‘Aas Paas Tourism’ Helping Hotel Industry to Regain Momentum but Still a Long Way to Go: Nakul Anand, ITC

The Indian Hotel business has re-invented services like never before to regain momentum according to top hotelier Nakul Anand, Executive Director, ITC. “The Hotel business in India is regaining momentum but still a long way from where we left in 2019. The hotel industry in the country has really stood up well by improvising and creating new packages. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization this has been the worst International crisis that tourism has faced since records were ever kept that goes back to the 1950s. Hotel and tourism was the first industry to be affected by corona and would perhaps be the last to recover,” said Nakul Anand, Executive Director, ITC Limited, at a session of Ek Mulakat Visesh organized by Prabha Khaitan Foundation of Kolkata and presented by Shree Cement.

Top Indian hotelier Nakul Anand, ITC, at the Ek Mulakat Visesh session with Ina Puri and Apra Kuchhal

Mr. Anand heads the hospitality, travel and tourism businesses of ITC and has pioneered the concept of “Responsible Luxury” or sustainable excellence in the hotel industry. He was in conversation with Ms. Ina Puri, member of Ehsaas Women of Gurugram, at an online session which was introduced by Ms. Apra Kuchhal of Ehsaas Women of Jaipur.

Ek Mulakat Visesh

We are not seeing much revival on business travel but what we are certainly seeing a revival in what I call revenge travel‘ that is people who have been under lockdown are now wanting to visit hotels for a change with first preference for motorable distances which I call aas paas‘ tourism and we are seeing a lot of this,” said Mr. Anand who has been recognized as the “Corporate Hotelier of the World 2019” by Hotels USA magazine. Mr. Anand is also a recipient of the “Green Hotelier” award instituted by International Hotel & Restaurant Association (IH&RA) – a United Nations recognized industry body.

In the service industry we have something called the moment of truth every time you interact with a guest. These moments of truth have become moments of trust, and trust is the new currency. What gives this trust is cleanliness, hygiene, safety, sanitisation. So what we have to do now is what I call create cleanliness theatres. What used to be done at night can now be done during the day in the presence of guests so that they can see the manner in which food is to be served. We had to give them visible cues to win their trust and re-invent service like we had never done before. So I think after hoteliering was discovered this is the first time such creativity and service designs have been done,” said Anand who joined ITC in 1978 – the second generation in his family to do so.

Nakul Anand, who says, “If you don’t see green, you’ll see red“, has initiated various sustainable initiatives like Responsible Luxury‘ and Food Sherpa‘ programme under which ITC chefs scour their destinations for street or local food and serve them in five-star ambiance as part of their Local Love menu. Mr. Anand believes sustainable practices must be embedded in our business philosophy.

Commenting on ITC Hotels’ prestigious art collection, Anand said, “One of the things we have never taken our eyes off is our credo that was formed in 1975 when the hotels division came what was that nobody gives you India like we do. We give you India in every form, whether it is in the form of cuisine, in the form of culture, in the form of heritage. We have never looked back. Namaste was our logo and it continues to remain so. We have created Indian cuisines which were unknown. We never get into a new cuisine without research. We researched dum pukht, bukhara, these were hidden foods that were taken out; we got into Vedic gastronomy and got the Royal Vega in Kolkata. Similarly art was an important part of our heritage which brings alive the facets of the destination and gives a distinct identity to the hotel where it is located.

Many of the modern concerns that COVID has thrown up actually goes back to what India had five thousand years ago. Today we talk of immunity-boosting food as health is the new wealth. The opportunity Indian food offers into the concerns of tomorrow is phenomenal. Someone rightly said food should be your medicine otherwise medicine will be your food’ and in India truly food has been our medicine and we have enjoyed it by the season what we eat – local, nature and sustainable. I think there is a great future for Indian food,” he said.

The ace hotelier, however, feels that in the hustle and bustle of life there is nothing like being home and a nice home meal or soul food or mama’s food – simple chana. kadi, aloo methi etc.