Business in the festive season of 2022 has been better than in 2019, several star hotels in the city say. Compared to the last pre-Covid year, more rooms were booked this time, more orders served at restaurants and more events took place in the banquets.
Hyatt Regency, off EM Bypass, reported “an increase of approximately 20 to 22 per cent (from Puja 2019)” both in terms of occupancy and the rates.
“This year, we saw a lot of people coming back (from other states and countries) after a gap of two-and-a-half years. They lived with their families,” said Kumar Shobhan, general manager at Hyatt Regency. Many Kolkata families spent their entire Puja, October 1 to 5, at the hotel.
“We have had people check in on September 30 and check out on October 8 or 9. During that period, we saw their family members coming to the hotel. They had booked one room and then added on another because they were joined in by family members,” Kumar Shobhan said.
Signs of a turnaround had been emerging since the Covid numbers started waning in the summer. “In April 2022, we started doing business equivalent to 2019. In May, we surpassed 2019. From there on, every month saw very heartening numbers. During the festive season, growth surpassed 2019 on all parameters — room revenue, occupancy, food and beverage,” said Sumeet Suri, general manager of JW Marriott, Kolkata.
During the lockdown, the dark and deserted corridors and banquets, the covered chandeliers and dusty sofas lent a spooky feeling to the hotels. Now, the rooms are occupied again, the banquets are busy and housekeepers are strutting up and down the hallways.
Staycations hit the roof during the festive season. So much so that some hoteliers said it was time for “work” on the prices.
“We are working on the pricing side. The entire market is. In the last two years, we have really sold the hotels at a very cheap price. This is the time to build up the quality and focus back on our luxury segment,” said a senior hotelier.
International travel has not yet reached the pre-Covid level in Kolkata.
Despite that, the growth in room business shows more spending by domestic travellers, some said. The food and beverage segment was one of the winners during the Puja, said several hoteliers. Many hotels had extended hours — lunch ran into early evening and dinner went on through the night.
“We had to serve lunch till 5pm on the Puja days. Dinner went on till 3am. In the food and beverage segment, we have had an approximate growth of 20 to 30 per over 2019,” said JW Marriott’s Suri.
Vijay Shrikent, general manager of Taj Bengal, spoke of a “positive upswing”.
“We saw a positive upswing in the overall business during Durga Puja. The revenues were higher than what we achieved in 2019 over the Durga Puja days. There is a lot of positive sentiment in guests and we did see a good footfall in all our speciality outlets,” he said.
If the bookings are anything to go by, the upcoming wedding season promises to be a bumper one. Most star hotels said they were already sold out for weddings till February.
The pandemic had slammed brakes on recruitment in hotels.
Many hotels had to resort to furloughs of contractual staff and in some cases, permanent employees. Now, when there is an upward swing, the need for more hands is being felt. Recruitments are back in full swing, said hoteliers.
Suborno Bose, founder and chief mentor of IIHM, a hotel management institute, said placements were “the strongest we have seen in a decade”.
“A lot of people left the industry during the pandemic. They were furloughed. Some joined another industry. Now, there is a requirement for people at existing hotels. Many new projects also need more people.... This is a good time to be in hospitality,” said Bose, also president of the Bengal Association of Hotels and Restaurants.