“The playground is going to be equal for everybody now. What we do from now onwards will define what every hotel stands for”
Rajesh Ramdas joined Hyatt Regency Kathmandu in May 2018, and has a hospitality industry career spanning over 20 years across various functions in India and UAE. Prior to Kathmandu, he was General Manager with Hyatt Regency Ludhiana.
Recognised for his pragmatic approach among colleagues and associates, Ramdas is an avid reader, enjoys movies and is often bitten by the travel bug which has taken him to many places.
In an interview with B360’s Avant Shrestha, Rajesh Ramdas talks about Hyatt Regency Kathmandu’s 20 years in business, his role as the General Manager and the future of the hospitality industry in Nepal amidst the pandemic. Excerpts
What has your experience been since you became the General Manager of Hyatt Regency Kathmandu?
This is my second property as General Manager. I’d like to think that every experience is very different but I think this is one experience that I will remember for a very long time. This has always been a premier hotel for many years, be it in the services that we give or the revenues that we make or the awards that we achieve; I believe that this hotel has always been the best in the capital.
But to evolve with time, there are lots of things that need to get done, especially for hotel like this one. My point of interest in coming into this hotel is that there were changes that were going to happen in terms of the physical structure of the hotel. There was a point where we had to make sure that the restaurants had to be renovated and facilities had to be upgraded. So the process of renovating, overturning and upgrading our facilities was an experience in itself. To further explain in terms of renovation; in the last two years, we completed some projects and we were having a good run until the Covid 19 hit and we had to close down.
What would you consider the most important factor in making your tenure here a success?
My primarily role in this job is to manage all the departments and the functioning and to make sure that we can take this operation to the next level. I would like to think that’s the reason why people like us are brought into place.
I believe the most important aspect is the people – colleagues and staff – here in the hotel and our individual willingness to develop. I believe to get people ready for the next 20 odd years or even longer, one needs to be able to make change. One needs to be able to work together and collaborate. This is the most interesting aspects of dealing with people.
I have worked in the industry for many years and personally for me, dealing with guests is never as difficult but to deal with people and to make change happen takes a lot of effort and persistence. So I would consider bringing changes and working with the team well has been the most interesting aspect of my job here. Meeting new guests and forging new alliances and being able to think of new things to bring in the product and new verticals is another aspect to it.
Hyatt Regency Kathmandu is celebrating 20 years, a key milestone at a difficult time. Your thoughts.
Well it is surely a difficult time but my personal outlook is that from this point on, things shall only get better.
During our 20 years of service, the hotel has had the opportunity to host many prominent guests, such as the Indian Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, Late President of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Burmese Politician Aung San Suu Kyi, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon along with other heads of state, royalty and celebrities from around the world.
During its two decades of service, the hotel was recognised with various awards in the international arena, including World Travel Award, TripAdvisor, SATA, Hotels.com, Booking.com, World HRD Congress, MakeMyTrip, Agoda.com and Luxury Travel Guide. And domestically, The Government of Nepal has recognised the hotel with the Highest Tax Payer award for the years 2016-2017.
All in all, I think first and foremost is my recognition of the people who have been working here for the last 20 years. If this place has come up in all its capacity, the sole reason has to be the group of people that have made it happen. Because without the people working in the background, this hotel wouldn’t have been what it is today. They give the life to the structure.
And the guests who over the years have appreciated our property and time and again comeback. As they say Nepal is not destination that you visit just once. I have seen guests come back to Nepal and back to our hotel time and again. I think it is because of the connection we are able to build with the guests and the guests with the place as well. The spirituality aspects and the trekking and the business definitely brings the guests to Nepal but the major aspect that I believe is the people and the connection that they have built with the people here who look after them. I would really like to thank the guests who have chosen to stay and continue to stay with us.
Plus the people of Kathmandu who have always given us that support to carry on. And finally, the owners who always thought that this place is special. Wherever you go there will always be a hotel of structure and magnitude but there is something special about this place and the owners have always supported in keeping it that way.
People have immense resilience in Nepal and I think we will come out only stronger from the current situation.
How are you celebrating the 20 year anniversary?
In terms of celebration, I will not let the cat out of the bag just yet. I will only tell you the things that we want to say as of now. On the occasion of our 20th year anniversary, the hotel is reopening Rox Restaurant on September 25 in its first phase of operation. And to celebrate the 20th anniversary, we are offering a 20% discount on all food and beverages when guests dine in the restaurant until 15th October.
Other than that, we have some internal activities that we will be conducting with our colleagues and few plans for the guests and the stakeholders as well. Furthermore, the hotel has organised a small community awareness event for the children of Child Protection Home to highlight the current situation on the importance of hygiene and sanitation. Lastly, the hotel will also donate a care package comprising of sanitizers, facemasks and vitamin C drinks to the organisation.
Covid 19 has significantly impacted tourism and hospitality and it is speculated that recovery might take years. How do you foresee it for Nepal in the years to come?
We will have to change like never before. We as hotel have been functioning in a certain way for a very long time. For example, if you are a busy hotel, you do not have the time to stop and think, instead you have to continuously work in a particular direction. So when the entire industry and the world is hit by an international pandemic like Covid 19, you have to reassess how you are going to function in the future. Because this effect of the pandemic is tremendous and for us to come back to the same business level where we were before is going to take a very long time.
I feel that this a leveler for the industry; leveler meaning that the playground is going to be equal for everybody. What we do from now onwards will define what every hotel stands for.
For example, if something new and different comes along that is appealing to people and is considered what people want, then we will accommodate to provide such services. Every activity that we undertake will change for sure. That aspect of services is going to change, similarly what value addition we bring in and what experiences we provide will define whether a guest decides to stay with us or any other hotel.
Plus the hygiene and cleanliness aspect are the new luxurious term that everyone is using. I think it comes with confidence for a group like ours. At Hyatt, we have always been a company that stands for quality of service being more important than the number of guests we accommodate.
How have plans and operations changed after the abrupt end of VNY 2020?
I think before 2020 started off, during the 3rd and the 4th quarter of the last year, we were engaging with the VNY campaign. We were engaging with them and we were trying to see how we can be of added value to the whole proposition; not just as one hotel but as an industry as well. We were eager to help increase the number of tourists to Nepal. There were certain activities we were part of as well.
Yes, the virus has been a roadblock for sure, but I guess a destination like Nepal cannot be put down for a long time. What I believe is that when things start to get better and people are allowed to travel again, people would want to go back to those places which they have always cherished provided that they are assured of the level of cleanliness and hygiene.
We are currently planning to restart business at the end of the year or possibly next year. However, one constant aspect is that this virus is very difficult to predict. What I predict last week may not happen now and what I plan for next year might not happen. Of course, you can have a hazy picture of what you would like it to be. But for the time being we will have to look at new markets, new segments as well as new ways of bringing in business.