THE NEXT STEP — IMPERIAL HOTEL NEW DELHI
Arrival in Calcutta, 1930s
I guess you have noticed that half of all famous hotels are currently either closed or working at half speed. It is not the first time that global travel has virtually come to a standstill. But that realization doesn't make it any better.
THE NEXT STEP takes us to India. In New Delhi stands a 1930s art-deco palace called THE IMPERIAL. I have spoken to Vijay Wanchoo, Sr. Executive Vice President & General Manager of The Imperial New Delhi about the impact of Corona, new opportunities and The Next Step.
Sr. Executive Vice President & General Manager of The Imperial New Delhi
builds on Product, People and Procedures
Vijay, how is the current situation? It is November 2020. India had gone through a Corona lockdown. Business had come to a grinding halt.
Did you ever have to close?
Yes, we did close during the lockdown phase and gradually started preparing to re-opening, which was on 16th October 2020. Now the business seems to shift gears and slowly pick up.
How is your staff situation?
Our People have always been our strength and will continue to be. They were happy to re-join the hotel and I am thoroughly delighted to have my team back in action. It is a challenging situation at present as we are all working under strict safety guidelines, restricted manpower and contactless procedures while overcoming the fear of the pandemic. But with our impeccable Product, People and Procedures, we shall certainly triumph over.
Imperial New Delhi - masked reception staff
How is your average occupancy this year in comparison?
This year we are expected to close our average occupancy at 25% in comparison to 75 % last year.
How do you see the current situation? Are you offering special packages? (long term deals, …)
Embassies continue to extend their support to us with substantial group bookings. Indian Film Industry is also stepping forward to show their love, to their very 'home' in the city. Moreover with the festive season knocking at the door, the business will be progressive and shall pick up in a substantial manner.
Being an iconic heritage hotel, for domestic travelers we are in the process of curating local experiences with customised stay and dining packages. This reorientation I believe is for sustaining business, considering the current travel scenario and unpredictable future.
Did you develop a new strategy to attract new visitors? Did you venture into new fields to overcome low occupancy?
As 90 % of our guests are international, the impact is quite significant in these times due to decline in cross country travel. The strategy now is to focus mainly on domestic business.
Further, in the absence of leisure travelers we shall also focus on Defence alliances, Embassy traffic while encashing domestic segment. In the coming months, the wedding segment seems profitable as well as social functions will continue as earlier, although in a constrained environment. If we compare the new normal versus what it was before, the room requirements will not be the same as earlier when there were 300-500 guests attending or staying for a wedding, but the banquet business will eventually increase and will certainly be revenue generating.
What were your personally most moving moments, this summer?
I was moved to see a few associates and managers putting their best foot forward to prepare for the opening, during lockdown. It showed the level of ownership for the brand they work for and their unconditional love for it. I am fortunate to lead a team of such dedicated people, at all levels.
What would be the worst-case-scenario you don’t want to see?
Lack of Government support will be the worst case scenario in bringing the industry back in shape, after the adverse after effects of the pandemic, on the hospitality sector. We hope our patrons and governing authorities, both show immense support in raising the industry and eventually the economy of the country, in times ahead.
How do you advertise the hygienic standards of the house?
We have developed the ‘I Care’ Program- a wellness initiative by The Imperial
: all our safety protocols for the complete well-being of our guests, at all touch points.
: all hygiene kits, QR Codes and other contactless provisions across the hotel, carry the I care Logo
: promoted on social media, via press releases and other press articles.
: a stringent Government approved sanitization processes at all levels, from the airport pick up till the guest checks-out.
: contactless services offered in rooms, cars, concierge, restaurants etc.
What is THE NEXT STEP?
Our guests have been waiting to come back to their favourite restaurants and indulge in their most sought after Imperial cuisine, so F&B will surely remain one of the biggest revenue generating streams in times ahead, not only for us but for other hotels as well.
Collectively, we have to promote tourism and keep spreading the message of safe and secure environment in the hotels, across the city. This year has given us immense learning and I strongly believe with our continuous efforts, we shall emerge stronger with our new processes, new guidelines and new experiences, keeping the same warmth of Indian hospitality, intact.
Sr. Executive Vice President & General Manager
The Imperial, Janpath, New Delhi-110001, INDIA
You can still enjoy the Imperial from the safety of your home. The international bestseller THE IMPERIAL NEW DELHI gives you a fascinating insight into the history of the new city "New" Delhi, founded in 1911, and its famous hotel, The Imperial.
The book is available in English or French, and in cloth and in leather bound.
This book takes you from George V’s surprising 1911 announcement that made Delhi the new capital of India beyond the last years of the Raj, when the Viceroy’s wife, Lady Willingdon, convinced the eminent constructor of New Delhi, Narain Singh, to build a splendid hotel. We accompany the new hotel, opened in 1936, through the following decades.
It hosted lavish colonial parties and served ‘subversive’ Indian nationalists as their base to restore India’s independence after centuries of British rule. Pandit Nehru made the hotel his personal headquarters. Muhammad Jinnah drew up his plans for an independent Pakistan there. The Imperial became the hub of Indian society, from Delhi’s businessmen to Bollywood’s stars, the home for discerning international travellers and the nerve centre of global enterprises. Its unique museum concept makes it the most sought after hotel in India.
Make the acquaintance of the famous guests who made The Imperial their home. Meet the wonderful staff providing the necessary ambience. Read about the thrilling moments leading to the creation of Pakistan at the Royal Ballroom and enjoy golden memories of the good old Tavern. Shedding light on the history of this unique hotel, this book reveals the path into its future: the ‘Imperial experience’.