General Manager, Angsana Resort and Spa, Bengaluru- Ashley James
As COVID lockdown affected the hotel industry, adapting to the new normal became the necessity for hotels. From cloud kitchen to forced renovations, hotels used the time to improve services. This is one story of adapting to the new normal
Ashley started his career with the Oberoi Hotels and then moved to Ista hotels. After that he worked with the Marriott Group in Chennai and Bilaspur before moving to Angsana Resort and Spa, Bengaluru
The lockdown had an impact on entire hotel industry, but Ashley was in a unique position of being an Urban resort set in 9 acres of greenery.
The demand for staycation and workation have increased and the hotel is on the road to recovery.
What you will learn
- How Ashley used the COVID induced downtime to strategize for the future
- Urban Resorts, Staycation and Workation
- Engaging with team and using clarifiedbetter to train their team online
Connect with Ashley
Linkedin: Ashley James
Veena Nair: Hello everybody, welcome to the Clarifiedbetter show. I am Veena Nair, co-founder of Clarifiedbetter.com. This is a site for hoteliers and we will help you train your team, discuss ways to make more revenue and save cost.
Today on our show we have Ashley James. Ashley is the General Manager of Angsana Resort in Bangalore and we are going to talk about his experience with covid and what he is doing in his hotel to increase revenue. So if you are looking at ways to improve revenue in your hotel this show is for you.
Hello Ashley, welcome to the show.
Ashley James: Hi Veena. Nice talking to you.
Veena Nair: Thanks so much for coming and deciding to share your information with us.
Tell me about your story and your journey so far
Ashley James: Well, it goes back a long long time ago, so it’s been over 20 years that I’ve been associated with the hospitality industry and it’s been a very very grateful and a very fruitful journey so far.
I started my career working with the Oberoi hotels. Spent many years with them and on my skills in every aspect of the hotel itself. From there I moved on and joined a company, relatively new it used to be known as the Ista hotel, which is now in the Hyatt hotel, and spent a good amount of time there. Spent a little time with them at the Ananda in the Himalayas, also to understand what the company was all about.
From there I got an opportunity to work with the Marriott hotels. Spent good five and a half years with the Marriott hotels. Worked in places like Chennai, Chhattisgarh Bilaspur and from there I moved back to Bangalore which is home for me and I’m presently at the outskirts of Bangalore, which is more of the extended city what people call it right now.
We are about 25 kilometres from the city and we are an urban resort here. So that’s all about me.
Veena Nair: Okay, that’s quite an experience you have with the industry.So okay tell us more about this industry because after the impact of COVID what strategy do you have in place to improve revenue.
Ashley James: We were all taken by shock with this entire lockdown, and it got us to start thinking a lot more, and a lot more in terms of the ways we need to really… how we need to adapt ourselves to the current situation and find the ways and means of looking at opportunities to do business.
So we firstly what we did was we ensured that we created a very safe environment for our guests as well as our staff here at the resort itself, so we took our time with ensuring that we follow all Covid protocols and put them all in place to ensure safety for everyone.
Post that once we were confident that we moved onto the next thing. was looking at opportunities to improve our business itself. We were primarily a resort we hosted a lot of meetings, conferences for the various corporates around in around Bangalore and around, so we were heavily dependent on this segment of the business, but what happened was suddenly this entire segment was non-existent for us.
So we had to start rethinking and reworking our strategies as to how we are really going too… we are really going to look at opportunities for improving and increasing and sustaining ourselves more importantly.
The advantage that we had was, we were resort and we have a lot of open spaces and a lot of greenery and it’s the environment itself is absolutely fresh and clean. So we used this to my advantage and we started focusing on the segments that were really working, in terms of leisure, weddings socials and that was where we really focused on.
We did a lot of, we did a lot of promotions and we started to see business picking up post-July, somewhere in August September we slowly started seeing the increase in business and we sort of saw growth in people wanting to visit places because it was close to four or five months where everybody was confined to their houses.
We are a place that is not too far away from the city like I said we are about 25 kilometres away and for someone who really doesn’t want to travel to a Coorg or Chikmagalur or Kabini we are an ideal place, where you want to spend a day or two here also.
We have a lovely resort area where you can relax and unwind and a very safe place for you. So that’s what we really cashed in on and we really use these points to market ourselves and focus on these particular segments. And we’ve seen people wanting to come back and wanting to use us. So we’ve seen good growth in terms of our leisure business, as well as weddings and socials also. So that’s primarily where we focused on and we still continue to focus on that.
We are still seeing a very slow pickup in terms of the corporate business as such. We are looking at people wanting you to come back and conference with us also… smaller groups and yes so we’re quite positive about the next few months that we have here.
Veena Nair: That’s such a wonderful comeback and then good strategy that you have implemented. Also, you have a very nice wonderful space and also you pitched on that we are safe and you can rest here peacefully and have a good time in our resort. That’s a very nice line and it’s a very good business strategy as well.
Tell me something about your hotel and the urban resort. With more people looking for staycation what are some things you did that our viewers can learn?
Ashley James: See what we’ve done is…. we’ve as I mentioned earlier that we’ve created a very safe environment here for all our guests, and all our staff also. We ensure that we maintain protocols that are…COVID protocols to ensure the safety of all guests also. What we did also was we added we added a lot more activities to our present setup.
We spent the last few months adding activities to engage people while they are here. A lot of outdoor activities as well as indoor activities for people to keep themselves busy. That’s primarily what we’ve done also.
We’ve focused on a lot of workations also and where people could work from the resort itself here and we’ve had a fairly good response on that front also. A lot of personalization in terms of service also was provided to most of our guests to ensure that they are comfortable and they didn’t have any concerns with regard to safety here.
Veena Nair: Okay, that’s very important even while on staycation and as you mentioned on workation, that which you focused on.. now safety is what they are looking for at this moment.
Ashley James: Also what we’ve done is that… we’ve focused a lot on improving our wellness here itself at the resort and we do have our spa. We have an option of international… that is Thai as well as Ayurveda and we thought there was a good opportunity to ensure that we add to this and we’ve added… we’ve focused on improving our entire Ayurveda section and offering a complete wellness program to our guests also here. So that’s what we’ve done also to ensure that we have a lot more people visiting us.
Veena Nair: That’s nice these days spa and all is also a very big challenging section but you also did very good marketing and business with the spa and variety of spa treatments like thai and ayurvedic which I liked a lot.
So tell me other than revenue or on the team front what has been your biggest experience. What step have you taken to engage with them?
Ashley James: During the lockdown itself, we started engaging with our team members itself, initially and we started educating them on the current situation that was prevailing. We focused on engaging people in the resort who were based out of the resort on with regard to training with regard to work also where we looked at everyone contributing in different areas to towards the upkeep and maintenance of the resort also.
We did a lot of activities for our staff during this period itself like I said… mentioned training also we did focus a lot on it and kept them engaged and kept them motivated through this period and it was not too long before we really got back on our foot and started the operations and right now we are all back to working.
And yes continuing to keep everyone engaged during these times itself with lot more activities that help every associate, as well as added new training methods towards helping our entire team itself.
Veena Nair: So that’s a very nice and very important point here that we need to train the team and we make them aware of it as well.
So tell me, Ashley, you recently signed up on the online course library for clarifiedbetter.com what has been your personal experience so far on using it.
Ashley James: Well, I’ve been following Clarifiedbetter for more than a year right now, and I think it’s an excellent platform that has been created especially for the people in this field who really need such online training. As such there’s not too many available presently and clarifiedbetter is a tool that has helped us a lot in terms of understanding operations a lot more in detail from a financial as well an operational perspective also and it’s been very helpful for all of us also. So we have we’re using it quite efficiently as of now.
Veena Nair: Ashley, tell me. What are you working towards in the next few months? Any renovation or refurbishment plans for the hotel?
Ashley James: Yes like I mentioned earlier also we have over the last eight to ten months we’ve spent a lot of time with the maintenance and upkeep of the resort as well as renovating. Our renovation work started about a year and a half ago and we’ve done …we’ve completed most of our areas where we’ve completely renovated areas.
We’ve added areas to the property itself. As I said, we’ve added a lot of activities, that will help engage our guests also. That’s basically what we’ve done. The resort is looking a lot more new and like I said a lot newer and fresher right now with all the work that we’ve completed and done.
Veena Nair: That’s very nice and during this phase, you were able to renovate and do more with space and you have improvised the place as well. It’s a very nice thing.
So well Ashley thank you so much for sharing your information, sharing such valuable information and knowledge. With you having so much knowledge and so much experience in this field. Thank you so much for coming to our show, sharing your experience knowledge and what you did during this time.. this tough time of Covid and then how you overcame such difficult situation and then you just bounced back. The resilience was really amazing so thank you so much for sharing your experience with us.
Ashley James:Thank you, Veena for calling us and it really nice chatting with you.