Matthew Emptage interviews Niran Chawla
One of Thailand’s largest hotel chains CEO, on a post Covid recovery for hospitality
It’s no secret that the world of hospitality has been turned on its head in Asia, and across the whole world in fact, so we took 5 minutes to have a catch up with Mr Niran Chawla, CEO at B2 Hotels to get his insights on what has been happening, and hear his top tips and advice on getting through a crisis. Is technology the answer? B2 Hotels is one of the largest hotel groups in Thailand, with a strong portfolio of hotels located in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Pattaya. Each hotel is running on Guestline PMS.
Matt Emptage, Guestline - Starting with industry trends, what challenges & opportunities do you foresee in 2020 and going in to 2021, in a Post Covid world and beyond for hoteliers in Asia, especially those in Thailand?
Niran Chawla, B2 - 2020 will be a difficult time for everyone in the hospitality industry and we need to be working together to ensure we manage our way through the crisis and setup our hotels to accelerate when things recover. At B2 hotels, a large percentage of our customers are local travellers. Domestic travel is going to play a key part in the recovery and at B2 we are equipping our hotels to manage this demand.
Matt - Based on your extensive experience in the industry, and having built a successful hotel brand, what advice would you give to a hotelier managing their business through the crisis?
Niran - Manage your costs closely. Don’t slash your room rates; it will not adequately stimulate demand and it will take several years for your ADR to recover.
Use this time to refresh your technology to ensure that you recover faster. Demand will be slow to recover, but if you have the right technology in place you will come out ahead of your competition.
Also, technology providers such as Guestline are offering financial incentives for you to invest now so don’t miss this golden opportunity.
Matt - On the subject of technology, we notice that cloud PMS technology has lower adoption levels in Asia than in the West. Why do you think this is?
Niran - Just as there are good & bad server-based PMS systems, there are good and bad cloud systems. It is a common misconception that selecting a cloud PMS means that you compromise on functionality or security. A strong cloud PMS such as the one selected by B2 hotels is functionally on-par with any server-based system and substantially more secure. Guest data security is of paramount importance which is one of the reasons we chose to partner with Guestline.
Matt - Most guests in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore are from China, who are known for being really tech-savvy. How are hotels keeping up/attracting these guests?
Niran - Hotels are implementing technology into the rooms that interact with the guest; whether that is through the TV, Phone or Tablets. With Guestline’s existing integrations and its open API, we are confident that any new tech coming to the hospitality market can be adopted by our hotels with ease.
Matt - There is this debate in the industry around a one shop solution (PMS, CM, IBE or PMS, C&B and EPoS) vs room diary + interfaces. What is your opinion on this?
Niran - Having one strong, stable and capable partner who can offer you a broad range of services will reduce your cost, decrease complexity and help grow your business faster. We currently use the full PMS, Channel Manager and Booking Engine solution from Guestline which is seamlessly integrated. With one support number, one invoice at the end of the month and knowing that all of systems work perfectly together takes away a lot of stress and allows me to focus on growing our brand.
Matt - What role did technology, especially cloud solutions and channel Management, play in helping B2 to grow to where they are today?
Niran - Centralized reservation and running of the business would not be possible without a Cloud based solution. With 44 Hotels in the B2 portfolio it is imperative to have visibility throughout these properties from one location.
Matt - Do you have any top tips for success or what are the key things you believe hoteliers need to get right, to be successful in Asia?
Niran - Know your market and understand your guest’s requirements. B2 is a boutique budget hotel group so we need to make sure we are catering to those types of guests to help enable us to obtain maximum occupancy and revenue.
Matt - What were your initial requirements /challenges?
Niran - Previously we were using a dated server based property management system. We identified the requirement to move to a Cloud based provider that could help and assist with the ongoing expansion of B2 hotels in the group. Having a Central Reservation system built in was a priority as 70% of our business is done directly.
Matt - Why did you select Guestline over other global and local providers?
Niran - Guestline had previous experience with other large hotel groups. In addition, Guestline has been offering a cloud based solution for the last 15+ years so I was confident that it was the right choice to partner with a company that not only provided a solid robust system, but also increase the value of the B2 group. We required a system that could help futureproof our own and Guestline provided this.
Matt - What’s the secret of our successful on-going collaboration?
Niran - The account management and interaction from the Guestline Team. Guestline’s support is always on hand to help with any queries we have. It is also important to have a local presence which Guestline offer with their International & Local team here in Thailand.
Matt - What role has Guestline played in your success?
Niran - Guestline helped standardize our business operations across all our hotels. Our centralised rate management saves hours and gives us the ability to very easily fluctuate our rates to adopt to an ever-changing market. Adding new properties to our portfolio is straight forward with simple on-boarding and training schedules.
Matt - Do you often log-in remotely/off-site? Do you benefit from accessing a centralized view of all your properties on one screen?
Niran - I could not live without it. I do not spend much time at the hotels but of course I want to know how the hotels are operating. Guestline allows me to access the system and view reports individually or as a group while I am on the move.
Matt - Has it delivered cost savings?
Niran - With the automation of various tasks, paired with its centralised rate management, the cost savings are substantial. I have managed to heavily reduce staff costs as Guestline’s range of products work with us and help automate tasks that used to be time consuming. This then gives us more time to spend with our Guests.
Matt - Do your staff find the systems easy to use?
Niran - The systems are very intuitive and easy to learn. Guestline fully understand hotel operations and build their systems to ensure that all of the things you do most often are only ever a ‘click’ away.
Matt - Are your systems more robust and secure now?
Niran - With our systems now being on the cloud, maintained and secured by Guestline, there is no responsibility on my team to make sure backups are being done, to make sure the latest security updates have been installed. Not only has this increased our data security, it also means that my hotel managers are I can securely access the systems from anywhere in the world.
Matt - How would you describe Guestline to your properties? Or what is the top 3 words that come to your mind when you hear Guestline?
Niran - Professional, Friendly and Dedicated.
Matt - Was deployment quick & easy?
Niran - The project management and implementation team did a fantastic job throughout this project. We managed to switch 44 Hotels within an 18 month period, all while still operating our hotels day-to-day.