Skift Breaking News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Hotels

Indian Hotels Company Had The Best Quarter in Its History: Here’s Why

9 hours ago

Tata Group-backed Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) reported what Puneet Chhatwal, its managing director and CEO, called the best first quarter in the company’s history.

The hotel brand reported strong free cash flows of almost $25 million and net cash positive of $33 million in its consolidated and standalone financials for the first quarter ending June 30, 2022.

A surge in demand across markets and segments, with occupancy and rates exceeding pre-Covid levels and backed by an asset-light model, Indian Hotels Company achieved a milestone earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization of $51 million, compared to a loss of $15.5 million in the same quarter last year, said Chhatwal.

The company reported a profit after tax of $21 million against only $750,000 in 2019-20.

“The trend is very positive in India and we have outperformed in almost every market on the domestic front, except for a marginal lag in Rajasthan,” Chhatwal said.

With revenue per available room levels exceeding that of the first quarter of 2019-20 in Indian metropolitan cities, Chhatwal, said, “The cities of Mumbai, Bengaluru and New Delhi are back.”

Mumbai Bengaluru and Delhi are also important for the hotel brand as it has owned or licensed assets in these cities. “We account for those revenues and a change in the revenue numbers has a significant impact on our portfolio and our performance,” Chhatwal said.

The company has signed 10 new hotels in the first quarter, with three hotels each under the Taj and Ginger brands, and two hotels each under the SeleQtions and Vivanta brands, and expects to sign 15 more for the rest of the year.

With its presence in over 100 locations in India, Indian Hotels Company has further strengthened its pan-India footprint with the opening of four new hotels in the current fiscal.

“So our pan India footprint is stronger and is getting even further stronger as each month and each quarter goes by through our aggressive asset-light growth strategy that has been in place,” Chhatwal said, adding that the asset-light model is not only driving growth, but is also helping the brand find the right balance which is in line with its Ahvaan 2025 strategy.

Even as IHCL is getting ready to launch a new website and a new mobile app, the hospitality brand is clear that the backbone of the company was, is and in the foreseeable future remains the Taj.

“We are very clear that all brands associated directly or indirectly with the Taj are perceived as premium brands in their respective segment,” Chhatwal said during the first quarter earnings call.

“One thing which we have been very careful about in the last few years is the premiumization of our portfolio. Any business that we enter in we want our offering to be in the premium level in their relative positioning.”

The company’s long-term growth will also focus significantly on digital enablers such as the super app — Tata Neu. “The Tat Neu integration has enabled us to get one million new members in four months and a 50 percent growth in our loyalty base,” Chhatwal said.

Hotels

Hotel Robots Trigger Mixed Feelings of Joy and Fear — New Study

1 week ago

Joy, fear and sadness: these are just some of the emotions hotel guests feel when they encounter a customer services robot during their hotel stay.

That’s according to researchers who extracted a sample of 9,707 customer reviews from Ctrip and TripAdvisor. They found the majority of customers have a positive experience with robots.

The feeling of “joy” was felt by more than 60 percent of customers when dealing with robots in a customer service role, based on a new study from the Durham University Business School. “Fear” was the second most felt emotion by customers, making up 28 percent of the reviews.

Other feelings of anger (5 percent), neutral (4 percent) and sadness (1 percent) also featured in the reviews, which spanned 412 hotels in eight countries.

The researchers, who used a machine learning model to identify the hotels which had been reviewed on their own robot-powered customer service, found that interacting with robots also triggered emotions of love, surprise, interest and excitement, while discontent was mainly expressed when the robot malfunctioned.

The results of the study also showed many customers chose these specific hotels due to the fact they operated with customer service robots, revealing that hotels can use them as a selling point to customers, as well as convenience.

But hotels were also warned not to promote themselves as a “robot hotel” as it could create high expectations and potentially disappoint customers.

“Service robots have been increasingly adopted in hospitality service settings in recent years and large hotel chains have gradually adopted their services for housekeeping and butler services, interacting with customers and fulfilling concierge and front-desk tasks,” said Dr Zhibin Lin, professor of marketing at Durham University Business School.

“Previous opinion has been that customers felt uneasiness and discomfort when being served by robots, however this research suggests that customers actually, on the whole, have more positive interactions with robots and enjoy the experience of being served by one”.

The Smith School of Business, Queen’s University, Audencia Business School and Jimei University also contributed to the report.

The study will likely be welcomed by Relay Robotics, which provides delivery robots to hotel groups including Marriott, Hilton, Westin, Mandarin Oriental, Holiday Inn and Radisson. It recently raised $10 million in financing to accelerate development and deployment of its robots.

Hotels

Desperate Hotels in a Rush Left to Hire Inexperienced Staff

1 month ago

Heavily-understaffed European hotel brands are now scrambling to hire workers, left with applicants with no experience or even no track record, according to Reuters.

Accor needs 35,000 employees in the 110 countries that it operates in. The hotel brand has been conducting trial initiatives to recruit people who have never worked in the industry, Reuters quoted CEO Sebastien Bazin as saying.

Accor had also announced that it would be recruiting 12,000 overseas temporary employees to operate its temporary housing units for the Qatar World Cup.

IHG Hotels & Resorts faces a 20 to 25 percent staff shortage, according to Keith Barr its CEO.

Widespread job vacancies and upward pressure on labour costs in UK’s hospitality sector had been highlighted by a CGA survey in April. The survey cited staffing issues as a major reason for impeding hospitality’s recovery from Covid-19.

Hospitality staff, who had been furloughed or terminated during Covid, have found better paying jobs in other industries and are no longer keen to return, aggravating the staffing crisis.

Further afield in the U.S., nearly all hotels are experiencing staffing shortages, and half report being severely understaffed, according to a new survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Some 97 percent of respondents are experiencing a staffing shortage, 49 percent severely so. The most critical staffing need was housekeeping, with 58 percent ranking it as their biggest challenge.

As travel comes back with a bang, airports and airlines have also been struggling with staffing issues contributing to the chaos for travelers.

In a bid to address the labor shortage at airports, the UK is speeding up national security checks for new airport workers. German airports, on the other hand, will be filling staff shortages by hiring temporary workers from Turkey.

Mergers and Acquisitions

Singapore’s Ascott to Acquire Serviced Apartment Company Oakwood

1 month ago

Singapore-based Ascott is buying global serviced apartment provider Oakwood Worldwide from Mapletree Investments, increasing its global portfolio by 81 properties and about 15,000 units.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition is set to be completed in the third quarter of 2022, after which 8,500 Oakwood operational units are expected to immediately contribute to Ascott’s recurring fee income streams.

Ascott parent company CapitaLand Investment expects the acquisition to take the serviced apartment operator’s global presence to more than 150,000 units in about 900 properties across more than 200 cities in 39 countries.

With Oakwood coming onboard, Ascott is confident of achieving its target of 160,000 units globally ahead of 2023.

Following the acquisition, the new markets that would be added to the Ascott portfolio include Cheongju in South Korea; Zhangjiakou and Qingdao in China; Dhaka in Bangladesh as well as Washington D.C.

Mapletree acquired Oakwood in February 2017.

Other Ascott takeovers include Quest Apartment Hotels in 2017. In the same year, Ascott invested in Synergy Global Housing, a corporate housing provider in the U.S. In 2018, Ascott acquired Indonesian hotel operator Tauzia Hotel Management to enter the mid-scale business hotel segment.

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