An Eventful Journey

Sharing information with associates openly empowers the associates to be innovative and think out of the box feels Kanika Hasrat, GM Courtyard by Marriott, Gurgaon

What have been some of the important lessons that you have learnt from your experiences.
I have had many great experiences and some wonderful teachers across the years. One thing that has been a mantra across these years has been ‘Learn something new every day‘. Not only does it keep you learning but in turn you learn a lot from your colleagues and friends which could be the doorman, the executive chef or a guest!

When did you take charge as GM of this property? What are the changes that you have initiated?

I took charge of Courtyard by Marriott Gurgaon in August 2012. The hotel has always done very well and has been a market leader in revenue performance. However, the opening of Cyber hub, a popular restaurant hub in Gurgaon gave us an opportunity to think innovatively and we actually decided to close our fine dining Asian restaurant and converted it to a swanky social event destination. This move has been an immense success for us.
Similarly we introduced an outdoor grill restaurant last winter at the hotel’s courtyard – the weather along with delicious food not only helped us garner great guest feedback but also improved revenues. With Marriott’s focus on associates and more recently on associate health, we introduced daily dance classes that help our young associates unwind during the day as well as energise. The hotel also boasts of a recreation zone at the hotel that not only offers board games like Carrom and Ludo but also Table Tennis and outdoor games once a week.

What is the best part of being a general manager?
The best part of being a GM is that your job is never defined. Each day is different from the last. As the GM of the hotel I wear so many different hats during my day – based on each situation. It keeps me engaged, learning and young. Being a GM places me in a position where I am responsible for every associate’s growth and success and for empowering them to be hospitality leaders of tomorrow.

How do you keep the morale of the team running high? How do you motivate them?
“If you take care of your people your people will take care of your customers and your business will take care of itself”. We at Marriott earnestly believe in this mantra. We share all information with associates openly. This empowers our associates to be innovative and think out of the box and discussions are held on an open platform where every associate is given the liberty to speak their mind irrespective of designation. The hotel is a success because everyone works together and everyone is aligned to achieve goals together. We motivate and incentivise associates based on these goals and ‘catch people doing things right’ which boosts self-confidence and motivates them to exceed in their work area. Various opportunities and trainings are also offered to associates for self-development and enhancing their knowledge about the industry.

What are the challenges that you face as the GM?
Finding the right ‘work–life balance’ or knowing when to switch off is the biggest challenge. A day is never completely done as the role demands constant attention. Another challenge is to keep your team continually motivated and engaged to retain them. With so many brands coming up, retaining associates becomes a challenge especially when a lot of effort has gone behind training and developing them.

What are the revenue-enhancing strategies that you have adopted/introduced at the property?
We are concentrating on our banquet spaces and catering, to boost the revenue enhancing strategy of the hotel. Moreover, the rise of social media has given guests the power to be more open about their feedback. Social media has become an integral part of revenue enhancing strategies. The focus is always to revert to the guest feedback and this is an important opportunity for the hotel to win new clientele as well as improve the hotels facilities and services.

What are your favorite areas of the property?
I really love spending time in the lobby because of its lively décor and comforting ambience. Moreover, this is where I meet guests, interact with them and make new acquaintances. These interactions help me continue to explore and implement new, innovative and creative opportunities to anticipate our guests’ ever-changing needs and expectations, aligning our service and product offerings to the different market and cultural segments.

Share some of your guest experiences.

Each hotel day has its share of great, fun and some outright weird incidents. It has its share of stress but also great memories. The JW Marriott in Mumbai is known for being frequented by Bollywood stars. Amitabh Bachchan was a regular guest at the hotel and was going to launch his book ‘To Be or Not to Be – Amitabh Bachchan’ at the hotel. My mother-in-law had her birthday two days after his and I had once mentioned to him what a fan she was. He gave me the first copy of the book signed with love to her and I have been a fan of his ever since!

What has been the turning point in your career?
My move from being the executive housekeeper to front office manager was the turning point for me. It was very uncommon to move departments at that time and this move gave me an opportunity to show case new skills, garner new learnings and gave me the opportunity to really challenge myself and grow.

What according to you is the most important thing for success in the industry?
Enjoy what you do, it is only through passion and a belief in what you do every day that you can get personal satisfaction and in turn help your business to flourish. Apart from this, one should have the aptitude and knowledge of the industry with an ability to think analytically as well as recognise business patterns. You need to be 100% committed to what you do; willingness to serve the guest as well as add in the personal touch should come from within.

What are some of the positive changes in the industry in the last decade or so?
The biggest change in the industry is the focus on technology and its use. Social media presence is a crucial element for every hotel. Online bookings are also now extremely important Customer focus has also changed over the years and complaint resolution and care have to be visible on the social networks too.

What is the worst thing about being a hotelier?
Whilst I love my profession, the hours of work especially over holidays and festivity time does mean that the balance between ‘work-life’ is a strained one.

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