ET HospitalityWorld spoke with Mandeep Lamba, president (South Asia), HVS ANAROCK about the objectives of his company’s HOPE 2023 conference to be held in Goa on March 2-3, this year. This is an excerpt from the interaction.
ET HospitalityWorld: How is the HOPE conference going to be different from other hotel industry conferences in terms of its construct and execution?
Mandeep Lamba: HVS ANAROCK HOPE (Hospitality Overview Presentation & Exchange) is the result of years of discussion and brainstorming on developing a platform that goes beyond the typical content for hospitality conferences, which limits deliberations and often makes them repetitive. HOPE 2023 will bring together not only the top hospitality leaders for differentiated out-of-the-box discussions, but also highly eminent and coveted keynote speakers and presenters from outside the hospitality fraternity who will discuss the latest global technology trends, and India’s rise as an economic powerhouse, including what makes India compelling for the world and engaging facts that will give the conference attendees much broader and interesting insights into the India story.
ETHW: The overall sentiment in the hotel industry is quite positive as the sector had been hitting historic performance levels in the last few quarters. In that context a lot of thing you may have thought of while conceptualising the event would have changed. How do you plan to make the deliberations of the conclave relevant to the industry?
ML: We live in a world that is evolving at a fast pace, with ever changing demand and supply dynamics. HOPE 2023 has been carefully curated to feature panel discussions and keynote presentations that address these changes and deliberate on how the sector should navigate forward.
ETHW: With occupancies across India crossing the 70 percent mark and ADRs and RevPARs showing robust growth, how do you expect the investment sentiments playing out in the new year in the industry?
ML: Yes, the Indian hotel industry is finally witnessing renewed growth and the upcycle, which is clearly underway, is expected to last for the next 4-5 years. Despite a variety of headwinds such as inflationary pressures, recession risk in the US and Europe, and manpower shortage, the Indian hotel industry’s performance outlook remains positive because, unlike previous cycles, supply growth is expected to be slower than demand growth, making this an opportune time to invest in hotels.
ETHW: While overall business sentiments are robust, the cost capital is expected to have an adverse bearing on future investments. How do you look at this and what kind of recommendations do you have to ease the capital constraints affecting the sector?
ML: The cost of capital for the hospitality industry in India is amongst the highest in the world, which along with the short tenure for repayment of debt causes severe stress on hotel owners and operators. Given the cyclical nature of the business, if the hotel enters the market in a down cycle phase, it is almost certain to head towards becoming an NPA as has been evident from the last cyclical downturn. Providing infrastructure status to the Indian hospitality sector, a long-pending request by key stakeholders, can go a long way in attracting fresh investment in the sector.
ETHW: Talent is a major issue before the industry post-Covid. How would you be addressing it at the HOPE conference?
ML: It’s true that the hospitality industry has long struggled with a shortage of trained workforce even though several students emerge from hospitality colleges each year. As per a Ministry of Tourism study, the manpower shortage in 2018 was 2.6 million, and the sector is staring at a deficit of 1.1 million in 2025, posing a significant threat to the sector’s growth. Several factors have contributed to this, and the situation has got worse post the pandemic. Given the importance of this subject, we are curating a panel discussion with industry experts on “The Manpower Conundrum: How will hotels deal with hiring & retaining future talent?” at HOPE 2023. I am truly excited about the agenda and the speaker line-up that we have.