The Corporate business offers a lifeline to hotels struggling with very little business

City hotels, struggling with very little business, are tapping into the WFH segment by offering great infrastructure at equally arresting prices

Work from hotel, Corporate business, The rise of work from hotel trend, Hotel news

It is a natural synergy at a time when corporates are reexamining their Work from Home (WFH) strategies and asking many of their management cadres to stay home. This has led to a rethinking on how much of the expensive commercial real estate they must hold on to.

But most corporates need to meet their management teams at some point: To discuss a new project, to network, to just have a more tangible connection with their team. This is an opportunity for hotels to create alternative revenue streams by tapping into the corporate business.

Anuraag Bhatnagar, Chief Operating Officer (COO), The Leela Palaces, Resorts and Hotels

As Anuraag Bhatnagar, Chief Operating Officer (COO), The Leela Palaces, Resorts and Hotels, says, “In the last couple of months, the world around us has changed rapidly and we have had to adapt and become more thoughtful in the way we do things. As hotels begin to reopen and the world begins to return to some sort of normalcy, the one thing we know is that the definition of “normal”, as we knew it, has changed forever. Brands that can create meaningful offers which speak to the needs of guests will lead the way to recovery.”

This is where hotels can create a new revenue model by setting up Work from Hotel (WFH) capsules and marketing them to corporates looking at leveraging the infrastructure offered by luxury and premium hotels. Infrastructure such as business centres, banquet rooms, highspeed WiFI connections, F&B offerings, large spaces that allow for social distancing, and suites that can be converted into temporary offices.

The Leela Palaces Hotels and Resorts have focused on generating demand by creating compelling and meaningful offers that resonate with their guests. “Work from Hotel or Work from Anywhere is an offer that is beginning to gain traction with corporates,” says Bhatnagar.

“While previously, people went to a hotel for a sense of community, now exclusivity is the key. If you do your best work in your track pants, great. Walk-in clothed in whatever makes you comfortable and most productive, it’s your room. It has the benefit of privacy and in COVID times, is a safe bubble. And if you prefer the vibe of a public space that still provides ample room to socially distance yourself, hotels have plenty of these to offer, too.”

Parul Thakur, Senior Area Director Sales and Distribution, South Asia Marriott International

Hotel groups such as Marriott International have seen their WFH packages picking up steam over the past 60 days. “With the ongoing pressures of managing businesses with declining topline and pressure on the bottom lines, corporates are looking at rationalization or downsizing their current real estate expenses,” says Parul Thakur, Senior Area Director Sales and Distribution, South Asia Marriott International.

Kush Kapoor, CEO, Roseate Hotels & Resorts

Co-working spaces had already set the trend. “An unheard-of-concept just a decade ago, it is increasingly becoming a preferred option for many startups and companies whose millennial workforce enjoys the perks of non-traditional office spaces. As a natural corollary, we find more corporates moving towards the hotels nowadays,” says Kush Kapoor, CEO, Roseate Hotels & Resorts. “A hotel’s co-working space has several advantages, the key being a robust internet speed, a quiet and comfortable ambience, and better amenities.”

The analogy to that is also corporates placing their management team or top management in hotels temporarily, or by hiring business centres and banquet halls to host meetings and business lunches in a safe and sanitized atmosphere. “Hotels have an edge over commercial office spaces due to their ability to leverage their existing infrastructure without any additional costs required for fitouts, and their excellent track record on the safety, security and cleanliness norms. Hotels can cater to all requirements, from a hotel room or suite for individuals to larger meeting rooms,” adds Thakur.

The St. Regis Mumbai, which already had a ‘Work Exquisite’ programme in place at their luxury property, is encouraging meetings at hotels.

Nicholas Dumbell, General Manager, The St. Regis Mumbai.

“We can host meetings for 15 people to bring them together. We are going a step further by offering ‘Dine at your Desk’, where we provide curated packed lunches. Also, we are trying to ensure that everyone has the same food in front of them when there is an online meeting, much like having a meeting over lunch while at work,” says Nicholas Dumbell, General Manager, The St. Regis Mumbai.

Hotels are repurposing and optimising meeting rooms and lobbies for day-use options for business solutions. The response has raised the hopes of hoteliers across the country. According to Sylvain Laroche, Director of Operations, ibis & ibis Styles, “We believe that co-working spaces within hotels have huge potential in our country and we do have a few requests from companies in cities such as Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru.”

Corporates need a productive and relaxed atmosphere, away from the distractions of working at home and crafted for businesses that demand attention. Vineet Mishra, General Manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Pune & Cluster General Manager, Pune, contends, “The growing concerns surrounding the pandemic have made companies seek safer co-working spaces with greater emphasis on hygiene and sanitization.”

Jayakrishnan Sudhakaran, General Manager, Novotel Ahmedabad

Jayakrishnan Sudhakaran, General Manager, Novotel Ahmedabad reveals that several corporates have established nation-wide tie-ups with hotel chains which abide by the government and World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. While corporates have walked the extra mile to help their employees set up WFH infrastructure, at times it is not enough, particularly when a team is working on critical projects/ data and may need ergonomically designed infrastructure with access to a hospitable staff meeting their needs of food options, unlimited tea/ coffee service, stationary and such.

The new revenue stream

Seemingly, the hospitality industry is moving away from a dominant model that rang true for centuries. As Kapoor points out, “In these collaborative spaces, the guest room is no longer the hotel’s primary product. Rather, their ability to connect with the corporates— including travelling professionals, entrepreneurs and local communities in a way that caters to their needfor inspiration and networking—will be the crucial service business hotels of the future have to get right.”

The right package  

Intelligent hotel management understands that packages need to be thoughtfully curated, must resonate with guests and fulfil their needs. According to Sarbendra Sarkar, Founder and Managing Director, Cygnett Hotels and Resorts, “The pandemic has economically hit everyone. People have lost jobs, are dealing with salary cuts, and have been sent on furlough. Checking into a hotel to “work” in these times is more like a luxury. We have not just created an atmosphere where it is easy to work, but also offer well-priced packages for those looking to take that break from home and concentrate specifically on getting the work done.”

The completely connected workstations at Hyatt Hotels are technology-integrated for both an individual working alone or for connecting with other colleagues.

At Marriott International hotels, current options include daily, weekly, monthly and annual pricing. “Depending on the space in consideration and the corporate’s requirements, pricing models can range from skeleton-venue pricing with value add-ons at an additional cost based on consumption, or a bundled package that encompasses all the requirements at one cumulative rate to be charged for the period of rent,” claims Thakur.

Arif Patel, Regional Vice President – Sales & Marketing, Hyatt India

The pricing at Hyatt Hotels differs with the set-ups and cities. “Some of our properties are offering both: Work infrastructure during the day and packages combined with stay offers for guests looking for ‘workations’,” says Arif Patel, Regional Vice President – Sales & Marketing, Hyatt India.
■ Hyatt Centric MG Road Bangalore launched The Work Pad package in June 2020 at Rs 1800 a day, with access to high-speed internet, complimentary refreshments, 20% discount on F&B and laundry services. Additionally, a lunch subscription plan of Hyatt’s Centric Tiffin Services is offered to guests.
Grand Hyatt Mumbai came up with The Corner Office in July 2020, with a proposal of customised private office space of up to 40sq.m, starting at Rs 14,000 + taxes for a room/night for stay and an additional meeting room, fully equipped with office facilities. The package also includes a 20% discount on F&B beverages, in-room dining services along with Business Centre services.
Hyatt Hyderabad Gachibowli’s Work from Hyatt cabins is sold at Rs 2000 per day, under three categories of Deluxe, Premium and Platinum. Apart from the essential IT amenities, guests can use an inbuilt electronic safe, the mini-fridge and the TV. Hyatt Regency Delhi offers personalised working spaces with an option to choose from a variety of boardrooms and well-appointed suites, besides the regular internet, video conferencing services, discount on laundry and 15% off on F&B.
At Grand Mercure Mysore, a Workation package can be booked at Rs 3,699+ taxes, while Novotel Ahmedabad is offering hourly, monthly and daily rates. “The packages have packed lunch prepared by our chefs and freshly brewed coffee included. Novotel Ahmedabad is a business hotel and has always seen a larger share of business from corporates. We are at a location convenient for large manufacturing units as well as traffic-free drive to different industrial hubs.”
Novotel Chennai Chamiers Road has customised the package to include per seat, per person and day-use offers, starting from Rs 1499 + taxes for nine hours, with two sessions of tea/coffee and an uninterrupted Wi-Fi.

Vineet Mishra, General Manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Pune & Cluster General Manager, Pune

■ Most hotels are offering flexible terms to corporates looking for a Work from Hotel space. Vineet Mishra, General Manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Pune & Cluster General Manager, Pune says that the WFH concept offered by The Ritz-Carlton Pune is flexible both in terms of facilities and commercials. “This will not just provide a consistent block of smaller banquet spaces previously used for meetings, on a consistent baseline payment for the hotel during these hard times, but also expand to F&B offerings and room accommodation. While we’ve earmarked our meeting venues
as premium luxury co-working spaces, with all the essential amenities, the hotel’s culinary experts are geared upto curate special hygienically packed bento boxes, meals and snack options suited to various tastes and preferences, and delivered to the desks. F&B offerings would not only be restricted to restaurants but also served lunch/dinner boxes (working lunch). We could also convert suites to mini-workspaces providing all the needs of a meeting venue.”
■ Work from Hotel, interestingly, also encourages more footfalls to onsite F&B outlets and lounges while simultaneously encouraging and fostering brand awareness.
ibis is not just tapping corporates but also individuals with the right price and flexible terms. “This arrangement works perfectly for freelancers who are looking for a temporary set-up or small/ mid-size organizations that are looking for a temporary base for their additional workforce,” says Sylvain Laroche, Director of Operations, ibis & ibis Styles.
Interestingly, ibis has been leveraging its economy hotel positioning to cater to the needs of working professionals and business travellers’ right since inception. “They contribute to the largest part of our guest portfolio. With this offering, we’ll be able to provide them with an efficient and cost-effective solution.”

Marriott International has seen their flexible WFH packages picking up steam over the past 60 days. Photograph: Le Meridien Gurgaon.

The benefit of hotels is generating revenue against current unutilized spaces. “By virtue of an office space provision on hotel premises, other ancillary revenues including F&B, fitness centre usage, parking space and telecommunication will offer revenue generation prospects,” points out Thakur.

Pankaj Wadhwa, Director - Sales & Marketing, Sofitel Mumbai BKC.

For hotels, it is a way to monetize the spaces that are lying empty. “As room inventory is perishable and as there is minimal demand due to travel restrictions, this can be an additional revenue source,” points out Pankaj Wadhwa, Director - Sales & Marketing, Sofitel Mumbai BKC.

He reports that a few companies had placed their staff to work from Sofitel Mumbai BKC since the beginning of the lockdown. “As rentals get more expensive and employees are asked to get back to work, we anticipate a growth in this sector.”

Once a sporadic revenue stream, the WFH model is being seen in a new light due to the lockdowns the pandemic has forced on us, and the economic and business downturn. For a lot of corporates, it is far cheaper to hire hotel suites or spaces on a per-day basis or even for a few days, then to hold on to expensive commercial real estate spaces in cities such as Mumbai and Delhi.

“People from different industries and roles—working professionals, CXOs, industrialists and entrepreneurs among others—are interested in the opportunity to work out of a hotel that is at a driveto- distance from the feeder city,” adds Mishra. The Ritz-Carlton, Pune has worked its spaces to accommodate 15 or lesser number of people, as mandated by the government and local health authorities. Besides direct corporates, Marriott is tapping into opportunities presented by intermediary partners such as IPCs, commercial brokers and existing co-working space operators. 

Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre (NHCC) and Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC), that boast the largest state-of-art convention centre in Asia, have multiple flexible spaces to mimic co-working space. “We have tied up with Proppro Online Pvt Ltd, who specialise in the co-working spaces segment. It is a chance to reinvent the wheel and generate revenues to sail through these tough times, for at least the next 6 to 12 months period,” says General Manager Manish Dayya. “The corporate segment contributes 55% of our total business.”

The benefits are several. Not just world-class infrastructure but several add-ons which makes it lucrative,
besides the lower cost than owning and running a commercial building, not to mention the location. Most
luxury and premium hotels tend to be in the city centres or within business districts. “A luxury hotel’s ability to offer varied dining options, and a high standard of amenities and services, are an added advantage. It bestows a sense of position to any organisation to locate some of its management at The St. Regis Mumbai,” asserts Dumbell.

The right infrastructure
Supreet Roy, General Manager, Novotel Chennai Chamiers Road reveals that a survey conducted by the hotel found that corporates in the city, who have had to reduce their workforce due to an economic downturn, were looking at smaller workplaces, especially those that offer hygiene and safe distancing.

The hotel has worked on some unconventional co-working options that range from lounge and casual seating to a professional office setup. “Our other option is the conventional boardroom converted into smaller offices, which are ideal for a five-member team looking for a private space with basic office equipment,” adds Roy.

To cater to the growing requirements of professionals, Indian hospitality groups are creating on-the-go office facilities. Arif Patel, Regional Vice President – Sales & Marketing, Hyatt India, says, “This helps guests to enhance their work routines while being ensconced in luxurious and safe surroundings. At Hyatt, we are offering sanitised and personalised working spaces for business travellers across several properties. We have converted our rooms to provide tech-enabled co-working and private spaces in innovative formats.”

Hyatt Hotels is exploring the use of audio-visual technology for hybrid meeting options—on-property and from a remote location—for events. The St Regis Mumbai has converted rooms, suites and apartments into office spaces. “The advantage with apartments is that there is a kitchenette, which is very convenient for a workspace,” says Dumbell.

The Ritz-Carlton, Pune is collaborating with businesses to offer personalised solutions. The requirement
is for a workspace set-up that is designed keeping in mind social distancing norms and hygienic touchpoints. “Also, mindfully curated health food options, coupled with an unlimited supply of tea/coffee/cookies and High-Tea options have found interest. Secure high-speed internet is a must as critical data on some important projects are being worked upon. In some contingency plans, corporates opt for accommodating their employees at the hotel to reduce the commute time and concentrate
on productivity,” says Mishra.

At The Leela, carefully crafted packages allow guests to focus on their professional work even as they are lodged in luxurious spaces with modern facilities, thoughtful service and the reassurance of safety with Suraksha by The Leela program. “The hotel offers a salubrious place to work, ranging from deluxe
rooms ideal for single travellers, to suites that are apt for families or colleagues,” informs Bhatnagar.

“The package also includes meals, technology support round-the-clock, priority access to business centre facilities, concierge services for delivery to the office, unlimited tea and coffee during the day, and three hours of complimentary meeting room use. Because we care about the wellbeing of our guests we have included an immunity booster drink every morning, a Suraksha by The Leela care kit and a contactless yoga/meditation session. Additional benefits include special rates for laundry, business lunches and dinners, and should our guests wish to bring their spouse, their stay, inclusive of breakfast, is on us.” reveals Bhatnagar.

Roseate Hotels & Resorts’ premium co-working space, Upstage Club, is located within the hotel in Aerocity. The corporate packages give access to the co-working space, which can be transformed from a formal setting during the day to an evening après work soiree if the team desires to party! The Club has two compact meeting halls, a boardroom and a bouquet of small meeting spaces and capsules. Members also get access to Upstage—a 4K cinema and auditorium. “The luxurious club can accommodate more than a 100 guests and will be operational from 9 am to 9 pm every day. All necessary precautions under 'Care by Roseate' have been followed, from contactless hospitality to sanitation of the seating space,” says Kapoor.

Ibis in India has launched alternate office space solutions to cater to the needs of working professionals or organizations, via its Work@ibis programme. “The ready-to-move workspaces offer meeting rooms and workplace lounges with high-speed Internet connectivity, tea, and coffee- making facilities, and F&B service.

The concept has been designed to provide efficient and functional solutions and is aligned with Accor’s
mission of bringing augmented hospitality to life for its customers,” adds Sylvain Laroche, Director of Operations, ibis & ibis Styles. The ibis hotels are primarily using existing space and equipment, except now they follow the sanitisation procedures laid down by Accor’s ALLSAFE Global Cleanliness and Safety Prevention programme, besides Indian government guidelines.

Laroche informs, “Before the pandemic, the demand was shifting from large meeting rooms to public area usage, co-working corners and private meeting rooms. Now, they can be hired every month, complete with personalised solutions and tailor- made packages.”

Sunaina Manerker, General Manager, Grand Mercure Mysore

The interesting part of this story: the Work from Hotel offer isn’t limited to the big cities. Tier II hotels are launching their version of WFH as a means to attract business travellers. Sunaina Manerker, General Manager, Grand Mercure Mysore, says it is a brand new avenue to earn added revenues for her hotel. “Besides a higher bandwidth of speed for WiFi and meeting spaces/workstations, we are adding on ‘relax and unwind’ offers by organising activities such as cocktail and baking sessions for those who want to take a break.”

Cygnett Hotels has established mobile check-in and check-out and QR-coded menus to ensure that guests, who can and do choose the convenience of WFH, do not have to venture out of their rooms often and all the things they may need are handily available. “We have ensured that all forms of technology needed for WFH are on point. We have tweaked the in-room dining menu to include multiple quick bite options that could come in handy when one is on calls all day.”

The idea is to offer corporates comfortable access to provisions they are used to at their workplace, without interference or disturbance, helping them increase productivity. “Corporates find it feasible to leave all the basic stuff like infrastructure and dining in the hands of hotel professionals, who can manage their requirements, anticipate their expressed and unexpressed needs, and create a productive environment,” Mishra says.

The competition is on
As India opens up, the Work from Hotel segment is likely to see stiff competition as hotels compete for a slice of this pie, especially in cities such as Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Gurugram, Delhi and Bengaluru that are already known for their co-working space infrastructure. “While they offer highly competitive commercial options, a hotel’s working space model is an ideal solution. A corporate’s need goes from space for two to three employees for a week, to an entire team of, say, 50 people who may be working on a particular project for at least four to six months, based on delivery timelines. Even adhoc/last-minute executive meetings of the board or senior executives for a day or two are options that are being explored,” says Mishra.

Remote working has been on the cusp of becoming the norm for years. COVID has rapidly accelerated the trend. “Vaccine or not, the traditional work environment will forever be changed, and hotels are well-positioned to support this inherent need,” claims Bhatnagar. “For people who can no longer access their office or don’t feel safe doing so and need a quiet, clean place to work without distractions, hotels provide a perfect environment that is safe, convenient and offers ample flexibility and choice.”

The focus in hotels is on helping corporates host intimate meetings, even as the services are backed by increased use of technology. Bhatnagar contends, “I think the shape and format of events, meetings and conferences have changed forever.

We believe that business travel and conferences will perhaps take a little longer than leisure or individual business travel, but people will adapt and as consumer confidence builds, organically this demand will rise. Corporate is a segment that is critical to our business and cannot be taken lightly.”

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