be the likely scenario when he passes out two years later?

For a person who wishes to do a M. Tech in Structural Engineering, a minimum qualification of B.E Civil is necessary. Likewise for a M.S. in surgery, a basic qualification of MBBS is mandatory. So, when a person pursues a MBA in Finance with Sanskrit as graduation the basic competency level expected of the student is that of Class 12th, as a MBA is agnostic to one’s field of graduation.

Conventional wisdom says that one has a wide range of job opportunities after doing a MBA. The opportunities are large but so is the competition. Annually about 360,000 students graduate from 4000 B-Schools of which 61% are unemployable due to skill gaps and low work experience.

Keeping those depressing numbers aside, can Rakesh compete with students from Premier Institutes or those with Engineering and Commerce backgrounds? It is not impossible, but it is a Herculean task.

What would happen if he were to pursue Sanskrit for his PG? In the absence of clear data let us assume that the number of students opting for Sanskrit may be 1% of MBA students that is around 3600. For Rakesh it would have been much easier to be in the 95th percentile after his MA and in the 99th percentile with a Ph.D. A lot of research happens in Sanskrit in US and German universities. By differentiating himself and finding a niche, Rakesh could have had a sense of purpose too.

From a financial perspective too, the cost of pursuing a MA in Sanskrit would have been at less than 10% the cost of a MBA. In case of a Ph.D. he could have explored UGC fellowships or opportunities in US or German universities where considerable research in Sanskrit is possible.

An example of a niche-based career is below: My friend Christopher Jayakaran passed PUC, third class in 1962. With hardly any worthwhile career options, his father’s friend suggested him to take up a course in Geology. He completed his M.Sc in Geology at Presidency College in Madras by topping in the University. He worked for an NGO called ‘Action for Food Production’ for 7 years and for more than 25 years in different countries in Africa which include Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Sierra Leone etc. He is an eminent Hydrogeologist and a Paleontologist. His Tamil book In Search of Ancestors which is on evolution of man based on fossil evidence has run into six editions.

Why are people in general wary of pursuing niche fields?

  1. Obsession for Security: Education is normally pursued in order to get a job. The market demand is thought of. In the post-covid world there is no security either in a job or in one’s qualifications per se.
  2. Managerial Aspirations: Indians in general prefer to have a managerial title early in their career sacrificing expertise in a specific domain.

How to find your niche?

Around 30 years back I came across an excellent concept in finding ones niche, based on cybernetic principles which was on identifying one’s core competency and focusing on a specific niche where the strength can be leveraged to maximum extent.

Werner Brandes was a German MBA Graduate who was working in a consulting firm but did not have career growth in spite of working hard in that organization for more than 10 years. He was unable to get good offers elsewhere. He was a mediocre student throughout his academic life and passed out from a tier-3 B-school.

The conventional wisdom of competing with others was not giving any results (like the example of Rakesh discussed above). His work profile was mapped for 15 different competencies. Werner was below average in all save one, which was on Industry Setup in rural areas. When Werner was pointed out that this was his niche. He asked, “How can I get a job with such a small niche?” He was advised to start his own consulting in this field and as he was in the top 5% of this ultra-specialized area of business consulting, slowly he was perceived as an expert in this field. Business started growing. Being a sunrise sector wherever the data was not available, his customers helped him in providing the necessary details.

Fascinated by this counterintuitive concept, I launched a program called Strategy for Quantum Growth. After 4-5 programs I had to withdraw as most of the participants did not want a long-term strategy but a new job which paid them 3-5K more.

One crucial difference between the conventional and the niche-based strategy is the type of growth. In case of the former it is logarithmic growth – where it is easier to get a good well-paying job immediately after graduation but after a few years the growth may taper off. In case of niche areas there is a considerable struggle initially but after a few years when the market perceives you as specialist, the growth becomes truly phenomenal. You are considered as a pioneer and get a first-mover advantage.

Christopher, Werner Brandes or Charles Darwin were not brilliant in their school days in the conventional sense but were able to find their niche. Have you found yours?

Two roads diverged in a wood and I… I took the road less travelled. – Robert Frost.

Rajan Parulekar – Director, Hospitality Paradigm

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Climate Friendly Tourism

There are a few guidelines for both the hotel industry and tourists to pivot towards, that would make tourism more resilient as well as climate friendlier. Encouraging destinations that are closer to the traveler, making stays longer and keeping profits local, are some ways to move away from the focus on volume and energy-intense products:

 

  • Increase the length of stay or the length of days in packages sold.
  • Focus on closer markets, long-haul travelers are the ones contributing to vast emissions of greenhouse gases.
  • Rethink the food that you serve, organic and regional can benefit farmers nearby.
  • Move towards a high-value model, where individuals spend more.
  • Think about what you buy: a lot of the profit is made by foreign-owned, global platforms such as AirBnB and booking.com.
  • Rethink carbon-intense travel, for example cruise holidays.

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Is your hotel following safety standards?

With people beginning to travel albeit warily, hotels needs to seriously look at whether they are following their safety standards widely marketed by them.

Trust in a brand is based on the brand history, the leaders within the brand and the competence exhibited by the brand.

Breaking this trust could be significantly dangerous and have negative implications for the brand.

Inside Edition’, an American TV newsmagazine distributed by CBS TV conducted a sting on a few hotels in New York recently to see how diligent they were being about cleaning during the coronavirus pandemic, and these are the stunning findings.

Using invisible spray and gel on sheets, towels and surfaces, the team checked into the same room under different names on different days to see if they had been cleaned or replaced. All three hotels that the Inside Edition team visited failed to clean and replace everything.

https://youtu.be/ltBrCJC5BNI

Makes you think, does it not? Hoteliers cannot be complacent and their leaders will need to initiate these checks and counterchecks to ensure that they are not left embarrassed as these hotels in the link were.

 

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RFP 2021

Buyers will need to address a few issues specifically related to Covid-19 in negotiations this year, including:

  • Cleanliness standards. All buyers should confirm cleanliness standards as part of the negotiation process. The enforcement of social distancing and cleanliness standards in guest rooms, meeting rooms and other common areas is paramount, and measures will need to be addressed in contracting.
  • Amenities. The need and availability of hotel amenities will be different. For example, what will free breakfast entail? Will “grab and go” replace the buffet? It may not make sense to negotiate in breakfast or even the shuttle service if buyers are not confident that the appropriate social distances measures are in place or if travelers will not be comfortable using the services.
  • Room availability and upgrades. The fact that many hotels will be operating at lower inventory levels, with many operating at 50 percent capacity, make room type negotiations more challenging for some buyers. The likelihood of securing room types beyond standard will decrease, and it will be incumbent on buyers to sharpen their pencils in to obtain upgrades for their travelers.
  • Cancellation policies. While hotels currently are offering flexibility with bookings to spur demand, they might adjust their cancellation policies down the road, given the planning and costs hotels need to apply to spacing out incoming and outgoing guests and having guests placed in every other room and other measures to manage guest flow. With inventory constraints and social distancing measures, cancelations will be more costly for hotels and they will likely need to apply more stringent penalties which could result in increased costs for buyers in the form of fees. Cancellations and penalties are a negotiable item in the RFP process, and buyers should be prepared to address them.

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Inspiring Leadership

My first interaction with Deepak Parab, the CEO of Metrohm India Private Limited (a leading company in Analytical Instruments and Solutions) happened around two years ago when he called me from his Chennai HQ and said that he would like me to conduct a ‘Managerial Effectiveness’ program for his pan-India team of service managers. “Rajan, I shall ask my National Service Manager, Vinod Salunkhe to get in touch with you to discuss the further modalities.” The call hardly lasted five minutes; a client taking a quick decision in finalizing a 2-day training program was a rarity in my training career of 25 years. I could not help recollecting a MNC client who took approximately six months with more than a dozen meetings to finalize a 1-hour keynote address. (See my earlier blog titled ‘A Tale of Two Key Note Addresses’ – https://rajanparulekar.in/2018/03/29/a-tale-of-two-key-note-addresses/

More than the ability to take the right decisions, the leadership traits I admired in Deepak were:

Focus on results: After he took over as CEO and Managing Director, Metrohm India has progressed very well under him and results have been great. They have been able to capture and maintain major market share for their products and increase the turnover and profitability multi-fold. Today, Metrohm India owns all its offices across India and these were bought in the last ten years.

Retaining Talent: His core team of 30 senior managers including the COO, Branch Managers, Service Managers, Application Laboratory Manager and Product Managers are with the company for the last 20 years. The core team has remained the same for the past two decades.

Creating Value through Service: Peter Drucker said that the purpose of business is to attract and retain a customer, which can be restated by the formulae below:

  • Vc > Vp where Vc is the value perceived by the customer and Vp is the value inside your product or service. You get a customer only when the perceived value is more (short and/or long term) than what the customer pays for.
  • Vc = (Q+U+S)/P where Q is the Quality, U the Utility, S the Service and P is the price. Remember that QUS is not what the salesman claims but what the customer perceives. The four ways to increase the perceived value is either to increase the QUS or to reduce the P. Quite often desperate salespeople reduce price to create value which in turn affects profitability.

Deepak took a different approach to create value. To command a premium, he focussed on the numerator (QUS) rather than the denominator (P). Service was given prominence vis-à-vis sales. In a team of 135 executives for each sales person there are 3 service executives. Normally one service engineer is deployed for 100 instruments, with an equal share of warranty and AMC (annual maintenance contract). Today Metrohm India has 12 Offices and 12 Home Offices from where Service is provided. The home office concept for service was used to extend the reach. For example for clients in Goa, service engineers used to travel every week from Mumbai to Goa. With 250 instruments, 2 service engineers were deputed to Goa, which created value in the following ways:

  • The travel fatigue for service engineers was considerably reduced.
  • Improved work-life balance for the Service Engineers who were back to their home in the evening.
  • Cost of resident engineers was lower than with the travel and related costs.
  • Delighted Customers due to an improved response time and a lower down-time. Customer confidence in Metrohm also increased due to the now closer proximity of the Service Engineer.

Having created value for the customer in terms of QUS, Metrohm was now able to command a premium vis-à-vis the competition. There is a general tendency for companies to club sales and service to control costs, especially in the case of executives operating from home offices. However, Deepak resisted this temptation, as with dual responsibilities, executives tend to focus more on sales and ignore service. Now, dedicated service engineers in turn enhanced the perceived value!

Delegation with empowerment: Ganesha Chaturthi is a major festival in Maharashtra. Deepak belongs to a small village called Hiwale in Sindhudurg District from the Konkan region. For this important festival, Deepak used to take leave for 10 days every year. However as a CEO designate, when he applied for leave now, his boss questioned the logic, considering his elevation to the new role with additional responsibilities. The major concern apart from the leave, was in Deepak being incommunicado due to poor network connectivity at his village. Deepak’s thought process was quite clear. He said, “I shall prepare my team in such a way that my help is not needed in those 10 days.” His communication to his team members went on the following lines:

  • “Please take decisions. I am not going to blame you for the consequences, if found negative in posterity.”
  • “Please think of the worst–case scenario. The company is not going to sink from any such decisions.”
  • “All of you can learn from your mistakes and a wrong decision and its consequence can be termed as the cost of learning.”
  • “If in spite of all the above, you still need my advice, please drop me a SMS. In case I go to the village market (which has a better connectivity), I shall respond.”
  • The discounts and pricing are controlled by the respective Managers and all are empowered to take decisions. As a normal practice at Metrohm India the senior management team does not have any extra power to give additional discounts.

Genuine Concern for Employees: Even though a nationwide lockdown was announced on 24 March 2020, Deepak took the call on 20th March to shut down the company’s offices across the country. Most of his team members who were at different locations then, had enough time to go back home.(Contrast this with the 4 hour time frame given by the PM which affected not only the general populace but also the millions of migrant workers!) He announced categorically that there would be no salary deduction, nor would anyone be forced to go on leave. The salary for the full month of March which normally gets paid on the last day of the month was credited on 24th

Creative Problem Solving: Every year the company used to invite its Pan-India sales and service team in May to the Chennai HQ for training. The month-long exercise for a team of 130 executives used to cost around ₹ 70-80 lakhs; the quarterly reviews used to be around ₹ 5-6 lakhs each. During the lockdown, the time was used for online trainings and reviews thereby saving a big cost for the organisation, while at the same time keeping the employees engaged. They also ensured that all employees are engaged and connecting with the customers, so that they feel like they are doing their routine work and no health issues crop up due to no work. In the earlier phases of lockdown, the instruments which needed attention were diagnosed remotely, thereby reducing the down time. For the Pharmaceutical industry which is a major customer (as well as the sector doing well during the pandemic), Metrohm’s service support was crucial. In a few cases, even the installation was carried out with the help of the customer along with support via a video call by the Service Engineer. Digital Platforms have been used by the organisation extensively to connect its employees and customers.

Effective Decision Making: Be it a minor decision of a trainer selection or major ones like shutdown or salary disbursals, an effective leader does not shy away from taking decisions.

Strong Ethics: Deepak shared that a strong sense of ethics and moral values are a sine qua non for effective leadership. Deepak spent his childhood in the IIT Bombay campus. His father, Raghunath Parab was a governing member of the Co-Operative Society and was entrusted the job of supervising the IIT Staff Canteen operated by the IIT Staff Co-Operative Society. As a principle, his father did not prefer his children to visit the canteen; lest it be perceived that they were availing food free. Some years down the line, when Deepak entered the canteen and when his father admonished him, he told him, “Dad, now I am working as a Technical Assistant in the Department of Chemistry and I have come here as an employee and not as your son.” Caesar’s wife must indeed be above suspicion.

Rajan Parulekar – Director, Hospitality Paradigm

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What makes the World’s Oldest Restaurant Tick?

Restaurante Sobrino de Botin

Six months ago, during the Navidad semano (Christmas week) whilst the Covid-19 pandemic was silently creeping its assault around the world, I was fortunate to visit the world’s oldest restaurant in Madrid, while on a holiday to Spain.

Situated in the medieval Austrias area of Madrid, the 295 year old Botín restaurant was founded by Jean Botín in 1725 and has been in the González family since 1930, now for four generations. The restaurant has been visited by people from all over the world, including royalty, politicians, writers and Hollywood stars and features in the Guinness book of records as the oldest restaurant in the world.

The 430 year old cellar

Though the wine cellar originated in 1590, the restaurant above the cellar was founded as ‘Casa Botin’ by a French Chef, Jean Botin in 1725, who moved to Spain and married an Asturian lady. As they did not have children, Mrs. Botin’s nephews took over after Jean Botin and hence the name you see even today, splayed across the external façade: “Restaurante Sobrino de Botin Horno de Asar” which may be translated as ‘Restaurant Botin’s Nephews – Roasting Oven.’ Interestingly, the restaurant has kept the said oven’s flame burning continuously, never to be extinguished.

Suckling pigs heading into the famed oven

2015 apparently was Botin restaurant’s best year on record with an average footfall of 600 guests per day. At an APC (F&B combined) of €72 that works out to a very decent annual turnover of € 15-16 million (equivalent to INR130 crores). Note that the restaurant menu is not at all highly priced… something they have kept as part of their business strategy through all the years.

We were unable to get a reservation online though I kept trying for nearly a month prior to the trip. However when I visited the restaurant personally, I was able to get a booking only for 2300h the subsequent evening, Sunday. Well, who were we to grumble at the reservation time, as the locals begin their evening dinners only post 2100h? Besides, who would want to miss out on eating in this iconic restaurant?

On the said evening, after a tiring tour of Segovia and Toledo (North & South of Spain) for which we had left our hotel at 0530h, we were back in Madrid at 1730h. Since our hotel was located at another area, we had quite a few hours to spend at our disposal. Though we were really tired, we decided to keep going and browsed around in the heart of Madrid and dabbled in a few tapas bars, the best of which we found at ‘Mercado de San Miguel,’ located just outside Plaza Mayor.

Fresh Tapas on display at Mercado de San Miguel

At 2000h, we decided we would take a chance and check if the Botin Restaurant would accept us as early diners. We honestly expected the service team to be ‘hoity-toity’ about their reputation and expect their guests to grovel for a table, especially if they landed up 3 hours early… after all we were so fortunate to be dining in a piece of history, no?

Luís Javier Sánchez Alvarez ~ Deputy Manager

Fortuitously, we were met by the same waiter who had taken our reservation the previous day and he was kind enough to check his register and then check with the restaurant manager, Luís Javier Sánchez Alvarez, who has worked at the restaurant for 41 years. Alvarez was very convivial and welcoming – he immediately asked the host to accommodate us… so up we followed him to their second floor, thoroughly elated at not just being able to dine early, but also at the warm reception. (Something we had honestly never expected!)

The restaurant has four floors, which maintain the quaint atmosphere of a traditional tavern. Alvarez the manager, explains why the Horno de Asar, the restaurants famous oven’s fire has never been extinguished. “It is our jewel. Our crown jewel. The oven has been burning continuously for 295 years,” he says. “We never put it out. It needs to be kept hot at night and be ready to roast in the morning. That’s the reason why we must never put it out. There is a special aroma in there; it’s truly incredible.”

Cochinillo Asado (roast suckling pig)

Our meal consisted of Restaurant Botin’s famous specialties Cochinillo Asado (roast suckling pig) and Sopa de Ajo (an egg, poached in chicken broth, and laced with sherry and garlic) and these were truly delicious and certainly stood up for their reputation!

Sopa de Ajo (garlic soup)

Our experience was truly delightful right from entry to exit that evening and it set me thinking as to what makes a restaurant succeed for three centuries altogether. Giving importance to their local guests who make up 55% of their clientele and keeping their rates fairly reasonable is part of their business strategy; and while their cuisine is delectable, the ambience outstanding and so steeped in tradition and culture, what also stands out is the warm caring service we experienced – right from the manager to the steward – who in spite of servicing over 600 guests that Sunday evening still made us feel special by heeding to our request for an earlier table reservation and thereafter serving us with the same élan or elegancia we noticed around other tables… it seems they have been living and breathing their ethos to posterity… hence the centuries of successful evolution, whilst yet maintaining traditiciones from the past three centuria!

As long as the restaurant ethos breathes for the customer, long live Restaurante Sobrino de Botin Horno de Asar!

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SOPs for future hotel operations

With proper updates to hotel operations and smart marketing tactics, a hotel can possibly succeed in the post-COVID hospitality landscape if they are able to implement new SOPs to reassure their guests.

  • Make sure that housekeeping and public area cleaning SOPs are state of the art, as this is one area where sharing-economy locations may not be able to match you.
  • Promote these new SOPs consistently and repeatedly through all marketing channels so that guests understand you are addressing this issue with the utmost seriousness.
  • Embrace the concept of “cleanliness theatre” whereby it’s no longer just about having your flawless but ordinarily invisible cleaning practices visible to guests (for example, having your front desk associates clean the front desk during peak check-in and check-out times as well as in the middle of the night)
  • Deploying many “people-free” technologies like a self-check-in station dilutes the perception of great service inferred by a smiling front desk associate, but now we need to see this from a new perspective post the Covid-19 situation, and hence consider this as a good distancing tool.
  • See what changes, if any, you can make to the furniture in your public areas so that visitors are more socially distanced from each other
  • Relook at traffic flow within your restaurants and meeting spaces to attain fewer instances of mass groupings through the staggering out of dining covers and conference break periods or by removing corridor-narrowing obstacles.
  • Implement new technologies to enable more work-from-home situations so you can maintain service delivery on a leaner team or so you don’t have to scramble once more if another lockdown occurs in the near future.
  • Again, be prepared to start advertising any new protocols and SOPs directly to customers who nowadays will be keenly receptive to this type of messaging.

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The future of social distancing

COVID-19 is forcing humankind to innovate and change the way we work and live. Individuals and corporations will be more resilient in a post-COVID-19 world. Once we have left this pandemic behind, there is a high possibility of the following disruptors coming into play:

  • More Online Shopping
  • Rise in Esports
  • More Digital Events
  • Increased Reliance on Robots
  • AI-Enabled Drug Development
  • Telemedicine
  • Better Monitoring Using IoT and Big Data
  • Strengthened Digital Infrastructure
  • More Contactless Interfaces and Interactions

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What Hotels could do in a pandemic

Hotels can offer significant value to authorities, whether through government procurement or voluntary offerings during the current pandemic, including:

  • To house quarantined individuals with actual or suspected COVID-19 infections.
  • As hospital facilities to treat COVID-19 patients and others.
  • To house doctors, nurses, and other health care workers, including potentially allowing them to remain close to medical facilities.
  • To house National Guard troops or government workers.
  • To provide food and beverage facilities for overflow meal service for patients, health care workers, and others.
  • As laundry facilities for the overflow of hospital linens.

Hotel owners and their counsel should seek to secure strong indemnification and insurance requirements, including additional insured status, waivers of subrogation, and primary and non-contributory wording. In certain cases, government contracts may not allow for alteration, but private party contracts generally allow for amendments.

Areas of ‘Property Insurance’, ‘Workers Compensation’ and ‘General Liability and Umbrella and Excess’ need to be worked on. The pandemic remains a fluid situation for many businesses, including hotel operators.

The answers to critical risk management questions — along with government policies and support — will continue to evolve as conditions change and potential losses develop. Hotel companies should work with their advisors, including insurance brokers and legal counsel, to manage contractual risk, understand how insurance policies will respond, and seek to ensure seamless operations and risk mitigation while COVID-19 remains a threat.

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