Prashanth Aroor has taken on his second avatar, as a hotelier, starting with The Avatar Hotel, (owned by development company Shanker Vittal), to develop the first hotel of his family promoted entity. What is on the cards are Boutique lifestyle localised hotels with a plan for 5 more leisure resorts across western Karnataka in the next cycle of development. The first is a city hotel in Mangalore which is now 99% ready.

What does the second wave mean to a hotelier in South India? How is the pandemic shaping our vision of tomorrow? We ask this of Prashanth, who believes many of the rules had been invented already in the first wave, and have come to stay! 

The second wave of the Covid 19 pandemic in India took away whatever oxygen was left for the industry after the first wave. The first wave had troubled mostly city hotels where there was an oversupply in the upscale segment causing a crisis of both occupancy and pricing. However leisure had largely recovered.

The second wave has hurt all segments including travel sentiment and an ability to travel. A lot of senior professionals/ business person have a crisis of income and will start prioritising expenses and hospitality/ lifestyle is sure to suffer.

The only way to move forward is to assume no normalcy is possible. Hotels have to reinvent their story and focus on micro markets and cater to the local citizenry as much as the travellers.

Crack teams need to power cloud operations from the kitchens and room division managers need to look at repurposing opportunities in long stay, isolation and asymptomatic use at a time when hospitals are packed to the corridors. B2B negotiated ‘work from hotel’ options may also emerge as an alternative temporary housing segment. The plan has to start with dissecting the micro market.

It’s hard to imagine businesses travelling or using offices like before so these segments cannot be depended upon. Food and beverage delivery, private dining, events and functions are the areas that could recover before business segments.

Hotel staffing ratios will go down by 30-60% from old specifications for each segment and parts of hotels may need to be repurposed for leasing by third parties for useful amenities that serve the public in the vicinity.

Multi skilling of hotel teams to be able to perform more than one function would be a key requirement. It’s a time for all rounders and not for specialists. 

During the pandemic we executed the project for The Avatar Hotel and Convention in Mangalore by the Shanker Vittal group. The hotel is in pre-opening. As a case in point, the 2 lac Sq ft project has 40% built up area leased to big box retail, small boutique retail and neighbourhood amenities like wellness, fitness, daycare, laundromats etc. 

The 60% with hotel is further classified as 70% for conventions, bars, restaurants, bakeries, cafes and multiple kitchens. Several branded partners have been roped in to beef up a strong attraction for the local community. The rooms have 9 categories so they can also each tell a story and attract the few experiential travellers who are available in the FIT segment. Hotels of the future have to be community hubs for locals and not aliens for outsiders. That’s the big shift we see. A transition from specialised products to flexible ones with commercial hedging of revenue streams between available consumer segments.