Deepak Kumar is the General Manager – Hilton Mumbai International Airport. He holds a Master’s Degree in Management along with a degree in Hotel Management and Business Administration. He has also undergone a Six Sigma Certification and Strategic Management Certification at IIMA.
Previous to his appointment as General Manager at Hilton Mumbai International Airport, he was the General Manager at Holiday Inn Cochin where he was responsible for the overall strategic, operational and commercial performance. He took over the hotel in March 2018 and for that year, the hotel exceeded its budget in revenue and GOP and finished as 2nd best hotel in terms of guest experience in the region for Holiday Inn brand.
With a career spanning over 20 years, Deepak has been influential in the operations of multiple hotels with various international brands including IHG, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Taj Group of Hotels where he held a number of senior leadership positions, including General Manager, Director of Rooms and Front Office Manager.
With a high drive for results, passion and desire to be the best in whatever assignments he undertook, he has always demonstrated capabilities in driving strong results, bringing change and growth through strong business acumen, innovative revenue and expense strategies, developing talent and fostering owner-operator relationship.
2020 and 2021 were challenging years for the hospitality industry. In your opinion, how will travel trends change in the second half of 2022?
Travel in 2022 will be different. Priorities will be re-defined as there are unique travel sentiments that are emerging. The travel and tourism industry has shown a positive sign of recovery from the effects of the second wave, and more people are looking at 2022 as the year of travel and experience. Based on a strong vaccination drive, travelers who could not travel to their preferred destinations last year are now looking to revive that travel sentiment.
Building the right team is crucial for a property’s success. What are the key skills you look for when hiring new employees?
The hospitality industry has a number of jobs and each one of them vary in their specific requirements and expertise. Both soft skills and technical skills are equally important in an employee. Soft skills include the social expertise, personality and character makeup, communication skills, emotional intelligence, influence and approach to work that an employee shows.
How important is it for a hotel to have a solid gastronomic offering?
Expectations have changed. Guests and consumers are looking for uniqueness. They’re looking for variety. They’re looking for a form of creative tourism. Outside of security and a pleasant night’s sleep, they’re also looking to engage in authentic experiences that deliver localized character which includes the pursuit of unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences.
Was a career in hospitality something you always dreamt of? What is your advice to aspiring hoteliers?
It was in my senior school when I decided to get into hotels and make my career as a hotelier. A good hotelier must possess multiple qualities. Yes, it’s a competitive world out there. Many people believe that being a hotelier is not only a job but a mentality. The mantra to success is clarity of one’s objectives and a passion to drive high performance.
What are some of the new measures your team has put into place to deal with the post-COVID-19 situation?
Hilton has developed a global program introducing a new standard of hotel cleanliness and disinfection. Also, we created a multi-skilled task-force as pool of staff to ensure that dynamics of suddenly busy and lean operations can be managed efficiently.
What would you do if you weren’t a hotelier?
I would have joined the Armed Forces had i not been a hotelier.
When are you happiest? At work, which is your most challenging activity and why?
Having a sense of purpose, feeling valued, the availability of wellness programs, feeling engaged, working in a collaborative environment, having flexibility and being in positive workplace culture. One of the biggest challenges for managers – bridging the distance with effective and timely communication skills. Good managers need to develop advanced listening and speaking skills as they play a huge role in the success of their team.
What makes Hilton Hotels stand out from other brands you’ve worked with?
Hilton has its legacy of most valued and very well recognized hotel brands. Also, Hilton has been a pioneer of many trend setting initiatives in domains like hotel operations, commercial and IT.
You’ve had such a successful career – what would you say has been your career highlight?
The current role of a General Manager at Hilton Mumbai International Airport.
When do you foresee a complete recovery of the hospitality industry business?
There is a three-step process for recovery. It predicts that domestic leisure travel will rebound first. With vaccinations available and people desiring to travel at least domestically, hotels will see an uptick in domestic guests. The second phase will entail small and medium events (i.e., intimate gatherings such as weddings). Lastly, business conferences and events will be the final step to the plan.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Never forget the sacrifices others made on your behalf and never forget to say thank you.