Exclusive Interview | Aditya Malla, General Manager, DoubleTree by Hilton Pune – Chinchwad

The basics will always remain the same
— Aditya Malla
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Please tell us how Double Tree by Hilton, distinguishes itself from other competitive brands in the segment

The Hilton brand represents a legacy of hospitality built with a formidable vision and 100 years of creating memorable experiences for our guests across the World. The DoubleTree experience distinguishes itself even before arrival, right from the point of making your reservation and choosing your room on the Hilton Honors app. The DoubleTree signature warm cookie served while welcoming you at the property signifies homecoming. The experience unfolds itself with every single Team Member contributing to soft touches of warmth and care while you go about your business and relax in your room, or choose to enjoy fine dining experiences, and there are a few to choose from. DoubleTree by Hilton, Pune is a special addition to the industrial landscape of PCMC and has been providing guests with that much needed respite from the hustle and bustle of a city on the throes of commercial and infrastructure boom. Even as you complete your stay and get ready for your onward journey the caring Team Members will surprise you with a fond farewell, leaving you with a compelling reason to return.

Please share some insights of the hospitality industry in Pune and Maharashtra?

Pune is poised to continue its robust growth. Even with recent additions to the hotel inventory, and more in the pipeline, Pune remains a preferred destination for work and bleisure. A vibrant Food and Beverage market here has given staycationers reason to either extend a business trip or return over a weekend to enjoy the throbbing nightlife.

Please share how you collect customer feedback to check their satisfaction level and if so, what are the challenges in increasing customer satisfaction?

As a Hilton brand hotel, we focus our energies on ensuring our guests have a memorable stay. Guest feedback is an effective tool to know what we need to continue doing and where improvements may be necessary. While we have about ears to the ground and follow social media sentiment about the Hotel, we also have internal feedback mechanisms and the online guest surveys, which provide us the necessary direction regularly.

Following the increased competition in the industry, Hotels are offering more services like Spa, in house-entertainment and other facilities to attract customers. How do you see this trend?

With an evolving domestic economy and disposable income along with lifestyle changes, Hotels no longer remain an aspirational product. A welcome break in the midst of a busy schedule or a relaxing getaway in a resort are sought after lifestyle necessities. So as the reasons evolve, Hotels to have evolved from basic bread and breakfast offerings to lavish lifestyle experiences addressing customer needs at multiple price points and locations. Spas, unique F&B experiences, in-room entertainment, health and wellness experiences and technology are being pursued as a part of the hotel stay experience to address the needs of the new age traveler.

Indian customers are mostly concerned about their cuisines, how does Double Tree assure the right magic to its customers?

We are fortunate to have developed our Hotel as a fine F&B destination over the past five years. While we have an award winning Japanese restaurant ‘Miyuki’ which has been recognized as the best Japanese restaurant in Pune in the Times Food Awards three years in a row, our rooftop restaurant, ‘Level 12’ which serves authentic North Indian cuisine in an ambient setting bringing together the best of all that Pune has to offer. The year round pleasant weather combines with other elements of nature - Agni (fire mashaals), jal (the rooftop swimming pool with cascading water) and vayu (the pleasant Pune breeze!) add to the mouth-watering dishes and ambient music.

Please share how is industry is changing over decades and how is your experience adding value in serving customers in a better way?

The basics will always remain the same. Warmth, recognition and comfort are what travelers continue to value in their expectations. However, over the years technology and loyalty have taken a new expression. Wi-Fi is no longer a value add but a basic necessity. Hilton offers a unique feature of Digital Check-In for our guests who have a clear preference for a room. They may go into the tab on the Hilton Honors app and choose their preferred room even before landing in the city. Further, they may go on to unlock their Digital Key and use their phone to access the guest elevators and their room! So much for personalization! Loyalty programs like Hilton Honors reward travelers for their loyalty I addition to providing them with elite benefits and recognition. There is more research going into personal preferences and the industry has come a long way from the days when Hilton hotels pioneered the concept of an in-room mini bar.

What percentage of business is from repeat customers, in case you keep record of your customer?

Loyalty, as previously mentioned is one of our key strengths. Hilton Honors and our distinctive service ensure our customers stay loyal to us in more ways than one. Pune in particular gives us the pleasure of welcoming our guests back to their favourite Hotel quite often. The growing economy provides impetus to industry and infrastructure, which support long-term projects. If customers like their first experience, they tend to be loyal, and we consider ourselves fortunate on this count.

How is the safety and security standards of hospitality industry in India, compared to global standards?

A very good question indeed! One of the transformations in our industry over the years has been the increased concern on safety and security of our guests, Team members and assets. The current global situation requires us as Hotel operators to be mindful of the threats and take proactive measures to ensure the safety of our guests while on property. Most international travelers recognize this need and cooperate with the Hotel security team. The Hotel Management team regularly practices mock drills and exercises so all are aware of the SOPs related to most major threats. Hotels in India are definitely alert and conscious of the need to exercise and implement procedures, which address the looming security threats.

Please share some challenges in keeping your staff motivated and directed given the toughness to survive in hospitality industry?

The biggest challenge in my view is recruiting the right talent. When the right Team members are inducted, other challenges seem to wither away. By the right talent, we mean the right mix of skill, will and attitude. This business, like all others is unique in its own way and only those who have true passion will find their calling and success in hospitality. I do not particularly consider the hospitality industry any tougher then IT or Banking for instance. It is just about the passion to do what you do. Once you have the right talent, you need to do everything you can to match their personal aspirations with the Organizations so each member of your Team finds success in the Organization’s success. Not so tough really!

There has been ongoing disputes at national level between web portals and hotels on the pricing issue. What do you think is an ideal solution to solve the dispute?

This, in my view is to do with the evolution of the business and travelers trends. OTAs who started off as a support mechanism for Hotels, and did a brilliant job at that, began allegedly threatening the sovereignty of the business in some cases. I think the objectives are the same and the roles need to be clearly defined to avoid a clash of objectives. There is enough room for all to work together and prosper as long as the rules of engagement are clarified and respected.