In line with the booming hospitality business, Le Méridien Dhaka – as elsewhere in the world – has gained its business footing within a couple of years with the help of sheer team work that came as a cohesive unit.
Owned by Best Holdings, Le Méridien began its journey in Dhaka in November 2015 with 304 rooms, including 25 suites and six restaurants.
Dhaka Tribune sat with the hotel’s General Manager Ashwani Nayar to get his insight into the hospitality business that is gaining momentum.
With his vast experience in Starwood Hotels & Resorts and various other global hotel brands including the Intercontinental, Park Royal and Holiday Inn worldwide, Nayar took the helm of Le Méridien Dhaka venture, first time serving as a pre-opening general manager.
The seasoned hospitality business expert shed light on various issues in this exclusive interview.
DT: How have you gained so much popularity within a year?
Ashwani Nayar: First of all I would like to give the credit to our entire hard-working team which has come together as a very cohesive unit to gain the popularity. The level of commitment and passion to do something great was at its peak since the beginning and it gave us a good start.
The parent company was initially Starwood, which is now Marriott International that sees Le Méridien Dhaka as a flagship benchmark for the Meridian brand which maintains high quality comparable only to a series of best international standard hotels. We have at least attempted to set a new benchmark here in Bangladesh in terms of services and products in hospitality business. I am proud and so humble to see our efforts that have achieved six international hospitality awards within the first one and a half years of opening the hotel.
Do you think the number of five-star hotels in Bangladesh is still low?
I personally believe that there is still a lot of space to fill in in terms of supply. The situation was a little unbalanced in the past. We have our first five-star deluxe hotel in eight years that means the demands keep growing in all these years as there is no supply.
I think demand and supply should go hand in hand. When we set our foot in hotel business here, we added almost 45% our supplies to the existing ones that again goes a little imbalanced. Going forward I would like to see hotels across all levels, not only five-star and deluxe hotels but also the first-class, three-star and four-star hotels.
What is our position in hospitality industry as a country? Is it the early stage of growth?
In Bangladesh, there are a large number of hotels in the pipeline. I think we are moving forward from the state of development to a very matured stage. As to investment and interest, I can definitely say our company in Sheraton Brand was in this country for so many decades. We are the biggest hospitality company with 5,700 hotels. Our hotel is even today having 100% occupancy. It goes to show as a relatively new player in the market. We are running full house. It just goes to show that the market is leaning very strongly towards becoming very matured and very very strong.
Do you think hotel rooms are too costly in Bangladesh compared with other tourist destination countries?
I think the cost of hotel rooms or cost of any services we are providing are relative to market itself in global comparison, but the main thing one should look at is the market we are getting in. The number of issues that come into play is the price of operations, cost of land, returns from investment required to set up that particular business.
Again demand and supply situation comes up. I think we are measured by where we are, and if you really make a country-to-country comparison, which is not really possible, because the amount of investment varies to open and run a hotel everywhere in the world. I think from Bangladesh’s perspective, we are where we started.
What are the challenges in the hospitality industry in Bangladesh?
I think the biggest challenge which we need to address at this point of time is to overcome hospitality as a business globally. I think the war on hospitality will be fought on talent. Fortunately, for us in Bangladesh I could say people who are in the industry have been very enterprising. Every large section of them will continue even today to work in various parts of the world with various roles.
Now, we have been very strong in tracking the talent back into our country with the opening of Meridian and I think that the proper mix of locally available talent and fresh talent is building the industry jointly. The other area which I
personally believe to address is gender diversity. Even today we discuss gender diversity as a subject which means that there is need to address it.
There are a lot of women moving towards leadership roles but somehow the diversity ratio is still required to be streamlined which means we need to be smart enough to attract more female workers at entry level to be able to retain them through a good growth path in their careers as they are moving to mid-level management and then put them into senior management.
What is your main goal in the hospitality industry?
Our vision is never to be satisfied. I don’t mean it in a negative sort of manner, rather I mean it in a positive manner. My vision on this is our team will always remain hungry. We will always try to reach the top and continue to learn and develop ourselves. Yes, we have 100% occupancy, but tomorrow we will have 70%. Our ultimate goal is to be an aspiring company which people would be inspired to be a part of.