Puneet Dhawan, the newly-appointed Senior VP – Operations at Accor for India & South Asia, has huge plans for the market, but believes it is imperative to first deal with the crisis and focus on domestic guests.
For Accor, the strategy in India remains unchanged, claims Puneet Dhawan. He says that it continues to be based on three core pillars – focus, simplify and expand – and that all three pillars serve the purpose of bringing the guest closer, anchoring the system on the strengths of location and driving system-wide efficiencies with the operating structure. “This approach makes us agile and nimble, and helps us serve our guests better while providing great value to our hotel owner partners,” he says.
Having joined at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc everywhere, Dhawan says that for him and for Accor, dealing with it required them to be agile and proactive on the ground. “The most important thing was to provide a safe environment to our employees who w e call ‘Heartist’, which means delivering the art of hospitality through the heart and offering a safe environment to guests,” he says. Now, with hotels opening up, Dhawan believes that it’s time for the industry to show solidarity and work together to instil the confidence to travel in prospective guests, ensuring them of safety when they take a leisure trip and stay in a hotel.
M!CE in a pandemic
When asked about how Accor is tapping the M!CE and weddings market, Dhawan says, “We have got 20 Novotel properties across India. Since there is a restriction of having only 100 guests for a wedding, we have come up with an idea to allow relatives to be part of a wedding through any sort of virtual platform and enjoy a similar food experience through a Novotel in their city, just as their relatives would enjoy at the actual wedding venue at a Novotel.”
He adds that a huge market for small weddings is now being seen with their ibis brand. In fact, even Pullman New Delhi Aerocity has created a permanent event setup, a model that Accor will replicate at some of its other properties. Dhawan elaborates, “We are partnering with key organisers in various cities. Pullman New Delhi Aerocity took the lead, and in Hyderabad as well, we are looking at new ideas and concepts with Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre and Novotel Hyderabad Airport, where we have expansive indoor and outdoor spaces.”
Getting to the agent
Accor has been in touch with its travel agent partners. Dhawan says, “While we are working closely with our OTA and travel agency partners, we are also reaching out to travel agents in secondary cities and smaller towns, to work with them. In fact, in partnership with Vistara, we took our key clients, both from the travel trade and the corporates, to various cities to stay in our hotels. We recently announced a strategic partnership with IndiGo and 6E Rewards, wherein we are the exclusive hotel partner for the 6E Rewards programme.”The French group has a huge luxury portfolio that it is looking to expand. On October 1, Accor is expected to launch a new campaign ‘For the love of Travel, for the love of Now’ to stimulate domestic market.