Anmol Ahluwalia, recently took over as general manager of the Taj Fort Aguada Resort & Spa and the Taj Holiday Village Resort & Spa, Candolim. In the interview with Serilda Coutinho, he talks on various issues ranging from the excitement of handling two properties, tourism outlook for the current season, dynamic pricing followed by the hotel industry, advice to youth looking for a career in the hospitality industry, among others.
Q: What do you feel about your appointment and being in charge of two properties for your company?
I am extremely excited to be back as I have had two different postings at two different times in Goa. I began my career with Taj Fort Aguada in 2005 and to go full circle and come back after 13-14 years is very exciting and also to be given this opportunity to manage both the hotels together at this earlier stage in life. I want to ensure that everyone in this community moves up. In the last couple of years many holiday destinations have sprung up in South East Asia and India and people have started bifurcating moving to Sri Lanka, Ko Samui, Bali and others places. I want to realign the entire strategic objectives of Taj to be able to push the two north Goa properties on the international map along with Goa as a state. My motto is to make Goa the best holiday destination by 2020.
Q: With your wide experience in different hotels, what are your views on Goa tourism?
Over the last two decades Goa has evolved from being a seasonal holiday destination to a year round destination. It has also become popular for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions. Also there is a lot of concentration now on eco-tourism. Goa came into the main framework of hospitality and tourism much before Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Bengal or any other state to that matter. So you have an advantage of starting far sooner and faster. The state is also seen as a peace loving destination in the domestic and international market. It is a budget friendly destination offering very wide range of accommodations ranging from Rs 500 per night to Rs50, 000 per night.
Q: Foreign tourists look less in the current season. Is that a reason for concern?
The demarcation between domestic and international traveler has become extremely diminished .I think today the emphasis is placed on the top line and the bottom line growth. Domestic Indian travelers are also contributing equally high as far as the top line contribution to the revenue is concerned. From the revenue perspective there is no distinction in any guests who comes down to the hotel. International tourists are usually very periodic while planning their stay in Goa while the domestic tourists patronize the state across the year. So I think a lot of guesthouses and resorts have realized that there is immense potential to tap on the Indian travelers. The industry is working towards making Goa a year round tourist destination and that works far better as international travelers would contribute much less during their limited duration stay. We cannot survive on the mere 35-40 percent of revenue generated through foreign tourists.
Q: How has dynamic pricing affected profitability of your hotels and the industry in general?
Dynamic pricing has been there in the system for a very long time with the airline industry following it for years now. They understand the peak load and the off peak load as well as the pockets where the traffic is less and accordingly adjust the pricing. Every hotel company uses dynamic pricing and revenue management principals to be able to enhance their revenue generation. For me what is important is to be able to understand what fits the budget of every person and to be able to customize the fit for every family and every occasion. We understand that there will be pockets that will be non-friendly like during the heavy monsoons. But we want to ensure that we continue with our dynamic pricing to be able to ensure that the resort remains full and the business booms. If you say that there was a flat price for all the 12 months that is not the mantra going forward.
Q: How many employees do the two properties have and what are your facilities for women employees?
Roughly between the two resorts we have around 600 employees and there is huge amount of work to be done for their comfort from proving them with medical facilities, safe working environment to healthy food options. For women employees for example we have a program running on gender diversity ratios within the hotels, leaves for IVF treatment and an adoption policy too. We also have a grocery store for our employees located exactly between the two hotels called ‘amcho posro’ where they can purchase daily necessity items at a subsidized rate . We treat our employees as a part of our family. Our priority is to take the whole ecosystem along with us and ensure everybody grows along with it. Getting a local employee is also an advantage for the hotel as the person understands the values, ethics, culture and language of the place much better. From our senior most Chef Rego to our youngest employee we hired yesterday they mainly consist of Goan employees.
Q: How do you keep yourself updated and connected with the continuous changes taking place in the hospitality industry?
I am a part of Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India and Hotel association of India that gives me an insight of what is happening in the hospitality industry. I also subscribe to International and national travel magazines for a better understanding of the ongoing trends across the globe. Apart from that attending workshops and seminars adds on to your knowledge.
Q: What is your advice to youngsters who enter the hospitality industry and want to become future general managers?
Let your passion not fade with the lookout for money. Instead look out for the right opportunity, placement and guidance to take up something that you are passionate about. Once you get into it with passion built on to your baseline, understand, learn and get yourself educated. Get involved into the nitty-gritty. If your base is solid you can built your castle over it. From the time I started my career as a management trainee I always said to myself, I want to retire as a managing director. So there is a long journey to follow.
Q: What is your view on the local quality of human resource who enter the hotel industry?
The state has a source market feeding the industry and that is very good. Goa has many hotel management colleges and students are given prior specialized training of the various departments that is a good part of it. What the not so good part is, which can be improved is that I think they have to have more industrial connect , have more exposure as far as hotels are concerned by conducting practical sessions in par with the current industrial scenario. Yes there is a huge resource available so we can locally tap these resources instead of looking for employees outside the state.
Q: As part of the Taj Group playing various managerial roles, how have the different roles helped to accomplish your goals?
Only one kind of flower in the bouquet does not look nice so you have to use a lot of fillers to make it look more attractive. Similarly in life unless and until you have multiple roles and positions that you handle you cannot be an all rounder as an hotelier. For me the advantage was since I started from a scratch, I was to be able to build on my experiences into various departments, that has given me at lest the curved edges towards life to understand the various nuances. Sometimes if you do not understand the different roles and responsibilities of even the last person working in the system we will not be able to integrate them. So my journey has given me the ability to understand everybody’s role, responsibility and contribution towards the overall brand picture. While from the managerial aspect the diverse roles have helped me to hone up my skills.
Q: What attracted you to the hospitality industry?
In an Indian household humility and service comes to you at a very early age. I think my hospitality career became an extension of the values that we were taught at home to treat our guests. So for me no hotel has been a hotel. It has been a home to me and an extension of my personal life.