Rahul Rai, Executive Director, Unique Mercantile India, shares his views on the USP and growth of the Renest Hotels & Resorts. Excerpts from the interview:
How has the performance been for you in 2021 and what are your expectations from 2022 in terms of average occupancy, ARRs and RevPar?
The hotel industry has been struggling to manage its statutory and capital expenditure obligations since the pandemic began in March 2020. However, in comparison to 2020, the year 2021 was better for the sector due to the relaxation of the curbs. We have been growing in terms of business and as for the year 2022 is concerned, we expect a 15-20% increase in RevPAR. Things are progressively returning to normal.
What is your current operational profile?
Our USPs lie in offering a magical first-hand experience to our guests. From growing our own organic produce, recycling rainwater, establishing in-house bottling plants, vertical gardens and open skylights, we have incorporated sustainable measures to preserve and protect our environment.
We have hotels and resorts in key locations of temple towns Shirdi and Tirupati, popular hill station Manali, business hubs, Jaipur and Gandhidham, and in wildlife space Bandhavgarh. We are keeping experiential locations, offbeat sites, and corporate venues on our radar in order to deliver the best and most unique experience possible.
Which cities are on the radar and how would you like to fund the expansion?
We are expanding our portfolio in Haridwar and Bangalore. We aim to grow at experiential and offbeat locations as well as at corporate locations. As far as funding is concerned, we are always on the lookout for opportunities, open to varied business models and always scouting for partners because we place a high value on partnerships by establishing a long-term two-way relationship that is committed to delivering strong profits.
Where do you see Renest Hotels & Resorts by 2027?
We are a growing and evolving brand that aspires to be the preferred brand of both our external and internal audiences. Yes, we will undoubtedly expand to other locations across India, but in the long run, we would like to see our brand have an international presence as well. We envision to have over 100 hotels by 2027.
You are mainly focused on religious and leisure destinations. Is there any plan to foray into business destinations as well?
We are not only confined to religious and leisure destinations as we are also located in business destinations like Kolkata and Bangalore, and we are doing pretty well ever since the pandemic led restrictions have been lifted.
What is the contribution of F&B, MICE and weddings segment in your overall business?
Despite pandemic, we have had overall growth as a result of our strategic location and our initiatives. Weddings and MICE, on the other hand, bring in a significant amount of revenue, which was impacted hard when the pandemic broke out. Situation is now getting back to normalcy with the adaptation of the new normal for MICE too.
What is your marketing and promotional plan? How important is digital marketing for you?
Ever since the pandemic happened, all the plans got disrupted. But now that things are gradually coming back to normal, we too want to come back stronger by harnessing new possibilities and utilising new trends. We are working on expanding our digital marketing strategies.
What is the ratio of OTAs V/s travel agents in your overall bookings and how do you see the trend changing?
OTAs are the reality, they give us a significant chunk of business. As per reports, the online travel market is expected to grow 18% in 2022 to $76.7 billion. OTA gross bookings are on track to surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2023. In 2021, OTAs delivered $65.2 in gross bookings, reaching 82% of pre-pandemic levels. So keeping in view the numbers, they will be beneficial for us in the coming years and will help us in revenue growth. On the other hand, travel agents are equally important for our business, we want to leverage them both for a win-win situation. If the trends are to be considered, then the audience majorly is shifting to the online booking but we want to be on both sides as they would benefit us separately in their own ways.