Sinead O’ Reilly-Henell
Hyatt Regency Kathmandu
Hyatt Regency Kathmandu recently won the ‘Nepal Leading Hotel 2016’ award at the World Travel Awards held in Vietnam. The five-star hotel has bagged the recognition for the fifth time. It received the same title in 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2013. Opened in 2000, Hyatt Regency Kathmandu, the brand property of US-based multinational hotel chain Hyatt, has been one of the preferred hotel and hospitality destinations among many of the country’s foreign and domestic guests. Sinead O’ Reilly-Henell is the General Manager of the hotel with over 17 years of experience in the hospitality sector. New Business Age talked with Henell about the hotel’s recent win, last year’s disruptions and its current journey. Excerpts:
Hyatt Regency has yet again won the 'World Travel Awards'. What factors contributed to this win?
The first contributing factor is the hard work of our employees. Their dedication and passion towards their work have helped us to win the hearts of our guests. It is the high quality of service that made our guestsvote for us as the most preferred hotel in Nepal. It's more about being appreciated by the industry and our strength is that our partners in the industry appreciate our work and services. I think there is a comfort level between us and our guests which helps us connect with them very well. They like to come to Hyatt as they associate us with high quality service and a friendly atmosphere. All of these add up for us to become a preferred brand.
How do you evaluate the journey of Hyatt Regency so far? What reasons are there behind the success of your hotel?
Our success is due to our people and products as we have an amazing hotel sitting in 37 acres of beautiful land in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the capital city. We are very much focused on consistency and delivering great experiences to our guests. We try to maintain our consistency as for us it is very important regardless of what is going on. Even in 2015 when Nepal faced the earthquake and blockade,we as a team strived and worked very hard to maintain the level of consistency and provide optimal quality services to our guests.
What did you do to recover from the effects of last year's earthquake and blockade? Any particular techniques used to ease the difficulties?
We consider ourselves very lucky as we have an amazing team of people to support us. Our entire Hyatt family nationally and internationally supported us in the critical period. Due to the effective strategies and plans, we were able to provide quality services to our guests. The occupancy rate at that time was minimal last year. But we have been successful in increasing our figures from 2015.
How is the business of your hotel at present? How is occupancy?
We have been able to lift occupancy slightly despite the challenging times. The business continues to be challenging not only for us but for all the hotels. I believe that we all are looking and fighting for the same business. The leisure market is not rising and coming up to the quantity that we want to see. Nevertheless, recently Nepal has been listed in the top five best value destinations by the world’s largest travel guide book Lonely Planet. So we are optimistic that the leisure market next year will have a significant rise.
What sets apart Hyatt Regency from other five star hotels in Nepal?
We are located across 37 acres of beautiful landscaped property. When you drive up the hotel’s driveway,you are coming into an oasis where you're away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The guests love coming here because of the experience that we deliver to them from the day they arrive till the day they depart. I think in Hyatt, it all starts with addressing the needs of our own employees and when they are satisfied they care and look after the guests to provide the best hospitality experience.
A lot of people come to Nepal seeking for a blend of culture and adventure. We are located right in front of Boudhanath Stupa which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Our décor reflects a part of the Nepali culture. It gives the guests a sense of Nepal with the touch of the standard international brand of Hyatt.
How can Nepal be effectively branded as a preferred destination so as to spur the hotel industry?
If you look at Nepal as a tourist destination, it is very seasonal and moves from leisure to smaller components of corporate businesses. It is about addressing these businesses in their entities like reaching out to foreigners for what Nepal has to offer. You can go and wake up in the morning and go for a mountain flight and see Everest and come back to have breakfast. This is so unique that we can just bundle it all together and just tailor them to the need of the visitor.
What, in your opinion, is the state of the Nepali hotel industry at present? How are hotels managing the workforce?
In hotels, normally the turnover on a yearly basis will be 55 percent internationally. But in Nepal, generally it is less than five percent. Nevertheless, with the new hotels coming on board, new turnovers may come.
Many hospitality colleges are operating in Kathmandu providing quality education. The hotels are dependent on them to educate and grow new people because in another two to three years there will be a high demand for a trained workforce in the hospitality industry. The overall business has been trending upwards. The hotels seem to be doing better every year except last year due to the earthquake and blockade.
Competition in the hotel sector is likely to intensify as new big hotels are opening in the next couple of years. What are your plans to stay ahead of the competition?
We have an amazing property here and any of the new hotels that come on board cannot have such a large landscape that we have. This will continue to be our unique selling point. But we do agree that it is time for us to look at refurbishing our hotel interior and that is something that we will hopefully be executing next year.
When we say refurbishment it's not that we will be going modern. We want to keep our Nepali look. Itis very important for us and our guests that our Nepali culture is still seen and felt.