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In conversation with Daily Hunt, Mr. Sarbendra Sarkar, Founder & MD, Cygnett Hotels And Resorts talks about the impact of COVID on the hospitality sector, the initiatives Cygnett has taken to ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty in this time!

What will be the basis for the recovery of the hospitality industry?

The recovery of the hospitality industry will bank heavily on the sector adapting to the new normal. We need to understand that 1) 'Work From Home'/ remote working options are here to stay 2) Businesses will look to work with localized supply chains/vendors and 3) Every aspect of life (shopping, eating, working,) is going to be digital.  Also, government will continue to lay travel restrictions depending on the situation at hand, until a vaccine is found. 

 Thus, it is vital for the hospitality business to constantly observe the changes and indicators (Government directives, customer sentiments, local situation, etc.) and be prepared with multiple scenarios. Three things I feel will help towards recovery:

  1. Constant and consistent communication with domestic/local target audience.
  2. Data Collection and Analysis: Keep a close look on your target customer's online behavior. This could help you understand where and when to convert a potential booking. 
  3. Ensure your property is 'Guest-ready' with all protocols in place as post this crisis health; hygiene and safety will be top priority across all businesses.

 To build guest loyalty and trust, what initiatives/campaigns have you undertaken?

This pandemic has rendered fear in the hearts of people, crippling them to step out and travel free again. So, our very first strategy is to calm this fear and make our guests as well as staff comfortable. To instill trust and confidence in our customers, we have implemented the following strategies:

  • Deployed an all-inclusive safety program titled, "Health & Safety Assured". This program adheres to all rules/guidelines set by the World Health Organisation as well as the local and central health agencies. We have implemented these across all our properties to ensure a consistent and comfortable experience for all our guests.
  • Launched a campaign titled, "We will travel again". This campaign highlights/communicates the safety measures that we have initiated; emphasizes on our contactless check-in/check-out policy, the QR coded menus and our contactless food experience.
  • Amplified communications efforts by further primping our digital marketing platforms. We are highlighting our messaging via social media platforms; communicating with guests/potential guests personally via personalized calls, emailers and online chat mechanism (website). Additionally, we have now started Whatsapp marketing and reach out to our customers and encourage them to do the same.
  • Implemented social distancing & contactless protocols:

-   Rigorous training on hygiene and sterilization protocols, social distancing for all staff.

-   Contactless check-in & check out via mobile apps to ensure guest safety and comfort.

-   QR code-based menus for a contact-less in-house dining experience.

-   Health and immunity boosting foods in the menus

What are your thoughts on engaging with your customer via social media?

Being a tech savvy brand, we have always believed in the power of digital platforms and Social Media has been an imperative arm of our marketing efforts globally. Especially, in this time, thanks to already being very active across all social media platforms, we were able to effectively communicate and constantly be in touch with our customers.

Social media enables us to express ourselves authentically… directly to our customers, while enabling them to communicate their thoughts/concerns with us.

We as a brand do not believe in counting followers or likes as these can be bought. We are organic in our approach to social media marketing. I can confidently say that the last three properties signed in spite of the pandemic, was because of social media.

In fact, as the saying goes, the 'proof is in the pudding!' I am currently in talks with international players in GCC and Indonesia primarily because of our online reach!

How do you think priorities have changed for a traveller post-COVID?

"Safety, health and hygiene" is the top priority for any traveller that is looking to book a hotel, hence a top trend that is going to be the 'new normal' in the hospitality sector. Keeping this in mind, we have deployed a robust Health and Safety Assured Program that is in line with the guidelines provided by WHO as well as the national and local authorities. This has helped increase customer trust and loyalty and we are slowly seeing repeat customers.

Secondly, contactless interaction and keeping everything digital has helped build bookings too. We have contactless check in/out and have introduced QR coded menus with a good selection of immune boosting cuisines. We have noticed a strong inclination from guests towards ordering our immune boosting dishes.

In tier 2 & 3 cities, our leisure properties are showing improved booking response, especially during the weekends. People are getting out for a staycation.  We are optimistic and are hoping for the best at this point.

Any other future plans?

We are currently looking only at the immediate future. The priority for us as I have mentioned above is the health and safety of our staff, guests and everyone associated with us.

The plan is to emphasize on our marketing campaign and ensure the most convenient, safe and comfortable stay for our guests. We want to get the message out that, "We are a safe haven, we are very particular about our hygiene standards and as a traveller, and you can come stay with us without worrying about basic necessities." 

We have deployed AI and cloud-based platforms across departments to save time and money. Additionally, we have introduced several offers such as a 6-hour package for guests who do not intend to stay overnight and weekend staycation offers, etc. we intend to further improve these offers, be more flexible and accommodate requirements of our customers.


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