In convo with Shubham Chandra, Vice President – Hotel Operations of Pullman Bangkok Grande Sukhumvit, Hotel Muse Bangkok – MGallery Collection & Marriott Executive Apartments Townhall 49.
By Shaan Bajaj
Stepping into a 5-star hotel often marks the beginning of a comfortable and indulgent stay, one where every little detail is looked after. From fresh white sheets to a round-the-clock concierge, it is ultimate luxury, through and through. The glamourous appeal of staying at a hotel often exceeds expectations, thanks to the dedicated people who work tirelessly to serve a relaxing holiday on a silver platter. An individual who possesses an intimate understanding of the workings behind the perfect getaway is Shubham Chandra, Vice President – Hotel Operations at Pullman Bangkok Grande Sukhumvit, Hotel Muse Bangkok – MGallery Collection, and the much-anticipated Marriott Executive Apartments Townhall 49.
Coming from humble beginnings In India, Shubham knew he wanted to dip his toes into the pool of hospitality from a young age. Foregoing traditional routes, Shubham tells me, “My initial attraction to the hospitality industry was well-defined spaces, extremely classy restaurants, well-groomed team members, and I was infatuated with the perceived glamour of the industry. However, it demands a lot of hard work and a multi-skilled talent set, and it is one of the toughest industries. I can say this now.” To pursue his dream, Shubham graduated with a diploma in Hotel Management, Nutrition, Catering Technology from IHM Lucknow, before getting his first role at the front office of a hotel in India.
To learn more about the cogs and screws that keep the industry ticking, Shubham shares his insight with Masala, alongside his own experiences.
You have 30 years of experience within the hospitality industry. What has remained the same, and what has changed over the years?
Everything has changed, and that is the only constant. I started working when hotel operations were conducted manually. Technology has changed, simplifying the standard operating procedures (SOPs) of the industry. Businesses started to become more profitable, with more competition and awareness in the market. The tools and systems gave us massive hourly savings, and I believe it will continue to change. Look at the Food & Beverage innovations as an example; decades ago hotels were only concentrating on fine dining restaurants and bars, but now concepts, cuisines, presentation, and hygiene has changed the game. What has remained are the core values of hospitality, delivered with heart and passion.
How has your experience in India shaped and aided your ability to cater towards a Thai Market?
My experience in India was diverse, as I have worked in all regions and hence have experienced varied cultural landscapes. It motivated and encouraged me to get an international experience, and I was always confident of handling that change.
India’s hospitality industry is world-famous for its luxury and warmth, how does it differ from Thailand?
Thai hospitality is deeply rooted in its culture, and known for its warm and friendly nature. People are renowned for their genuine smiles, polite behaviour, and graciousness towards guests. In comparison, Indian hospitality draws from its rich cultural diversity and traditions. Guests are welcomed as revered visitors, and hospitality is characterised by warmth, respect, and a strong emphasis on offering food and refreshments.
Thailand has developed a strong reputation as a major international tourist destination, attracting millions of visitors each year. It has a long history and is relatively mature, with well-established tourism destinations and experienced hoteliers. Its hospitality industry is heavily focused on tourism, offering a wide range of accommodations, from luxury resorts to budget-friendly hotels and guest houses. While India is also a popular tourist destination, it has a more diverse focus in its hospitality industry. It is growing rapidly and is still evolving, with ongoing developments in infrastructure and tourism offerings. In addition to catering to tourists, the hospitality sector in India also serves business travellers, domestic tourists, and a large population of domestic guests. India’s hospitality industry features a mix of luxury hotels, heritage properties, boutique hotels, and budget accommodations.
The majority of your roles have been in sales and marketing. How important is sales and marketing within the hospitality industry?
Sales and marketing is an integral component of a successful hotel business. They drive revenue, establish a hotel’s reputation, foster customer loyalty, and enable a property to stand out in a competitive market. A well executed sales and marketing strategy can significantly influence a hotel’s profitability and long-term success. However, all divisions are equally critical and they work together to make businesses successful.
As the new Vice President of hotel operations at Pullman Bangkok Grande Sukhumvit; Hotel Muse – MGallery Collection; Metropole; and Marriott Executive Apartments Townhall 49, what does your role entail? What are the USPS of each?
The role of a Vice President of Hospitality typically involves overseeing and managing all aspects of hospitality operations within an organisation. This position is common in large hospitality companies, hotel chains, resorts, and other businesses in the hospitality industry. The specific responsibilities can vary depending on the organisation’s size and structure, but some common duties include:
Strategic Planning: this requires developing and implementing strategic plans for the hospitality division to ensure it aligns with the overall goals of the organisation. This may involve setting financial targets, growth objectives, and performance metrics.
Operations Management: overseeing day-to-day operations of various hospitality establishments, such as hotels, restaurants, bars, spas, and event venues; to ensure all properties maintain high standards of service, cleanliness, and customer satisfaction.
Financial Management: managing budgets and financial performance for the hospitality division. Analysing financial data, identifying areas for cost savings, and ensuring profitability.
Staff Management: recruiting, training, and managing a skilled and motivated hospitality team. Ensuring staff members adhere to company policies, deliver excellent service, and maintain a positive work environment.
Guest Experience: focusing on providing exceptional guest experiences. Monitoring customer feedback and implementing improvements based on guest suggestions and complaints.
Marketing and Sales: collaborating with the marketing and sales teams to develop strategies to attract new customers and retain existing ones. Creating promotions, packages, and loyalty programs to enhance revenue.
Quality Control: establishing and enforcing quality control measures to guarantee consistent service and product quality across all properties.
Compliance and Safety: ensuring that all hospitality properties comply with relevant regulations and safety standards.
Vendor and Supplier Management: negotiating contracts with vendors and suppliers to secure cost-effective and reliable services and products.
Innovation and Development: staying updated with industry trends and implementing innovative practices to enhance the organisation’s competitive edge.
Crisis Management: dealing with any crises or emergencies that may arise in the hospitality division, such as natural disasters, accidents, or security issues.
Collaborating with Executives: working closely with the executive team to align the hospitality division’s strategies with the overall business objectives.
In summary, the Vice President of Hospitality plays a critical role in ensuring that the organisation’s hospitality division runs smoothly, delivers exceptional customer experiences, and contributes to the company’s growth and success. It requires a combination of leadership, business acumen, operational expertise, and a strong focus on guest satisfaction. Every hotel in my portfolio is unique and differently positioned; that is the biggest USP of the portfolio and it makes my job very exciting and inspiring.
As you are overlooking the upcoming Marriott Executive Apartments – Townhall 49, how does managing an apartment differ from a hotel?
Enticing guests to stay longer at hotels can be achieved through various strategies that enhance the overall guest experience and offer added value. Based on my experience, here are some techniques to encourage guests to extend their stay:
- Create attractive packages and promotions that provide incentives for longer stays. For example, offer discounted rates for extended bookings, complimentary nights after a certain number of nights, or inclusive meal plans for extended stays.
- Develop and promote unique experiences or activities that guests can enjoy during their extended stay. This might include guided tours, workshops, themed events, or access to exclusive facilities or services.
- Offer personalised services tailored to the guest’s preferences and needs. This could include personalised concierge assistance, customised dining experiences, or special amenities based on the guest’s interests.
- Implement a loyalty programme that rewards guests for staying longer. Provide points or rewards for each night stayed, which guests can redeem for future stays or additional benefits.
- Consider offering amenities specifically designed for long-term guests, such as in-room kitchenettes or fully equipped apartments, laundry facilities, and dedicated workspaces.
- Implement referral programmes that reward guests who refer others to stay at the hotel. This can lead to more bookings and potentially longer stays if friends or family members book together.
By combining these strategies, hotels can create an environment that encourages guests to extend their stays, ultimately leading to increased profits and guest loyalty. The key is to focus on providing exceptional experiences and added value, which make guests want to prolong their stay and recommend the hotel to others.
The hospitality industry has seen a recent push for sustainable properties across all their operations. How has the industry embraced the change, and what can hospitality brands do to ensure a smooth transition?
The industry has increasingly embraced sustainability as a response to growing environmental concerns and consumer demand for eco-friendly practices. Many hotels and resorts have implemented various initiatives and strategies to reduce their environmental impact and promote sustainable practices.
A few best practices are:
- Energy Efficiency: hotels are adopting energy-efficient technologies and practices to reduce their energy consumption. This includes using LED lighting, energy-efficient HVAC systems, motion sensors to control lighting and climate, and incorporating renewable energy sources like solar panels.
- Water Conservation: water is a precious resource, and hotels are taking steps to conserve it. Low-flow faucets, showerheads, and toilets are commonly installed to reduce water usage. Some hotels also implement rainwater harvesting and wastewater recycling systems.
- Waste Management: hotels are implementing comprehensive waste management programmes to reduce, reuse, and recycle waste. They encourage guests and staff to recycle, minimise single-use plastics, and compost organic waste.
- Sustainable Food and Beverage: many hotels are sourcing locally-produced, organic, and sustainable food items for their restaurants. Some establishments grow their own produce or partner with local farmers to promote sustainable agriculture.
- Green Building Design: new hotels are often designed and constructed with sustainability in mind. They incorporate eco-friendly building materials, passive cooling and heating techniques, and green roof installations.
- Eco-friendly Initiatives: hotels are adopting various eco-friendly initiatives, such as offering guests the option to reuse towels and bed linens to reduce water and energy consumption. Some hotels also provide incentives for guests who choose not to have daily room cleaning.
- Certifications: Many hotels pursue third-party certifications, such as LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) or Green Globe, to showcase their commitment to sustainability and demonstrate compliance with recognised environmental standards.
- Community Engagement: hotels are engaging with local communities to support sustainable development and preserve local culture and heritage. They may contribute to community projects, support local businesses, and provide educational programmes on environmental awareness.
- Employee Training: training programmes are conducted to raise awareness among staff about sustainability practices and their role in implementing them. This ensures that the entire workforce is aligned with the hotel’s sustainability goals.
- Transparent Communication: hotels are transparently communicating their sustainability efforts to guests, investors, and the public. This includes sharing sustainability reports, green initiatives, and the progress made toward achieving sustainability targets.
- Carbon Offsetting: some hotels are investing in carbon offsetting programmes to compensate for their carbon footprint. This may involve supporting projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or absorb carbon, such as reforestation initiatives.
- Elimination of Single Use Plastic.