Almost every sector, including food processing, in the country has been affected by the economic slowdown, but the hoteliers at Mahableshwar in Satara district claim that Mahableshwar is a recession proof city with swift growth in hospitality, food & beverage processing, agriculture and tourism. Ramesh Koul, president, Hotel Gautam and secretary of city-based Hoteliers & Restaurant Association, shares his views on food and hotel business in Mahableshwar in an exclusive interview with Food & Beverage News. Excerpts:
Economic crisis has affected every sector and cities across the nation. What's your take the food and hospitality business in Mahableshwar?
In India, recession and financial crisis have affected those cities whose business is directly linked to metro cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi. Mahableshwar is a hill station and a tourist spot for lower middle and upper middle class people. Due to recession many upper class families spend less and prefer Mahableshwar for their vacations rather than Switzerland or Malaysia which also lead to good food and hotel business. Since the last two years the footfalls in Mahableshwar had been increased by 20%.
How many hotels have you in India?
At present, we have 3 luxury hotels in Mahableshwar with 70 keys, the leading revenue generator, in Lonavala (Pune) 53 rooms and in Goa with over 80 rooms that has been badly affected.
What do the hotels in Mahableshwar offer to the visitors?
Despite stiff competition, here we have favourable and affordable prices for the visitors who mostly belong to the lower middle and upper middle class section. We charge around Rs 3,000 per day in off-season, and Rs 4,250 per day in peak season. The tariff includes breakfast and dinner.
In Lonavala and Goa the prices are about Rs 4,000 plus and Rs 12,000, respectively, per day without breakfast and dinner. In the last two years, we registered over 20% growth in our business and footfalls, which also includes A+ (upper) category people.
What is your USP here?
Superlative food & food service is our basic marketing strategy. We at Gautam Resort always look for our target customers to provide personalised services and also seek universally applicable certifications like Ecotel certifications. A hotel has be to well capable to manage solid waste, energy, environment, food and pollution. It took almost three years to achieve this certification. Hotel Gautam is the first to get accredited with Ecotel certifications in Asia.
What kind of food & foodservice you offer?
Gautam Hotel (Mahableshwar) has zero plastic zones, so we avoid packaged food items. We serve only fresh cooked and organic food items to our customers. We don't waste food. Whenever we host any ceremony or celebration and any surplus food remains we distribute that among the poor and orphanage students of the city.
Further, we also offer raw fresh strawberries, strawberry cream, strawberry shrikahnd and strawberry pizzas.
Do you think world class international hotels will be successful in Mahableshwar?
No, it's very tough for them to survive in this tiny market. International hotel brands require at least 60% occupancy throughout the year which is not possible during off-season in Mahableshwar. The paying capacity of tourists also will not suit international brands.
What are your future plans?
We are planning to organise an event and promote our Ecotel certifications. Through this certification we seek to create global impact of Gautam hotels. We are also planning to implement similar management pattern for our Lonavala and Goa hotels and apply for Ecotel certificates there as well.