Best known for having set up the first 5-star deluxe hotel in North East and the first on-shore-live Casino, MAYFAIR Hotels & Resorts is synonymous with excellence in hospitality. With the “Stay with us, Stay with nature” mantra, a stay at any of its properties truly brings guests closer to a sense of wellbeing and oneness with nature. It has some of the top luxury hotels in captivating settings like misty hills and mystical mountains, scenic sea and tranquil beaches, and vibrant urban settings across locations in Goa, Gangtok, Darjeeling, Siliguri, Kalimpong, Bhubaneshwar, Rourkela, Puri, and Gopalpur. MAYFAIR Group of Hotels, which had its maiden foray into the hospitality industry in 1982 by way of a small hotel at Rourkela, now has a chain of eleven luxury boutique hotels and resorts.
‘MAYFAIR’ has become synonymous with a brand that promises guests, ultimate luxury, in the lap of nature. Shri Dilip Ray, Chairman, in a free-wheeling chat with Indian Economy & Market, shares his views on COVID-19 induced recession, the rich legacy of the company, and his future plans.
There are disruptions in the entire segment of the economy including hospitality. Your take?
I feel the two sectors that have been hit hardest by this pandemic are the Airlines and Hospitality Industry. The word unprecedented even won’t suffice to convey the kind of shock that the COVID-19 outbreak had induced in our sector. Speaking in terms of RevPAR the value has plummeted 52.8% year-on-year in January to September 2020 period. So far, losses suffered by Indian Hotel Industry (organized and unorganized) would be somewhere around Rs 1 lakh crore and this is huge with no substantial bailout support extended by the government unlike in the other developed countries. However, our Industry is known for its remarkable resilience capacity and this time too we are gradually bouncing back on our feet. Recovery is generally a long process but I am confident that in the next three financial quarters, the Hotel business in India should be back to Pre-Covid levels.
Please tell us about the journey of the company so far?
Ours was a very humble beginning. My tryst with this Industry started in the early 1980s when instead of choosing to lead a well-established family business, I ventured into this segment. MAYFAIR has its genesis in a small dhaba named Tandoor that I had set up in a remote location in Rourkela, where not even basic facilities like streetlights were available. With an initial capital of Rs. 25,000/-, my first day earning was around Rs. 3,200/- which was a significant amount in those days. As the business grew, in 1985 I decided to expand it to a five-room hotel named MAYFAIR. We began by charging Rs 100/- per day for AC Room and there has been no looking back since then.
Today, our brand with 12 picturesque properties has a presence in 10 destinations across five states. Each of our properties has a bit of history, mystery, and legacy and this is what makes us stand out amongst the pack. Like in Rourkela, Bhubaneswar, and Puri, our Group was one of the first brands to come up with star category Properties. In Bhubaneswar, MAYFAIR Lagoon has come a long way to now being recognized as the face of luxury Hospitality of Odisha. Similarly, in Gopalpur, Kalimpong, and Darjeeling we operate heritage properties, the history of which spans over more than 100 years. In Gangtok, MAYFAIR has to its credit establishing the first Five Star Deluxe resort of the North-East. Likewise, in Raipur our brand has established probably Central India’s first exclusive MICE cum Destination Wedding Property, and now in Siliguri, we have come up with India’s first Luxury Boutique Tea Resort and the growth continues.
What is the current status of the Indian hospitality sector?
On-demand and supply front, barring this COVID-19 induced recession; demand has always outpaced the supply during peak seasons. In the Tourism competitiveness index, out of a group of 140 countries, though the overall rank of India is 34 which is good in tourism service Infrastructure our rank stands at 109 and this doesn’t bode well with our aspiration to become a tourism superpower. Infrastructure, particularly in terms of accommodation and connectivity is a big bottleneck. A report by ICRA had pointed out the demand-supply gap in Indian Hotel Industry to be around 5 % i.e., while the demand is set to grow by 9-10% over the next 4-5 years, the supply side will witness a modest growth of 3.6%.
What strategy you are going to adopt after this crisis gets over?
COVID crisis was a one-of-its-kind rare situation and I don’t think any specific strategy related to it is required once a large section of the population is inoculated. However, one positive ramification of this pandemic on our Industry has been that it has reinforced the immense utility of ICT. Right from contactless check-in, check-out to digital menus, technology has been a great savior during these trying times and at MAYFAIR though we have installed the latest technologies in all aspects of our operations, going ahead, learning from this experience we shall invest in further upgrading ourselves with State-of-the-art technologies that improve our efficiency and enhances guest’s experience.
Any expansion plan?
We are coming up with a Five Star Deluxe property in Kolkata by early 2022. Thereafter, we are also actively progressing in our plans to establish a Five Star Deluxe Resort in Satapada, Chilka as well as a Mega Convention Centre with 250 keys in Bhubaneswar which is the emerging sports capital of the country.
What makes Mayfair different from other groups of hotels & resorts?
We make the guests feel special and coupled with our exclusive customized services we believe that no request of a guest is too small. Anticipating guest expectations and going that extra mile to deliver the unexpected service makes MAYFAIR different from other groups of hotels.
You’ve been constantly pushing your own benchmarks. What is the secret behind it?
From an individual perspective, having an inquisitive mindset, the right attitude, ability to evolve and adapt with time, an incessant zeal to progressively be a better version of oneself, and most importantly trying to do things that add value to others life are some of the much-needed traits in anyone’s life for achieving success and thereafter sustaining that success. While in the case of a business, I firmly believe that no business can succeed in the long run unless its employees have a sense of ownership in its success and we do that by empowering them in their respective domains and by recognizing and rewarding their efforts. My guiding principle is that a Happy Staff makes a Happy Guest and a Happy Guest makes for a thriving brand.