‘The Indian market accounts for over 40% of the business to Anantara Kalutara’
Our focus will always be the Indian market and we are quite hopeful of the situation in India improving by July, says Shannon Creado, Regional Director of Business Development-Global Indian Markets, Minor Hotels, in an exclusive interview with Prasenjit Chakraborty.
Q. What is your view about the Indian market against the backdrop of the rapid surge of coronavirus?
A. It is indeed a setback for Indian tourists who were certainly raring to go with revenge travel. We are living in strange times and the future of travel is still rather uncertain amidst this pandemic. Sri Lanka was one of the ideal destinations on the bucket list of many Indians, with its close proximity, pristine landscapes and a host of beautiful and exclusive getaways, like the luxurious Anantara resorts. There is light at the end of the tunnel though, with Sri Lanka’s steady vaccination roll out in place and strict but convenient safety procedures. We are optimistic that the Indian market will bounce back with leisure, MICE and destination wedding opportunities in the near future.
Q. What are the USPs of Anantara Kalutara Resort?
A. Uniquely situated on a peninsula where the Kalu Ganga River meets the Indian Ocean, this Geoffrey Bawa resort offers stunning 360-degree water views of both lagoon and ocean. The resort offers family-oriented recreation including a zip line over the lagoon, rock climbing, archery and excursions to places of interest. The sprawling Anantara Spa at the resort caters to a discerning clientele looking to experience Ayurveda wellness, and a luxurious foot and nail care salon by the Bastien Gonzalez brand providing world-class treatments. We are also fully compliant and sanitised according to the World Health Organization regulations and local government guidelines.
Q. In the new normal, what changes have you witnessed as far as guest behaviour is concerned?
A. Guests are welcoming of safety and hygiene procedures, be it PCR testing once in Sri Lanka, short quarantine times within resorts and in-destination travel restrictions. Both the Anantara resorts follow strict health and safety protocols set by the World Health Organization and the local government across all areas, including dining areas, heart-of-house orientations, recreation and so on. This is the new normal in the hospitality world and will be an expectation in order to make guests feel comfortable and safe.
Q. Which customer segment is currently forms the biggest chunk of your bookings?
A. From the Indian market, the Anantara Kalutara has become a key player in the weddings and MICE segment. With a team that fully understands this market, every celebration is crafted to suit the client’s needs. In the recent past, we have also seen an increase in solo travellers and women’s weekend getaways, owing to our award-winning spa and the numerous recreational activities at the resort itself.
Q. What are the various guidelines that an Indian tourist needs to follow while visiting Sri Lanka in general and Anantara Kalutara Resort in particular?
A. When restrictions are lifted, Indian tourists will need to have a negative PCR test 72 hours before departure and purchase Covid-19 travel insurance, visa and have a valid booking at the resort. Once on the island, the guests will need to use sanitised resort transport or use the services of a certified ‘safe & secure’ transport provider to reach the hotel. Upon arrival at the hotel, the guests will require a fresh PCR test at the resort, as well as additional tests depending on the length of stay. Vaccinated guests may have an easier route but it’s best to check www.srilanka.travel/helloagain/ for the latest requirements which are laid out by Sri Lanka Tourism or contact the Anantara team who would be happy to assist.
Q. What are the alternate revenue-generating ways that you are contemplating since business events are getting cancelled due to the pandemic?
A. In the past few months we focused on the local market, especially targeting the local corporate segment in Sri Lanka for weekend business. The fact that at the moment Indians are not permitted to travel to Sri Lanka is a setback, as the Indian market accounts for over 40% of the business to Anantara Kalutara. However, effective June 1st, Sri Lanka resumed most international flights. In the immediate future, we are banking on the leisure segment from South East Asia to slowly come back. We have also started talking to meeting planners in Singapore and Japan to encourage the corporates to see Sri Lanka as an option for their meeting requirements. Our focus however for Anantara Kalutara will always be the Indian market – we are hopeful of the situation in India improving by July, which will then enable resumption of flights from India. Once we get the leisure segment on track, we are confident the corporate segment would not be far behind. We continue to work with wedding planners in India, on prospecting leads for Q4, 2021 onwards.
Q. What lesson has the pandemic taught to the hospitality industry across the world?
A. The industry was at an all-time high before the pandemic hit and brought it crashing down. These unprecedented times are good reminders about the volatility of the world as a whole, and of course our tourism industry. While we may be globalised and technologically advanced, we cannot afford to ignore nature and understand the importance of keeping everything in balance. This period is also a good reminder to the industry to look within the pristine destinations that hotels operate in, and give back to the environment and community – a philosophy that Anantara as a brand are well known for.