Varun Talwar is a creative innovative thinker who craves challenges and is not afraid to work outside his comfort zone. He has a long history of working in the hospitality sector. He has worked with renowned hotels including the Park Hotels, Radisson Blu, New Delhi and Hyatt Regency, Kathmandu.
He tells Nepal Live Today about the company’s expansion plans, factors that are aiding the recovery of the hospitality sector, and more. Excerpts:
How has Nepal’s hotel sector been doing since the pandemic?
While 2020 was the year of welcoming the maximum number of tourists to Nepal from across the world, the entire tourism industry was hit by the pandemic. There was indeed a standstill in hotels as the entire world had closed its doors. The industry has been challenged in the recent past but at the same time, its resilience is what has kept it afloat.
Needless to say, the hospitality industry is among the worst hit by the pandemic. In your opinion, what factors can drive the growth and recovery of the hospitality sector?
In my opinion, the action plan of the industry would be in three stages. To Survive, Revive and Thrive. We have survived the pandemic and are currently in the revival phase where we see most countries opening up for tourism. The current arrivals of tourists in Nepal have reached almost 40 percent of pre-pandemic levels which is a very healthy sign. Going forward, this would only increase month-on-month. The recent announcement of operating the Airport 24hrs would aid this process as the coming months look extremely positive.
I feel that all stakeholders within the hospitality sector would need to support each other to get to the THRIVE phase which is when we see the best of what the industry has to offer. To look at the bright side, the pandemic has offered us an opportunity to hit the reset button and make the sector more sustainable for economic growth and development.
Nepal has now accelerated efforts to revive the tourism sector. Do you see the signs of recovery of business hotels?
There has definitely been an improvement in and recovery of the business. We launched the hotel in the month of November and have been faring extremely well. Travelers had been restrained from travel for long enough and with the travel sectors opening, there has been an upsurge in short vacations and business travels. We have also seen an upward swing in the number of guests coming into Nepal for trekking and adventure. In a way, domestic and international leisure travel has already set the tone and will only increase in the days to come.
What is the current status of occupancy?
Occupancies in hotels in the valley are almost at 60 percent of pre-pandemic numbers and this number is only going to increase. The occupancies in the event spaces have been excellent and there are times we have to refuse business owing to the unavailability of areas. The footfall in the restaurants is above and beyond pre-pandemic levels.
What are the primary concerns of global tourists in terms of health? And how does our hospitality sector assure that their concerns are addressed?
The primary concerns for global tourists are safety and hygiene. The driving purpose of the Hyatt brand is to “care for our people so that that can be their best”. That extends not only to the employees but to all guests alike. Keeping this in mind, the hotel exhibits its commitment to cleanliness and hygiene through its Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) accreditation and adherence to WHO and local laws to instill confidence in the brand.
Let’s talk about the brand you are affiliated with. You are currently working as the General Manager of Hyatt Place Kathmandu. How do you introduce Hyatt Place?
The brand has been designed to cater to “smart self-reliants”. They are ambitious professionals who are constantly trying to balance the demands of work and life while on the road. They’re a practical bunch of people. They need a place where they can be productive, they appreciate when their loyalty is recognized and they love getting the most value for their money.
‘Hyatt Place Kathmandu will cater to a diverse section of travelers including the leisure, adventure seekers, religious travelers, business travelers and families with kids.’
And even though they’re traveling for work, they are most comfortable in a laid-back and casual environment where they can be themselves. Hyatt Place Kathmandu will cater to a diverse section of travelers including the leisure, adventure seekers, religious travelers, business travelers and families with kids.
What are the major specialties of Hyatt Place?
I want to highlight some of the key features of our hotel. We are a 153-room Five Star Hotel with three suites, seven rooms with sit-out terraces and view rooms that face the Swayambhunath Stupa, the holiest Buddhist stupa in Nepal.
The Food and Beverage offering has been made keeping the local palette in mind with Nepali and Indian cuisine at the heart followed by South Eastern delicacies and all-time favorites like Italian and Mediterranean. The hotel will also concentrate on consistency in quality, taste and freshness delivered at the Zing World of Flavors through its interactive show kitchen.
Likewise, the Bar and Zing Sky Bar and Lounge will deliver specially curated beverage mixes besides the straight drinks conjured up by our experienced bartenders.
The hotel also includes 500 square meters of flexible event spaces which can be broken up into multiple smaller venues with natural light that can cater to an array of requirements ranging from corporate networking events to intimate social occasions. The menus for all events are customized as per the guest palette rather than offering run-of-the-mill menus.
The hotel does not compromise on the part of customer service. We have 24-hours Room Service. And the hotel also includes a swimming pool, jacuzzi, and a kids’ pool.