After Hyatt Hotel Corporation acquired Two Roads Hospitality, the hotel - Alila Diwa Goa - has become a part of the Hyatt family. Suveer Sodhi, General Manager, Alila Diwa Goa thinks that his hotel will gain because Hyatt is a hugely popular hospitality brand. In an exclusive interview with The Goan, he also shared his vision for the hotel, which includes revamping its F&B offering and increasing focus on the event business
Q: To begin with, share your thoughts on Alila Diwa Goa becoming a Hyatt Hotel.
Suveer Sodhi: Alila Diwa Goa was a part of a company called Two Roads Hospitality, which has been recently taken over by Hyatt Hotel Corporation. Indeed, the brand Hyatt is more well known than the brand Alila Diwa. So, we expect to benefit from it. Moreover, Hyatt runs a lot of loyalty programs for its loyal clientele around the world. We expect to gain traction because all those guests will now be able to stay at our property through those programs.
Q: Alila Diwa recently completed 10 years in Goa. How has the journey been so far?
SS: Yes, the hotel has a great name in South Goa. The guests relate a lot to its artisanal experience. It has several unique features. For example: Our Infinity Pool, which is a huge swimming pool, overlooks paddy fields. No other hotel in Goa has a bigger pool than this. We’ve won several awards as well.
We were awarded “Best Family Hotel” at the Travel+Leisure India’s Best Awards 2019. We were No. 6 in top resorts in Asia as per Condé Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards – 2018. We are making several interesting changes to the property. We realized that all our guests are well travelled. In line with their expectations, we have upgraded our Goan restaurant called Spice Studio. We have also revamped our bars -- Courtyard Bar and another Edge Bar. Edge Bar is a pool-side bar and popular among our guests and each guest starts his evening by having a drink at the Courtyard Bar.
Q: What are your future plans?
SS: Oh, we are working on a lot of things. Soon, we are going to announce the launch of a new ballroom. It’s going to be more than 15,000 square feet in size. We thought of having a big size ballroom because only 2-3 hotels have huge conferencing facility in Goa. Once those hotels are full, clients don’t get space for events in the State.
In fact, when hotels get charter tourists, they sometimes decline an event for the concern that a large event may disturb their charter guests. That’s why we are focusing on a ballroom, which will have ample capacity. Its indoor seating capacity itself will be of 750 people and if you combine the outdoor, it will have 1,200 seating capacity – one of the largest in Goa.
Then, we have other spaces for events as well. For example: Udeta is a superbly designed event space with a dedicated live kitchen inside so that guests don’t have to go to other restaurants. We also have Diwa Club which is a resort within a resort with 35 rooms, own swimming pool and own in-room dining.
Q: Wedding planners tell us that destination wedding business is moving out of Goa due to issues with getting licenses from the Government. However, you are focusing on weddings. What are your thoughts on it?
SS: I don’t see Goa declining as a wedding destination, although I agree that there are a lot of other alternatives as well. In fact, recently a change was made, which will help this business. Now, if you want to play music in a wedding or any kind of social event, you don’t have to pay special license fees to the music companies for playing their music commercially. As far as government licenses are concerned, the clients partner with local wedding planners to get the wedding done. It is the planners, who get the licenses and they have the expertise to do it.
Q: Alila Diwa Goa is one of the few hotels, which is focusing on wellness. Why is it that Goa failed to be a wellness destination while Kerala has become a huge destination for Ayurveda and other treatments?
SS: We are one of the very few properties in Goa, which has holistic wellness programs that are really popular among our guests. In fact, we have an Ayurvedic doctor with us for five years. It’s true that Kerala has marketed itself consistently as a wellness destination and hence it is famous for that. Goa, on the other hand, has not done so. Having said that, there is no dearth of wellness programs or Ayurvedic programs in Goa either. We do have smaller niche places running such programs in Goa. I think Goa will get word-of-mouth publicity for wellness programs in times to come.
Q: There’s a huge concern that the number of foreign tourists is declining in Goa. How are you dealing with it?
SS: We have seen the number of international tourists going down. The collapse of Thomas Cook happened really close to the season and hence to that extent its adverse impact was inevitable. However, we were not overly reliant on Thomas Cook, as we have British tourists coming from other agents as well. Already, we have seen that the turnout of foreign tourists is a lot better in Jan/Feb than Oct/Nov/Dec.
Q: Since you have extensive experience in F&B. What’s your F&B
vision for the hotel?
SS: We will have a completely refreshed F&B product in two years at our hotel. At Udeta, we will have innovative concepts in the way we will plan lunch and dinner. And, we have a great executive chef as well, which is going to help us in our endeavours.