Pushing boundaries and coming up with visionary ways to progress the company comes naturally to Vivek Bhalla. He clearly is in no mood to slow down. There are ambitious expansion plans for the Holiday Inn brand family, with more than 85% of hotels in the pipeline (by the number of hotels).
Plans to bring new brands into the market — Hotel Indigo, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, Voco, Regent Hotels & Resorts — are on the anvil. Explains Bhalla, “While our focus is on the mid-scale segment, we are committed to growing our up-scale brand Crowne Plaza and the luxury brand InterContinental across key markets in the region.”
Bhalla is all set to drive IHG’s expansion in the subcontinent with their portfolio of preferred brands (currently 32 hotels across four brands; Holiday Inn Express, Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and InterContinental Hotels and Resorts) and leveraging the great infrastructure that they already have in place.
He elaborates, “We have made significant progress recently and have signed a deal with SAMHI (in 2017) to rebrand approximately 2,000 rooms in 14 hotels (operating and under construction) within their India hotel portfolio, to Holiday Inn Express hotels. We will be opening 8-10 of these hotels in 2018, which will significantly expand our presence pan-India. As of June 30th, we have 18 operating hotels across the Holiday Inn brand family and a robust line-up of 40 hotels in the next two or three years.”
In a dynamic environment where consumer needs and demands are changing constantly, Bhalla believes in “keeping our finger on the pulse of the industry, the competitive environment and engaging with our customers to understand their needs and consumption patterns.”
People, he avers, are the cornerstone of the hospitality business and he treasures his team and employees. “The hospitality sector is a service industry with people at the core. By enhancing our investments in our people, we ensure that we are the preferred employer of choice and have the right talent who can deliver great guest experiences across our portfolio of brands and hotels.”
No matter how big the business grows, Bhalla never loses focus and adheres to their primary goal of delivering ‘True Hospitality’. He further states, “For IHG, True Hospitality means making everyone feel welcome and cared for, recognised and respected, whoever and wherever they are in the world.”
Bhalla always ensures the group creates new experiences for guests. “We are continuously creating and enhancing tools and processes to enhance guest experiences. We have been working to deploy our new Guest Reservation System (GRS). This new Cloud-based platform is an industry first, and will drive a fundamental shift in how hotel solutions are delivered to users.”
With his feet firmly on the ground, Bhalla acknowledges that maintaining work-life balance is a challenge, but “by not losing focus of the fact that a healthy balance is required for success on both fronts,” he forges ahead.