Varun Babbar is the Rooms Division Manager of Courtyard & Fairfield by Marriott, Bengaluru Outer Ring Road. He holds a hospitality degree from the Institute of Hotel Management, Lucknow. Previous to his appointment, he was associated with Sheraton Grand Bangalore at Brigade Gateway where he was initially responsible for Front Office operations however he later switched to an Executive Housekeeper’s role. During his tenure, he was instrumental in driving room upsell, elevating guest satisfaction scores by over 9 percent and highest score in brand standard audit for the hotel.
With a career spanning over 12 years with leading hospitality companies including Taj Hotels & Resorts, Dusit International and Marriott International, Varun began his journey with Marriott as a Duty Manager at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar and moved through the ranks within the organization. Varun brings with him a wealth of operational experience in rooms division where he has been in leadership role for more than four and a half years now. He has worked in various cities across the country and has been exposed to international assignments in forms of various task force such as Singapore and Maldives.
Currently Varun is working as Rooms Division Manager at Courtyard & Fairfield by Marriott, Bengaluru Outer Ring Road since March 2021 where he has successfully delivered an increase in guest satisfaction scores for over 6 percent in comparison to last year, highest room up-sell in the city and helmed the opening of the new spa at the hotel.
2020 and 2021 were challenging years for the hospitality industry. In your opinion, how will travel trends change in 2022?
I think the last two years have totally changed not only the landscape of hospitality industry but also our outlook towards the ever-changing environment. One of the most obvious new trends in the hospitality industry was the rising demand for domestic travel. While I do see this as being an important trend for some markets in 2022, we must keep in mind that this trend was largely driven by international travel restrictions. As more of the world gets vaccinated and borders start re-opening, I think demand for domestic offers will settle back down to normal or just-above-normal levels.
At work, which is your most challenging activity and why?
As all of us are aware that Covid had forced multiple industries primarily hotels to downsize the manning leading us to the very concept of multi-tasking. Initially bringing in this shift in our team’s mindset was not easy however with the help of multiple training programs for the associates and endorsing cross departmental trainings, we have been able to successfully bring the culture of multi-tasking and inculcate it across most of our team members. Now with business picking up its pace month-on-month, ensuring the team remains positive and motivated can be challenging at times. However, I strongly feel as a leader 2022 will continue to demand of us positivity, focus on our people and greater agility.
How important is it for a hotel to have a solid gastronomic offering?
I feel food is a vital part of any hotel experience which brings a sense of happiness and truly accomplishes a guest stay experience. It helps in curating personalized experiences and with a good variety of culinary experiences at offer, our hotel definitely stands tall in our guest wish list when it comes to food.
Was a career in hospitality something you always dreamt of? What is your advice to aspiring hoteliers?
While growing up, I had thought of multiple career options however working in a 5 star hotel was always something that enticed me more than everything else. Thankfully one of my cousins had graduated from a hotel management college and when I saw him doing well in his life, my decision of pursuing hotel management as a career was cemented. I must have been 16 years old when I finally decided that I will pursue a career in hotels. My advice to aspiring hoteliers would be to work smartly towards your goals. It is a demanding industry which needs passion and pursuit for excellence and while a lot of people usually guide us on working hard but I personally feel an amalgamation of hard work and smart work. Set short terms goals for yourself which will eventually help you materialize your long term vision into reality.
Which cities are your favorites for: 1) food 2) history 3) fashion?
- Food – I was born and brought up in Delhi. Since childhood I was exposed to a variety of fine dine restaurants and all kind of street-foods at the same time. Having lived in multiple cities across the country, I feel Delhi has something for everyone.
- History – Once again, my choice would be Delhi. Delhi has always been the center of power considering India’s modern history which automatically makes it rich in culture. On one side you can see the old side of the city surrounded by Kashmere Gate to Ajmeri Gate, Chandni Chowk, Jama masjid which will take you back to Mughal times and other hand you have sophisticated side of Lutyen’s Delhi which was developed during the British Raj in early 1900’s. There is so much to explore in the city with so much contrasts that one can spend months understanding the rich history left behind by multiple sultanates that ruled Delhi in gone times.
- Fashion – Having lived in Mumbai for a few years, I feel this city is the epicenter of fashion in the country.
What are some of the new measures your team has put into place to deal with the post-COVID-19 situation?
The desire for health and safety is certainly not a fleeting ‘trend’ but it’s fair to say the typical hotel guest is more mindful about it than ever. At the very early stage of Covid-19, Marriott International had designed and implemented ‘Commitment to Clean’ initiative that emphasizes on the safety and well-being of our guests as well as team members. The guidelines have been introduced as smart visual cues, showcased both digitally and via printed collateral at critical touch points across the hotel, to remind our patrons on the significance of social distancing.
Even pre Covid, Marriott Hotels have a Mobile app in place which allows our guests to check-in/check-out, order room service and amenities without face to face contact with the hotel staff. However in response to Covid-19, we have rolled out new features such as QR codes to create a touch less experience across the hotel. Guests can simply scan a code using their mobile phone and avail the hotel facilities and even pay their bill upon check-out or at any point of sale. We can expect to see ourselves continue using digital technology in 2022 and more creative and innovative uses for mobile will be one of the new hotel trends 2022 will bring.
What would you do if you weren’t a hotelier?
I have been a history buff since my school days and I guess I would be a Historian, had it not been my love for hotels.
When are you happiest?
I am happiest when I am travelling. Travelling gives me a sense of freedom and I love exploring new cities/countries. I like to learn about new cultures, history and the fact that every place in the world is so different from another just fascinates me.
What makes Courtyard by Marriott Bengaluru stand out from other brands you’ve worked with?
I think it’s the work culture at the hotel which makes it stand out from rest of the hotels that I have worked in. From the very beginning, the culture of the team has been to deliver service from our hearts and therefore we have successfully positioned the hotel. We have a very young and a passionate team with the culture of leading with a ‘Yes’.
You’ve had such a successful career – what would you say has been your career highlight?
Career highlight for me so far would be my move from a Front Office Manager to an Executive Housekeeper. It helped me change my perspective and see the other side of the coin. Although not an easy one during pandemic but indeed it was an enriching transition.