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‘The highlight of this year’s HICSA is going to be the culinary carnival’ : Manav Thadani, Founder Chairman, Hotelivate

Asmita Mukherjee | Hyderabad

With a legacy spanning over two decades, The Hospitality Investment Conference South Asia (HICSA) has continually evolved to reflect the shifting landscapes of the hospitality sector. From exploring the burgeoning market potential of South India to shining a spotlight on the often-overlooked domain of Food & Beverage (F&B), this year’s conference promises to be a melting pot of inspiration, ideas, and actionable insights for hospitality professionals across the globe. In a candid interview with Manav Thadani, Founder Chairman, Hotelivate, Asmita Mukherjee delves into the strategic decision behind shifting this esteemed event to Bengaluru, the significance of this year’s theme, “Savouring South Asia: Innovations in Food Tech and Design”, and the key discussions that attendees can anticipate at the19th edition of HICSA 2024.

The theme of this year’s HICSA is “Savouring South Asia: Innovations in Food Tech and Design,” Speaking on this Thadani remarked, “Until our Bengaluru event last year, we had never implemented a specific theme for HICSA. However, in 2023, we introduced AI as the theme, and it resonated strongly with our audience, proving to be a successful and engaging choice. Building on this positive experience, we have decided to focus on F&B as this year’s theme.”

He mentioned that F&B doesn’t get as much attention in hotel conferences and is often just seen as a space for weddings and parties. “Despite this perception, F&B can be a crucial revenue stream, accounting for 30-50% of total revenues for many hotels. With this in mind, we aim to bring F&B into the spotlight, highlighting its significance and potential within the hospitality industry. Therefore we may talk about subjects that are tech and design-related but specific to food and beverage. Or why not talk about using revenue management of restaurants so that we can increase the revenue per person or have a higher turnover of seats. Plus why is it that independent restaurants generally outperform the hotel restaurants. We hope HICSA 2024 will address some of these issues and provide our operational teams with fresh ideas. Our goal is to delve deeper into this often-neglected aspect of hotel operations, showcasing innovative strategies, trends, and best practices that can help hotels optimise their F&B offerings,” he elaborates.

Highlighting the culinary presentations set to unfold at HICSA 2024, Thadani exclaims, “The highlight of this year is going to be the culinary carnival on the first night of the conference which brings to life 7 different restaurants across India, all with different cuisines. Additionally, we are excited to announce a new approach to encourage more operational participation. This change was facilitated by the absence of our annual Hotel Operational Summit India (HOSI). Instead, the prestigious MakeMyTrip GM’s Award, which is typically presented at the summit, will now be awarded during the second day of HICSA. This adjustment allows us to integrate operational excellence more closely into the main conference program, providing greater recognition and visibility for hoteliers’ achievements in the industry.”

In addition to the main theme of F&B, the organisers of HICSA are placing a special emphasis on technology and design. This decision comes from the growing interest and representation of delegates from these particular segments. “We also have given special focus again to technology and design as increasingly we realise that our delegate list is evolving to represent more people from this segment,” explained Thadani.

The lineup of discussions and topics at HICSA this year mirrors the current trends and challenges faced by the hospitality sector. “The conference sees industry stalwarts under one roof and a specially curated agenda which addresses current challenges and opportunities. Apart from F&B, there will be sessions on technology where experts will delve into the latest trends shaping the hospitality industry, such as AI, IoT, and data analytics, and how hotels can leverage these innovations to enhance guest experiences and operational efficiency. Sustainability remains at the forefront and we hope to address that too along with burning issues like the current talent crunch. Real Estate from an investment perspective, franchising and leasing, owning and managing, growth for hotels, and what leaders really think are some topics that will also be covered. To name a few sessions, we will have – “Travel Trends in Asia Pacific”, “Blending Technology with Aviation & Hospitality”, “Beyond the Plate: Restaurant Concepts Creating Magic”, “ Creating and Marketing Experiences”, “Design Aesthetics” and of course, “The Hot Seat”! And this is just an indicative list, there is so much more!”

In the past two years, HICSA has found a new home in Bengaluru, a shift that has proven beneficial in attracting many of the tech companies and brands from South India, as noted by Thadani. While this relocation has been fruitful, organisers are now considering the possibility of branching out to fresh locations. “Mumbai has historically served as the primary location for HICSA, with 15 out of the 18 editions being held in this city. The decision to shift to Delhi in 2015 was made to break the pattern of hosting the event in the same city repeatedly. Consequently, for two years, in 2015 and 2016, HICSA was held in Delhi before returning to Mumbai. The 2021 edition was an aberration, as it was held in Delhi again, owing to Hotelivate being based there. Last year, we moved to Bengaluru for similar reasons and experienced tremendous success, making us anticipate this year to be our largest event yet. Hosting in the south allowed us to attract tech companies and brands from South India.”

Despite recent successful ventures in Bengaluru, Thadani hints at a return to HICSA’s traditional home in Mumbai for its 20th edition in 2025, “Looking ahead, while exploring new locations has its advantages, the essence of HICSA remains deeply connected to Mumbai. Hence, the plan is to return to Mumbai in 2025, reaffirming its position as the traditional home for HICSA,” he said.

While discussing the key takeaways for attendees, Thadani expresses his aspirations for HICSA 2024 to leave a lasting impression on both professional and personal fronts. “I hope attendees at HICSA 2024 will leave with fresh insights and practical ideas they can use in their professional and personal lives. Professionally, they can learn about the latest trends and best practices in hospitality, helping them make better decisions and innovate in their work. They’ll also have the chance to meet new people and build relationships that can benefit their careers.
Personally, I hope attendees will feel inspired by the stories and experiences shared at the conference. I hope they’ll leave with a renewed sense of purpose and motivation to pursue their goals. Overall, I want attendees to feel empowered to make a positive impact in their work and lives, and to be part of a community that is driving positive change in the hospitality industry.”

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