In conversation with Pascal Gauvin, Managing Director, IMEA, InterContinental Hotel Group.With 37 years in the hospitality sector under his belt, Pascal Gauvin is something of a rockstar. Currently, the Managing Director, India, Middle East and Africa (IMEA), IHG is ranked at number 3 on the Hotelier Power 50 list of most influential hotel professionals in the Middle East. During a recent whirlwind trip to Dhaka, to inaugurate InterContinental Dhaka, which re-establishing operations in the capital, he sat down with <strong>Dhaka <span style="color:red">Tribune</span></strong> to share a few words
IHG has had a historic relationship with Bangladesh, and is now set to re-open what looks to be a gorgeous new luxury hotel on the familiar premises in Minto Road. How are you feeling?
Remembering that this hotel has had a lot of history in Bangladesh, there’s a combination of legacy and excitement which defines the IHG brand, and that’s how we’re feeling. It’s a great recipe for success too; people remember the name, and there are a lot of memories from 1966, but there’s also anticipation for the new hotel, and all the new offerings. That’s what InterContinental as a brand has been.
How has the industry changed in your extensive experience of it?
Oh, there have been massive changes. Technology and time constraints have revolutionized the entire industry. Before, a hotel used to do everything itself, from the cooking to the laundry. Now we focus on our core business and subcontract many of the services to outside specialists better equipped to handle each service, so that we can provide our clients with the experience they want. People now want the experience at all levels, from the arrival at the airport, to the arrival at the hotel to the check-in experience, and the size and quality of the room, and of course, food and beverage. Our clients today want to do in 24 hours what they used to do in one week. We need to be able to work with speed so we can cater to our clients.
What can we look forward to in the new InterContinental Dhaka?
For tourists and businessmen coming to Bangladesh, we are often the point of entry and exit, and we have to make sure that during their stay, we have to take care of them. One of the things we have is our Concierge service, which we’ve been developing over the last ten years. So even before you reach Dhaka, if you’re booking a stay at the InterContinental, you can get in touch via our website, and inform us about your stay and itinerary, and ask for recommendations. We then customize and book sight-seeing tours according to the client’s wishes, and this could be unique, unexplored areas or activities. We’re trying to give the international traveler a genuine experience of local flavor, curate by our expert concierge.
InterContinental is a luxury brand, and our entire brand is focused on creating that specific experience for those seeking exactly that. Our clients are either international travellers here for business, or businessmen and dignitaries looking for a luxury environment for conferences and meetings, and our job is to help organize the environment and experience to facilitate the relationship building between the parties.
We also recently launched a state-of-the-art cloud-based express reservation system called Concerto, developed by a company called Amadeus, which allows the hotel to build a database of client profiles, and access preferences based on previous stays at IHG hotels anywhere around the world, and to customize the experiences accordingly. This creates a seamless experience for frequent travelers; it doesn’t matter what city you’re in – if you’re staying at the InterContinental, you are always at home.
What are the particular challenges of the comeback?
We’ve had to re-understand Dhaka, and all the ways in which it has changed, and all the ways the people have changed. We have to understand their new preferences, to study the competitors, of course, and to find a way to shift local clients back to us, in other words, rebuilding that brand loyalty.
What’s in store for us in 2019?
More restaurants, the bar is opening up, and we are anticipating some big events and conferences, so we have the grand [Ruposhi Bangla] ballroom set up. You can look at it and know this will be the place for important events, important signings, and maybe we can make history again.
The InterContinental will also organize its own events, celebrations and special promotions, because that’s what a hotel is about. Yes, we are a landing point for international travelers, but we are also an important piece for the community. We want to develop the local community, provide excellent service. We also want to set up the IHG Academy to provide both academic education and vocational training to develop young talent and provide employment in the hospitality industry.
We also will be working on developing environment-safe practices, so that we’re leading in energy conservation, water conservation, just to be sure that we are leaving the world in a good place for the future generation. We have a program called Green Engage, completely computerized, where we work with our chief engineers from all over the world to collect best practices and help us implement better conservation.