Best time to visit Kerala! Hotels’ safety protocols, highest standards of cleanliness set to transform guest experience
Wondering when is the best time to visit Kerala? Move over magical monsoons, Christmas and New Year offer the best climate for travellers to experience Kerala’s scenic splendour! Kerala has always been a perennial favourite for domestic travellers and foreigners. With its emerald green scenic scapes and towering coconut trees, the magical monsoon season of Kerala paves the way for pleasant weather conditions as we head towards Diwali and Christmas.
Most travellers can soak up the vibrant cultural ethos that comes alive across every home as fests, carnivals and decorations transform every corner of the state with a spirit of festivities as people plan their celebrations.
The scent of delicious plum cakes and home made wines transform Kerala into an irresistible culinary destination during Christmas and New Year.
Meanwhile, Kerala’s much talked about Responsible Tourism Mission has garnered global acclaim and won the ‘Highly Commended’ award by World Travel Mart London. The promotion of Kerala’s RT Mission has also been recognized for its innovative ‘Work at Home Videos’ that had been produced and presented by different Mission units in the state during the pandemic.
In conversation with The Financial Express Online’s Swapna Raghu Sanand, Senthil Thangavel, General Manager at Poetree Sarovar Portico, Thekkady talks about why travellers should head to Kerala for Christmas and New Year and how Kerala’s hospitality segment is ramping up to ensure the highest standards of safety protocol to ensure their guest’s well being.
Thangavel adds, “The leisure hotel sector is showing early signs of recovery with occupancy improving M-o-M across most major markets driven by the gradual revival of domestic leisure travel in the country.”
2020 marks an unprecedented year for the hospitality industry. From the point of check in till check out, what are the changes that you are initiating for the safety of your guests? Any new aspects that are being introduced in your hotels which are unique from the perspective of Kerala?
At Poetree Sarovar Portico Thekkady we strictly adhere to all the safety guidelines & preventive measures recommended by WHO and Government health organisations in achieving the highest standards of cleanliness, disinfection and hygiene.
On Arrival: Guests are asked to sanitize their hands and feet with hand sanitiser and sanimat at entrance. Luggages and Car are sanitised through disinfectant sprays.
ROOMS & ROOM KEYS-
· Room keys are disinfected and handed out at Check in.
· Before check in -We use disinfectant detergents & fogging machines to sanitize guest rooms (including mattresses, pillows, carpet, curtains & soft furnishings).
· Staff members will wear masks & gloves before entering the room.
· All room amenities will be sanitised before placing in the room.
· Restaurant layout – each table is at least one meter away from each other.
· Guests will be allowed inside the dining area after using hand sanitizer kept at entrance.
· Dinner plates are placed in plate warmer set at 60°C
· Staff maintains sufficient distance while taking order and service.
· All dining tables, food service areas and bill folders are sanitized before every service.
· Our Servers will wear face mask and clean protective clothing like full sleeve clothes, gloves at all times and ensure hands are sanitised before food pick up and after delivery.
Check-Out- We encourage contactless modes of payment.
We use Diversey disinfectants and Sanitisers in all areas of the resort as recommended by Sarovar corporate office.
What do you see as the top trends for Christmas and New Year in terms of Kerala’s hospitality segment at a time when COVID-19 cases are spiralling and what are the key challenges for the industry? Also, do you expect wedding bookings or event bookings to witness an uptick next year?
The climate in Kerala during Christmas and New Year is simply delightful leading to an influx of international and domestic travellers to explore its natural and cultural sights. With a fall in temperature and humidity levels the days are cool and pleasant and the nights are frosty. This is the best climate to visit Kerala.
This year in particular is going to be very challenging with no international travellers and less traffic from Northern and Western regions of India due to spiralling Covid-19 cases and connecting flights.
The target market will be travellers driving within Kerala and from Karnataka & Tamil Nadu. Normally during this season the prices tend to incline to the higher side but this year the focus will be more to drive occupancy and compromise on rates.
The Indian wedding industry is among the sectors that has been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Going forward the size of the weddings will still be small for some more time but people will go ahead and plan weddings that they had always dreamt of. We will not see a spike next year in large gatherings until the vaccine comes into place.
What constitutes the new normal for Sarovar hotels and guests now and how do you see it moving forward next year?
We ensure the safest stay for our guests. As a Group known for Hospitality straight from the heart, we keep our guest’s well-being & safety at the forefront in these challenging times.
In response to the coronavirus, we have taken measures to make our cleaning and hygiene protocols even more rigorous.
Moving forward next year the Housekeeping department will become a key player in ensuring that stringent room checks are carried out in an effort to ensure maximum levels of hygiene being maintained throughout the hotels.
Sanitisers will not only become available throughout the hotels but will also form an essential part of the housekeeping department. The Purchase and Hygiene department will become essential to ensuring safe receiving of raw materials, as well as quality checks of staff, food products and surfaces.
What are the areas of transformation you foresee for Kerala’s hospitality segment in early 2021?
From switching to digital menus that have been setup to prioritize healthy meals and deployment of non-human devices is the need of the hour.
It’s not just the guest experience that will transform over the next decade, hotels’ internal operations like workforce management, staff support & development, process automation and smart sensors will also see major shifts.
What digital amenities and interventions are you already rolling out at your properties in Kerala?
At Poetree Sarovar Portico Thekkady we have rolled out the below procedures to be tech –savvy.
TOUCH-FREE CHECK-IN-Id proofs and other documents are collected through What’sApp or email prior to arrival
CASH FREE-We offer cash free methods of payments in all areas
MENUS-breakfast, lunch/dinner: Soft copy of menu will be shared with guests by front office through email or WhatsApp at the time of check in.
Welcome Note with Covid Guidelines are sent to guests through WhatsApp.
What else should top hotels in Kerala do beyond health and hygiene to bring their customers back?
Kerala, for instance, has unique areas of strength – be it wellness packages that include Ayurvedic treatments and eco-tourism packages.
· Be visible in all online platforms and easily searchable
· Increase your marketing spend during peak booking seasons
· Enhance you Digital marketing as it plays a vital role
· Target the right audience
· Be flexible with rates and hotel policies
· Improve your social media reviews and ranking
· Shoot video testimonials to promote covid protocols and safety measures
Kerala Tourism should work with other tourism departments to ensure that a tourist travelling from one state to another has a hassle-free experience.