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TD Conversations: Gaurav Sekhri, Hotel Manager, The Westin Pushkar Resort & Spa

He speaks to us about the impact of the pandemic, his vision for the hotel and how the hospitality industry is changing.

Gaurav Sekhri recently joined as Hotel Manager at The Westin Pushkar Resort and Spa. Having spent over 17 years in the hospitality industry, Gaurav brings with him extensive experience spanning across national and international hotels. Before joining The Westin Pushkar Resort and Spa, Gaurav was working as the General Manager in the Corporate Office of MGM Muthu Hotels in Europe.

Gaurav has done a diploma in Hotel and Tourism Management from the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom. He has been recognised for his efforts and talent with prestigious accolades such as Food & Beverage Manager of the Year 2013 by Hilton Hotels – UK and Ireland.

Gaurav Sekhri, Hotel Manager, The Westin Pushkar Resort & Spa.

We talked to him about his new role. Excerpts from the interview:

Please tell us a little about your career, your stints at various hotels, your personal triumphs….

For more than a decade, I have worked in the hotel industry, perfecting my craft and skills in terms of customer management, financial vantage, and team management. I started my journey with Hilton London Hyde Park in 2006 as a Food and Beverage Assistant and worked my way through the industry ladder with grit and mirth by working as the Food and Beverage Manager for over 12 years in various hotels like Hilton London Green Park, Hilton London Hyde Park, Hilton London Docklands Riverside and as the Director of Operations with Hilton Mumbai International Airport, Hilton Jaipur and Hilton Bengaluru. My last assignment was as the General Manager in the Corporate Office of MGM Muthu Hotels in Europe.

In each of the projects, I have been instrumental in strategising for analytic and business tactics that have led to immense growth for the organisations. But most importantly, I strongly believe in the ethos of hospitality and the traditional belief that guest satisfaction is of utmost prominence.

Where were you during the two lockdowns? What were your toughest challenges running a hotel during the pandemic?

For the first lockdown, I was in India working with Hilton Bengaluru, whereas in the second lockdown period, I was residing in England, Scotland and Portugal, and associated with the hotels there. As known to all, it was certainly a period of tumultuous operations and many difficult decisions for the hospitality industry. During my tenure throughout the lockdowns, as a part of the service industry, we were faced with many unexpected challenges. Any change or uncertainty is always a challenge and how you cope and adapt to the same is what matter the most. The whole hotel industry took up these challenges and continued to service the guests with a warm smile on their face. With key focus shifting towards hygiene and safety amidst the situation, we ensured that the commitment towards maintaining the service standard and proper sanitisation remains the key priority for the whole team.

What is your vision for the hotel – both long-term and short-term?

The vision is to align with the business objectives of the organisation in both the short and long term to ensure success and growth for all. In the short term, currently, I believe that there is yet a lot more we can do in terms of business from families and couples. Therefore, my short-term goal is to position the hotel as the preferred luxury getaway amidst nature for families and couples and curate memorable experiences for them. Thereafter in the long run, my vision for The Westin Pushkar Resort and Spa is to position it as one of the most preferred hotels in terms of destination weddings and leisure guests. I firmly believe that weddings in India are the grandest of the affairs and with our breath-taking vistas and luxury villas, I foresee the hotel becoming one of the stalwarts in terms of luxurious destination weddings.

Positioning the hotel as the preferred luxury getaway for families and couples. Image: Courtesy The Westin Pushkar Resort & Spa.

Westin’s brand focus has always been on wellness, what are your plans to promote that?

The Westin Pushkar Resort and Spa truly believes in wellness and thereby curating experiences for our guest. Thereafter the entire itinerary of the hotel is curated to offer such opportunities of wellness to our guests. First and foremost, Heavenly Beds, which are renowned for their wellness benefits are available in each of our bespoke accommodations of the hotel. We also have a Heavenly Spa that has some of the most mindfully curated experiences aimed at providing a more healing and rejuvenating experience to the guest. We also have multiple other experiences such as Westin Workout and Rejuvenation that are aimed towards the physical and mental wellbeing of our guests while curating moments of unadulterated joy and bonding for the families.

You have worked in both business and leisure hotels. What are the differences and similarities between the two?

Over the years, I was fortunate to be associated with some of the most renowned brands of the hospitality industry across the globe in various locations, each distinct from the other. The Westin Pushkar is my first experience for a luxury leisure resort. According to me, the business and leisure guests for each hotel heavily lies on its location and proximity. For example, a city like London is where we witnessed several corporate guests during weekdays and leisure guests during weekends for families and couples. However, the atmosphere for the same is entirely different when it comes to a luxury resort such as The Westin Pushkar Resort and Spa. These hotels have more of an innate leisure vibe which attracts the ones seeking to escape the bustle of the city life amidst the lap of luxury. The resort also become a preferred choice for a perfect backdrop for grand destination weddings.

Floating breakfast. Image: Courtesy The Westin Pushkar Resort & Spa.

How has the hospitality industry changed as a result of the pandemic? Are there any learnings?

The year 2020 was a challenging year indeed, especially for the travel and hospitality industry. But having said this, we have seen the domineering spirit of the service industry emerging victorious through this long struggle as the panic has slowly given way to determination. The industry has been able to increase its efficiency, productivity and innovate itself in the services as it was led to function through limitations. We have learnt to multitask as a result, and this has introduced us to newer facets and strengths of our personality. The most important learning that has been there for me, personally, through is that I have learnt to accept the unexpected and unpredictable. The last two years have been a journey or rather a change which no one had ever predicted. No matter how difficult the situation is, we will emerge victorious by staying calm and composed.

What advice will you give young hoteliers or to those who have graduated now, given the status of jobs?

With the current generation, who are being faced with such interesting challenges at the very start of their career itself, I am very sure the industry stands to gain some of the more strong-willed and passionate individuals. My advice to young hoteliers in such a scenario is to have patience for the right opportunity and focus on improving their skill set and grooming themselves. It shall be enough to tide them over any such unanticipated hurdles as the industry will be back to normal sooner rather than later.

Gorgeous pool villas. Image: Courtesy The Westin Pushkar Resort & Spa.

What do you love about the hotel? Do you have any personal favourite spot?

The pool villas, which define The Westin Pushkar Resort and Spa accommodations, are my favourite part about the hotel. These one-of-a-kind pool villas are perfect for a rejuvenating break or a weekend getaway. Overlooking dense vistas and the beautiful landscaping of the hotel, they are a sight to behold. The resort also offers recreational activities, specialised experiences, and a range of indoor games for people across all age-groups, including kids. The toy train inside the hotel premises is a delight for children.

My own favourite spot is our al fresco restaurant, Panorama, as it is the perfect spot for me to breathe in the fresh air while I look over the stunning panorama of the hotel. It gives me a much-needed moment to calm down and gather my thoughts.

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