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Sarovar sees 500% growth in revenue from direct bookings

The restaurant at Hotel Pai Viceroy Jayanagar

Pai Hotels scales 700 monthly room nights in direct bookings with Simplotel Hotel E-commerce

The 50-year-old hospitality chain witnessed a couple of properties record a 7x growth in direct bookings.

Most of us do not take the road less traveled. But then you have Sarovar Hotels and Resorts who did, and they became trailblazers in the Indian hospitality industry.

Sarovar operates 96 hotels across 55 destinations worldwide. One of the leading hotel chains in India, Sarovar was founded by Anil Madhok (Executive Chairman) and Ajay Bakaya (Managing Director) nearly a quarter of a century ago. Sarovar Hotels was the first mover in India to adopt the asset-light model, where it manages and services other hotel properties through strategic alliances with other chains.

Sarovar started operations when it took franchises of Park Plaza and Park Inn brands for India. A decade later (circa 2005), Sarovar began promoting its own brands: Portico, Hometel and Premiere. Fast-forward to another decade and the Louvre Hotels Group, one of Europe’s leading hospitality brands, purchased a stake in Sarovar in 2017. Another milestone in this impressive growth story.

Pai Group of Hotels is a family-run business and a hospitality chain with a legacy of over half a century. The business was established by Mr. Jagannath Pai in 1973. Today his sons — Mr. Ajay Pai and Mr. Sujay Pai — manage the chain of eight hotels across Bengaluru, Mysore and Hubli in Karnataka; and Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh.

Mr. Sunil B M is currently the General Manager for the Pai Group of Hotels. Starting his career at Pai Hotels as a front office manager at Hotel Pai Viceroy, Jayanagar, Sunil has risen through the ranks with dedication, grit and hard work over a 18-year period at Pai Group of Hotels. “At Pai Hotels, we have gone through all the highs and lows of hospitality. We have seen levels of zero occupancy during the pandemic to even over 100% occupancy. During the 2008 recession, 90% of our bookings would be cancelled because we didn't have sufficient inventory. We struggled during those two years and then bolstered our sales and marketing team. Today, a couple of our hotels run at 98% occupancy.”

Shatabdi Dutta, General Manager (Marketing) at Sarovar, believes that Simplotel’s USP is its digital marketing service. “Simplotel helped us rank in terms of traffic generation across online channels and drive conversions. We received great technical support from the team, which we lacked earlier. The website design is great and user friendly. We have received positive feedback from guests that the booking journey does not take much time, is hassle free, and most importantly, the mobile site is responsive!”

Pai Hotels onboarded Simplotel Hotel E-commerce (Website Design and Booking Engine) in 2016 as they had a lot of concerns with their brand website, booking engine and customer care. “These issues would take its own sweet time with our previous vendor to get resolved. The thing we love about Simplotel is that all our concerns are addressed and also resolved immediately. Some vendors only provide suggestions. But Simplotel is more like a partner where they also take our feedback, suggest changes and then execute them quickly,” says Sunil.

Currently, Pai Hotels does 30% of its total occupancy through the online channel. “From negligible numbers, Simplotel does 2% of total occupancy in direct bookings through the website for us. This is a phenomenal number. We would like to hit 7% by the next fiscal year,” says Sunil.

Scenic view from Hotel Pai Viceroy Tirupathi

Hotel Pai Viceroy, Jayanagar which would only do about 25 monthly room nights through the website has now scaled 180 room nights after onboarding Simplotel. The case is similar for Hotel Pai Viceroy, Tirupati. Out of the total bookings that both these hotels receive from their online channels, Simplotel contributes to 50% of the online business. “Although the locations play a huge role, there has been a 7x jump for both these properties,” says Sunil.

A room in Hotel Pai Mysore

Sunil says, “If you want a great hotel website, choose Simplotel. I love the look and feel of our brand website and booking engine. Everything is simple and easy. As a result, we have scaled over 700 room nights for the entire chain in a month. Now, the milestone is to hit 1,000 monthly room nights.” Pai Hotels have recently invested in Simplotel Digital Marketing to hit this milestone.

Sunil concludes, “Hospitality is a challenging but rewarding industry. I would advise youngsters that if you wish to meet and learn from different people every day then join hospitality. You learn the values of patience, punctuality and discipline.”

Within a year of onboarding Simplotel, Sarovar had hit over 3x growth in revenue from direct bookings. In another year, this growth doubled to 6x since it went live with Simplotel. “We were able to use Simplotel’s technology to begin promotions and campaigns that gave us a major boost”, says Khan. The average monthly organic traffic also nearly doubled for The Louvre Hotels-backed hospitality chain. However, this was only possible as Sarovar had managed to put their vision into action and achieve the almost impossible in such a short span of time.

On personal learnings from the COVID-19 pandemic, both Khan and Dutta agree that they have learned to live life more passionately and prioritize family. On the professional front, they have learned to think out of the box to jumpstart Sarovar’s operations and forge deeper connections with their partners.

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