He speaks to us about the challenges of opening a new hotel during this time, how the hospitality industry has changed due to the pandemic, and his vision for Radisson Blu Resort Dharamshala.
Vikas Sharma, the general manager at Radisson Blu Resort Dharamshala has spent nearly three decades in the hospitality industry. He has contributed to well-known hotel brands such as Taj Hotels and Resorts, IHG, Starwood, Hilton, and Hard Rock Hotels.
Vikas’s core competence lies in successfully launching new properties and managing hotel operations. He has had extensive experience in Food and Beverage, Sales, and Revenue Management.
In his last assignment with Hard Rock Hotels, as General Manager, Vikas successfully launched the first Hard Rock Hotel in India, in Goa, and was involved in the pre-opening planning for the second Hard Rock Hotel in Bengaluru.
He is a Hotel Management graduate from the Institute of Hotel Management Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition, Bangalore, and also holds a Certificate in General Management from IIM Bangalore.
He speaks to us about the challenges of opening a new hotel during this time, how the hospitality industry has changed due to the pandemic, and his vision for Radisson Blu Resort Dharamshala. Excerpts:
TD: Please tell us a little about your career, your stints at various hotels, your personal triumphs…
VS: I started my career as a Hotel Operations Management Trainee at the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai in 1993. Over the past 28 years, I have worked in some of the finest hotels in India and overseas in various managerial roles in food and beverage. My journey as General Manager started in the year 2009 and I have worked with international brands namely, Taj Group of Hotels, Radisson Hotels Group, Starwood Hotels, Hilton Worldwide, and Hard Rock Hotel, Goa. During my career, I have had the privilege of launching some of the finest restaurants and hotels in India. I successfully launched the I’Ching (Chinese specialty restaurant) at the first Radisson Hotel in India at the Radisson Hotel Mahipalpur in New Delhi and many more F&B outlets during my career. I successfully launched some of the finest branded hotels in India namely the Hilton Bangalore Embassy Golf Links, the first Hard Rock Hotel in Goa, India, and now the luxurious Radisson Blu Resort Dharamshala (a unit of Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association).
TD: Where were you during the two lockdowns? What were your toughest challenges running a hotel during the pandemic?
VS: During the first lockdown, I was in Goa with the Hard Rock Hotel and during the second lockdown I was heading pre-opening set up at the Radisson Blu Resort Dharamshala.
The toughest challenge during the lockdown was to keep the team morale high and continuously motivate them in spite of all the uncertainty, evolving owing to the pandemic.
TD: What are some of the challenges of opening a new hotel during this time?
VS: Building an exceptional team from all corners of the country along with overseeing strategies for the overall success of the resort has been the key focus for me. It has been challenging during the pandemic to keep the project site and team members clear of any Covid cases and we have successfully kept the site free of any active cases by implementing and monitoring Covid protocols. With the health and safety of guests and team members as its top priority, Radisson Blu Resort Dharamshala is implementing the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol program. The in-depth cleanliness and disinfection protocols were developed in partnership with SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing, and certification company, and are designed to ensure guest safety and peace of mind from check-in to check-out.
TD: What is your vision for the hotel – both long-term and short-term?
VS: My vision for the hotel in the short term is to establish a superlative luxurious resort experience for our esteemed guests, which would be second to none in India. My long-term vision is to establish Radisson Blu Resort Dharamshala as the finest resort in India.
TD: How has the hospitality industry changed as a result of the pandemic? Are there any learnings?
VS: The hospitality industry has observed a major shift towards digitalisation of services, right from arrival experience, dining experience till departure. The learnings from the pandemic are aplenty, from dynamic decision making with the ever-changing patterns of the pandemic spread to maintaining and monitoring the highest levels of hygiene, cleanliness, and sanitisation for the safety of our valued guests and team members.
TD: What advice will you give young hoteliers or to those who have graduated now, given the status of jobs?
VS: Many people believe that being a hotelier is not only a job but a mentality. Many say that it’s not a profession but a philosophy. My advice would be to identify the core area of specialisation that they would want to pursue a career in, during college. Excel in that particular subject, apart from learning other subjects covered in the curriculum.
TD: What do you love about the hotel? Do you have any personal favourite spot?
VS: My personal favourite spot in the hotel is the sit-out next to the infinity pool which has spectacular views of the Kangra Valley and the iconic Himachal Pradesh Cricket Stadium.