After two days of insightful and forward-looking discussions and deliberations, HVS ANAROCK HOPE 2023, India’s most exclusive Hospitality Summit, wound down at the Taj Resort & Convention Centre, Goa, in a spirit of optimism. Showcasing India’s global stature as a hospitality industry powerhouse, HOPE (Hospitality Overview Presentation & Exchange) brought together Indian and international hospitality players for two days of high-octane knowledge exchange, networking, and also celebration.
The select gathering over the two days witnessed more than 300 hospitality and travel eminences, and the senior leadership of domestic and international hotel chain operators, as well as hotel owners, investors, travel gurus, thought leaders and influencers from across the globe. This annual event promises to redefine how hospitality confers, networks, and celebrates success.
The second day’s proceedings started with the Keynote Address. ‘Story of India: All facts No Fiction’ by Mr. Deepak Bagla, Managing Director, Invest India. He spoke at length about how the planning that was laid out 100 months back for the development of Aviation and Tourism space in our country is laying the foundation of making India the next superpower. With the UDAN initiative touching the lives of 1cr Indians and the almost doubling up of airports in the last 9 years from 74 in 2014 to 141 in 2022, India is rapidly moving towards achieving the superpower status. Stressing on the importance of ‘wellness tourism’ in the coming years, Mr. Bagla also emphasised upon the importance of digitisation in the travel space and how ‘single window’ clearances will make the industry perform and grow seamlessly.
An HVS ANAROCK Presentation, Spotlight on India: No looking back, by Mandeep S. Lamba—President, South Asia, HVS ANAROCK—launched the agenda on Day two of HOPE 2023. Mr. Lamba not only emphasised on the sectorial growth that the country has witnessed viz-a-viz tourism, travel and hospitality but also gave an overview of what India is going to witness in terms of infrastructural development in the coming years.
The star-studded Day 2 of HOPE 2023 started with a Lounge Chat of Campbell Wilson, CEO & Managing Director, Air India and Puneet Chhatwal, Managing Director & CEO, IHCL. While Campbell was very optimistic about the quick turnaround of the culture and operations of the group post the merger, he talked about the greater need of having the right distribution partners. Chhatwal talked about the consolidation and expansion that IHCL is going to see in the next 5-10 years and echoed the sentiments of Bagla and Lamba about India holding a very unique position in the global tourism & hospitality space. He also congratulated the industry on the resilience it has shown during and post COVID and that the growth trajectory in the last 2-3 quarters bears testimony to the way the sector has bounced back. He believes that with FDIs, Institutional Investments and partnerships such as that of IHCL and Air India will propel the Indian tourism and hospitality industry to greater heights.
This was followed by a series of panel discussions, including CEOs Panel 1 (New Models, New Playbook: Is the Indian landscape changing?), which featured Anuraag Bhatnagar, Chief Operating Officer, The Leela Palaces, Hotels & Resorts; Jatin Khanna, Chief Executive Officer, Sarovar Hotels; Puneet Dhawan, Senior Vice President – Operations, India & South Asia, Accor; Ranju Alex, Area Vice President, South Asia, Marriott International; and Vikramjit Singh, President, Lemon Tree Hotels. The session was moderated by Vijay Thacker, Managing Director, Horwath HTL, India. This session stressed on the importance of Tier 2 and 3 markets and the inclusion of technology to make the industry more inclusive. It also touched upon the layers of infrastructural development coupled up with increased disposable incomes propelling more people to travel, thereby laying the foundation of more hotels.
Meanwhile, in the Tech Panel 1 session (Future of Travel Technology: Where are we headed?), Ipshita Kumar, Vice President – Brand Innovations, Hype Partners, was joined by Joy Ghosh, Head of Commercial – Indian Subcontinent, Middle East, Africa & Turkey, Amadeus Hospitality; and Nuno Guerreiro, Regional Director, South APAC & Chains, Booking.com, with Ajay Mehtani—Senior Vice President, Asset Management, HVS ANAROCK—playing the role of moderator. The biggest takeaway from panel was that the future of hospitality looks promising with human interface and technology in terms of VR, AI, etc. doing a joint play and that they will co-exist to create more opportunities the sectors.
And featuring in Tech Panel 2 (Lifting the veil on Metaverse) were Shweta Bajpai, India Head – Financial Services, Media, Travel & Professional Services, Meta; Shalaka Ramesh Pawar, Client Partner – Travel & Professional Services, Meta; and Swati Sud, Client Solution Manager – Travel & Professional Services, Meta. The three presentations took a deep dive into the world of AI, VR, AR and Metaverse and exhibited multiple examples on how the sector can benefit with these products. From digitised menus to using VR to generate employee training, it opened up a whole new world for the biggest stakeholders attending the session.
Participating in CEO’s Panel 2 (Crystal Ball Gazing: Journey of a hotel guest in 2033) were Navjit Ahluwalia, Senior Vice President & Country Head – India, Hilton; Prabhat Verma, Executive Vice President – Operations, South India, International Hotels & Expressions, IHCL; Sanjay Sethi, Managing Director & CEO, Chalet Hotels; Sudeep Jain, Managing Director, South West Asia, IHG; Sunjae Sharma, Managing Director, India & Southwest Asia, Hyatt Hotels Corporation; and Vijay Dewan, Managing Director, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels Limited. Nikhil Sharma—Market Managing Director, Eurasia Wyndham Hotels & Resorts—moderated the session. This session was all about enhancing the guest experience and making his experience of staying in a hotel the most memorable one. Again, the interplay of automation and human interaction was discussed at length and the need of an integrated system was emphasised upon to do away with multiple touch points.
Participants in the Investment Panel (Private equity & lenders’ outlook for India Hospitality) included Anoop Bali, Whole Time Director & CFO, Tourism Finance Corporation of India; Manmeet Gulati, Managing Director Head, Real Estate, South Asia, Standard Chartered Bank; Hari Krishna V, Managing Director, CPP Investment; Raghu Sapra, Head of Hospitality, Embassy REIT; and Santosh Verma, Executive Vice President – Investment Banking, ICICI Securities, with Shobhit Agarwal—Managing Director & CEO, ANAROCK Capital Advisors—acting as moderator. The session not only chronicled the journey of what the industry as a whole witnessed during the COVID times but also took cognizance of the big learnings that will help the sector to become better in terms of its scalability and profitability. The panel congratulated the initiatives taken by the government, especially on refinancing and mortgage deals that allowed the sector to get back on its feet so fast. It also touched upon the unit economies of the mid-level traveller and recognised the fact that ‘Hospitality is for everyone’ and that ‘Each segment is important’.
Featuring in the Alternate Accommodation Panel (The Rise & Rise of Alternate Accommodation: What lies in store?) were Amanpreet Bajaj, General Manager India, SE Asia, Hong Kong & Taiwan, Airbnb; Devendra Parulekar, Founder, SaffronStays; Nibhrant Shah, Founder & CEO, Isprava & Lohono Stays; Santosh Kumar, Country Manager – India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Indonesia, Booking.com; and Vaibhav Singh, Senior Vice President & Head Alternate Accommodations, International Hotel Supply & Strategic Alliances, MakeMyTrip. The session was moderated by Ranjit Batra, President Hospitality, Panchshil Realty. With a more flexible work environment post COVID and the rise in experiential travel, the lines between work and travel have got blurred. This was the premise on which the session took place that stressed on the fact that Alternate Accommodation will only complement the existing/traditional hotel industry and will not act as a threat.
In the Design & Sustainability Panel (Future of Hotel Design and Sustainability), Bobby Mukherji, Architect, was joined by Hemant Khurana, Executive Director, Saint-Gobain India; Jabeen L Zacharias, Architect & Interior Designer; Patrick O’Meara – Head of Business Development, Sustainable Hospitality Alliance; Ar. Reza Kabul, President, ARK Reza Kabul Architects; and Sonu Shivdasani, OBE | Guardian of the Culture, CEO & Joint Creative Director, Soneva. The moderator for this session was Ajaya Sharma, Senior Editor – Markets, Anchor, Times Network (ET NOW). This was a very important session as it posed a remarkable thought on ‘How to include sustainability as a part of the overall business strategy’? As buildings account for more than 40% of CO2 emissions in the world, if we plan to leave a legacy behind for future generations, we have to look at sustainable practices in every sphere of hospitality.
The Hotel Owners Panel (Real Estate Investment Outlook: Is hospitality finally maturing as a real-estate asset class?) comprised of Mr. Puneet Chhatwal, Managing Director & CEO, IHCL; Harshavardhan Neotia, Chairman, Ambuja Neotia Group; and Nirupa Shankar, Joint Managing Director, Brigade Enterprises, with the session being moderated by Anuj Puri, Chairman & Founder, ANAROCK Group. The session acknowledged and celebrated the synergy between asset managers, hotel owners, management players and PE funds that has propelled this unprecedented growth but also asked the industry to be extremely careful and mange and structure their feasibility reports with a tighter noose.
And the Hotel Development Panel (India: Land of Immense Potential and Challenges—How are operators strategizing their India entry and growth plans?) featured Andrew Langdon, Senior Vice President Development Asia, Accor; David Roberts, Global Head – Business Development, Dusit International; Nikhil Manchharam, Managing Director – Development Asia, Yotel; Shawn Hill, Chief Development Officer Asia Pacific (excluding Greater China), Marriott International; and Suma Venkatesh, Executive Vice President – Real Estate & Development, IHCL. The session was moderated by Akash Datta, Senior Vice President, Consulting & Valuation, HVS ANAROCK. The session positioned India as a clear winner when it comes to growth in the hospitality sector and the number of keys that will be added YoY in the next decade or so. The panellists also discussed the unique preposition of the growth story in India in both the urban and destination travel.
The summit concluded by conferring the #HASHTAG (HVS Anarock Showcase Hospitality & Tourism Awards Gala) Awards, which honoured the best-performing hotel general managers and hotels from across categories in a glittering ceremony.