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Is it the beginning of an end for Chandigarh’s Shivalikview?

A go-to place for the city’s elite till 2000, it’s now in the red--its losses mounted from Rs 96 lakh in 2015 to over 2.28 crore in 2016. It’s been all downhill ever since.

punjab Updated: Sep 06, 2018 16:14 IST
Hillary Victor
Hillary Victor
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Hotel Shivalikview,Chandigarh,punjab
Once a bustling hotel that had the who’s who of the city beating a path to its doors, Shivalikview is today fighting for survival.(HT Photo)

Once a jewel in the crown of Chandigarh’s hospitality sector, Hotel Shivalikview in Sector 17 is now a pale shadow of its glorious self. Inaugurated in 1989, it was the No 1 hotel in the region in terms of the number of rooms. A go-to place for the city’s elite till 2000, it’s now in the red--its losses mounted from Rs 96 lakh in 2015 to over 2.28 crore in 2016. It’s been all downhill ever since. The restaurants wear a deserted look, the room occupancy is low, and the upkeep is shoddy at its best.

Jasbir Singh Bir, former MD of Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Development Corporation (CITCO), which runs this hotel, warns, “The day is not very far when Shivalikview will fall off the hospitality radar.”

Bir blamed the present plight of the hotel on “complete mismanagement” by the authorities concerned.

“They failed to implement plans and policies in a time-bound manner.”

His charge rings true, for even though the board of directors framed a new marketing policy based on guests ratings on social media platforms in June last year, it is yet to be implemented. The control over rates and discounts has also not been given to the sales team yet.

Poor finances

The latest performance report presented before the Board of Directors of CITCO on September 4 paints the hotel red on all fronts. Its total sales have fallen from Rs 7.17 core in the period between April and July 2017 to Rs 6.76 crore in the corresponding period this year.

The room revenue has slipped from Rs 3.30 crore to Rs 3.15 crore, while the income from food and beverages has gone down from Rs 3.07 crore to Rs 2.93 crore. The three banquet halls have also been performing rather indifferently, with their revenue decreasing from Rs 1.20 crore to Rs 1.13 crore.

But surprisingly, there is no corresponding dip in the staff strength. The hotel continues to enjoy a high ratio of staff to the number of rooms, which reflects in its salary to sales percentage of 54% against the standard 22% in the hospitality industry.

Discount culture

The beginning of this hotel’s fall can be traced to 2005, when competition poured in from the private sector with leading hotel chains such as the Taj-GVK coming up a stone’s throw away in Sector 17 itself. Instead of rising to the challenge, Shivalikview quietly crumbled. Successful hoteliers of the city blame it on poor administration.

“Hospitality is a very passion-oriented industry and cannot be run by systems. It has to have an involvement, which should be highly committed and individual. Industry cannot run when heads keep changing. Also, the standard operating procedures must be followed for its growth,” remarked Manmohan Singh, chairman of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Chandigarh, who has been running Aroma successfully for several decades now.

Many feel bureaucrats are part of the problem. It’s only too well known that CITCO is very indulgent when it comes to doling out discounts to UT, Punjab and Haryana government officials. In January this year, it even proposed a privilege card providing 30% discount to bureaucrats, judges and other senior officers of the city.

Around 100 former members of CITCO’s board of directors continue to enjoy 40% discount on food, beverages and room rent at its hotels — Mountview, Shivalikview and Parkview — since 1995.

“Most bureaucrats consider both Shivalikview and Mountview part of their personal fiefdom, and contribute to its losses,” remarked an old-timer.

The hotel boom

CITCO hotels, which thrived in the monopolistic environment that existed before liberalisation, could not withstand competition from the private sector at the turn of this century. The tricity has seen a big boom in the hospitality sector over the past decade. The opening of the Chandigarh international airport and the conversion of the industrial area into a commercial space has only added to the number of new hotels openings their doors here.

trivago,in, a popular online hotel booking site, puts the number of such hotels at a whopping 976, while Agoda.com offers 534 vacation rentals and hotels in the city. Goibibo is more conservative with its estimate of 357 hotels in and around the City Beautiful.

Unfortunately, the bureaucracy-led corporation had no vision for promoting Shivalikview, which enjoys a great locational advantage, placed as it is in the heart of the city with most tourist places at a walking distance.

Good things gone

Old-timers still remember the enchanting Chinese restaurant ‘Yangtse’ serving choicest delicacies on the rooftop of six-storied hotel, which offered a picturesque view of the city against the backdrop of the Shivalik hills . But it was closed down around seven years back. Le-Pâtisserie, the popular round-the-clock coffee shop also bid goodbye around eight years ago.

Even its Indian restaurant called ‘Bazm’ , known for its Mughlai food and live music, gradually faded with time. Today it has been merged with the coffee shop, but it fails to attract many walk-ins in a city that sees new restaurants every month.

Not very long ago, the hotel had a thriving shopping arcade with 27 shops, which was a big hit with both in-house guests and Chandigarhians due to its specialty shops selling artifacts et al. But these shops were demolished during the tenure of then managing director DK Tewari in 2010, and smaller banquets halls were constructed without any market analysis.

The shops were not only popular with people but also gave CITCO a fixed revenue of 1.50 crore a year. The banquet halls failed to match this number.

Around eight years ago, CITCO decided to start a night club here to counter the competition. A sum of 20 lakh was spent on renovation and new infrastructure, but thanks to the bureaucratic delays, it is yet see light of the day.

The controversies

As if competition and poor decision-making wasn’t bad enough, the hotel was jinxed by some mishappenings. In December 2004, a woman in her mid-30s was found murdered in the bathtub of Room No. 402. Last month, the UT police busted a high-profile gambling racket at the hotel .

A team led by Chandigarh deputy superintendent of police (DSP, central) Krishan Kumar raided the hotel premises and caught 27 people taking part in illegal betting in Room No 401 on the fourth floor.

Needless to say, the presence of cops and the media reports in both the cases did little to burnish the image of the hotel.

Reasons for the decline

* Bureaucrats at the helm with no knowledge of hotel management

* Lack of continuity at the decision-making level

* Failure to counter the explosion of private players

* Failed to adopt innovative products and services like night club, 24X7 coffee shop and specialty restaurants

* Inability to cash in on its vintage, location and goodwill

* Lack of a professional staff

Back to the beginning

The site where the hotels stands today was earlier planned for Janta hotel with its superstructure in place. But the hotel finally fell into the lap of CITCO during the tenure of former MD TC Gupta, who finally gave shape to Shivalikview.

Inaugurated on December 31, 1989 by then Chandigarh Adviser, Ashok Pradhan, the hotel has 100 rooms, three banquet halls, a restaurant-cum-coffee shop, a gym and spa . There was no hotel at that time in city and even Hotel Mountview had only 33 rooms. Most five-star hotels in the city came up only after 2004.

First Published: Sep 06, 2018 12:14 IST