Spotlight on: Vinay Bhardwaj, Keetoo® (The Vimal Group)


Tell us a bit about your role and how it supports the business?

I’d love to be able to boil my role down to a few select areas – but as any founder will tell you, we wear many hats on a daily basis. What I can tell you is that the roles of founder and managing director serve two very different purposes.

Being a founder is all about having an original vision, passion and inspiration; keeping those elements live and weaving them into the fabric of the business through challenging conditions. At the same time, being an MD is about guiding, enabling and encouraging my team to achieve the great things they strive for every day. They continually amaze and inspire me with their dedication, passion and achievements. The business would simply be nowhere without them.

What has been your career highlight to date?

After years of thinking about starting the business, the high point has been actually doing it. I constantly ask myself why I didn’t do it sooner!

If you were not working in this sector, what other industry would you have pursued a career in?

My wife and I work as volunteers for Guide Dogs for The Deaf. Having worked with these amazing dogs for some years and having seen at first hand the spectacular improvements which they bring to people’s lives, I think I would have pursued a career with guide dogs as its focus.

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

As a leader you serve your team, your partners and most importantly your customers.

What are the emerging trends within your sector?

We’ve always been more focused on the domestic market. Of course, due to Covid the trend for staycations has become less of a temporary phenomenon and more of a necessity.  Local, perhaps lesser-known venues have seen some of the biggest rises in visitor numbers during these times of restricted movement, alongside immersive unique experiences.  As well as visible growth in staycations, more functional trends such as digital, cashless, convenience-driven, accessible platforms that enhance the visitor journey are quickly driving the sector as well as customer convenience.

What is coming up for your company in the next 12/18 months?

It’s been a tricky few months for the tourism industry as a whole and with capacity levels at attractions severely restricted, we’ve been hampered in delivering our core business offering.  This is set to continue over the coming months; however, we expect visitor numbers to begin to increase from spring 2021. In the meantime, we’re enhancing our technology, driving the business we can and speaking to more venues and engaging in conversations with a number of big-brand partnerships in preparation for when more normal conditions resume.

For us it’s all about making their visits more convenient, flexible and affordable, removing barriers to visitation and creating more value for our partners.

Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our industry, what is the one thing that you have learnt personally or professionally during this time?

We’ve always run our business inclusively. We genuinely aim to work openly and collaboratively with all of our partners, as well as the travel industry as a whole. Our focus is on providing a genuinely attractive proposal that is in their interests. We never try to squeeze our partners, as this will eventually have negative consequences. Working in true partnership for mutual gain is the best business model for profitable growth, in our view – especially in difficult times such as those of today. Now more than ever, businesses need to work together

As we head towards recovery what do you think the challenges and opportunities are for our sector?

These are extremely difficult and troubled conditions for the travel industry. We are in unprecedented times, where wholesale travel restrictions are in place – not just for international travel but domestically. However, it is in these difficult times that opportunities arise, allowing us to deliver a better more immersive experience on site. Our goal is to encourage the visitor to stay longer at each venue, delivering a more engaged and valuable experience. We hope that the current crisis opens up a pathway for sustainable travel. This concept has been steadily increasing in popularity, and the current situation may be the ideal opportunity for it to flourish.

How do you think Covid-19 will change our industry (if at all)?

Customers are now looking for greater flexibility. The best price is no longer their sole priority; flexibility, affordability and convenience, delivered simultaneously, are and will continue to be crucial factors. Cashless, touchless, digital solutions will be paramount, alongside a greater shift to holiday rentals rather than hotels, more driving and less flying, and a greater reliance on holiday insurance. For more resolute travellers, health screening will likely become the norm for international journeys, with longer, no-contact check-ins and costlier air travel.

We want to maximise the advantages of the current situation. Rather than trying to return to our pre-Covid ways, why not think differently about the travel and tourism industry?  Staying closer to home and helping to deliver a great staycation could be the catalyst that awakens us to the value of less overseas travel – and the chance to enjoy our domestic tourist hotspots.

Name three positives to come out of lockdown
  • An appreciation for our beautiful country and its many tourist attractions.
  • An appreciation of our environment as well as the need to preserve it.
  • A work-life balance that gives us more flexibility.

Find out more about BETA members Keetoo® (The Vimal Group) here

Published 01 October 2020