Heart in Hospitality

Vincent Ramos, Senior Vice President – Goa for Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) outlines his journey from a simple village boy to heading the biggest hospitality chain in Goa

Vincent Ramos is a firm believer in hard work and says that it never fails nor does it go out of fashion. His mantra for success is “Be straight, be honest and most important of all, work hard.” After a successful stint of spearheading IHCL in Goa as the Area Director since 2017, Ramos is currently appointed as Senior Vice President – Goa. In his current role, he continues to provide strategic direction to IHCL hotels within the region. A perfectionist with over a decade of management experience, Ramos has been instrumental in the expansion of IHCL in Goa, across its group of brands – Taj, SeleQtions, Vivanta, Ginger, amã Stays & Trails, Qmin, and TajSats. Under his governance, IHCL witnessed transformative growth in the region leading to greater profitability and market leadership in each of the relative market segments. Amidst the challenging business circumstances posed by the pandemic, Ramos demonstrated exceptional leadership in effectively positioning IHCL’s various brands in Goa and has not only effectively represented the brand but has also been the voice of the industry as a whole, within the length and breadth of Goa. The optimisation of costs and enhancement in revenue in Goa during his tenure is testimony to his drive towards excellence. Moreover, he has been actively involved with the local state authorities to achieve benchmark standards for tourism in Goa. Ramos is empaneled as member of the Empowered Committees for the Goa Tourism Board. He is also appointed as mentor for the Goa Chamber of Commerce & Industry (GCCI) Committee – Tourism vertical and is a part of the Managing Committee of the Travel & Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG); as well as an Executive Member of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Goa.

Childhood and Education
Hailing from the beautiful island of Chorão in Goa, Ramos takes a walk down memory lane while speaking about his childhood. “It was a different world back then in the 70s with the hippie culture in Goa. I had a memorable childhood and I remember a time where I would come to Panjim by something called a ‘gazoline’. You don’t see those anymore. These ‘gazolines’ would go from Divar to Chorão to St. Estevam. It would come every day at 8 am in the morning, go across the Mandovi and arrive in Panjim at a place called Caravela, where all the casinos are currently docked. We would get down there, do the shopping and go back by the same ‘gazoline’ at 1 pm. The last trip from Panjim was at 6 in the evening. We had plenty of paddy fields which would be cultivated each season. My parents would often go fishing since we lived on an island. There was a school in the village called St. Bartholomew which I attended from kindergarten till the 2nd grade. Later, I was sent to the boarding school at Monte de Guirim. I had an interesting boarding life with the priests; although it was very strict, it was also fun and enjoyable. We could visit home only during the holidays –Chaturthi, Diwali, Christmas and the summer vacations. I completed my 10th there, took up science in Dhempe College and then went on to do a degree in Hotel Management,” says Ramos.

Entering the Hospitality Space
Having completed his schooling from Monte de Guirim School, he later graduated from the Institute of Hotel Management, Goa. He attained his Master’s in Business Administration from S. P. Jain Institute of Management and
Research, Mumbai and furthermore achieved prestigious a c a d e m i c certifications from IIM Ahmedabad, Cornell University and Nanyang U n i v e r s i t y Singapore. As a son of the soil, Ramos says that hospitality is ingrained in us as Goans and as a child he would love to be a part of hosting a party be it for family or guests. “When I was small I would love to make homemade ice creams and experiment with making falooda. It would give me great pleasure to get it done the right way and then earn praise from my family and friends. Ironically, I was studying science. However, soon I rerouted my efforts towards a path already paved by destiny. Being a Goan at heart, I had the natural flair to set foot into the hospitality sector; it was undoubtedly a seamless blend.”

Ramos on duty at the beginning of his career at Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Goa

The Journey to becoming a Hospitality Pioneer
The journey to becoming Senior Vice President IHCLGoa has been a long and rewarding one. Having started off as a management trainee with the Leela Group, Ramos began his career as Banquet Manager at The Leela, Goa. From there, he joined the IHCL family as part of the preopening team of Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Goa where he launched many signature restaurants including Miguel Arcanjo, Alegria, Li Bai and Lobster Village. Later, he was promoted to Accommodation Manager which was completely different from his scope of work in the Food and Beverage Department. Having become the Resident Manager at Taj Exotica, he was then appointed as General Manager at Taj Kumarakom Resort & Spa in Kerala. After successfully repositioning Taj Kumarakom as a profitable venture, he was assigned as General Manager of Taj Malabar Resort & Spa, Cochin. His next posting was at Rajasthan as General Manger to the famed Umaid Bhavan Palace, Jodhpur which is one of the finest palaces India can boast of. Eventually, Ramos came back to Goa, his birthplace as the Area Director – IHCL, Goa and General Manager of Taj Exotica, Goa. In 2020, Ramos was assigned the iconic Taj Resort & Convention Centre, Goa in addition to being Area Director. He has been awarded the ‘Unsung Hero of the Hospitality Industry’ in 2017 and ‘Most Admired General Manager of the Decade’ in 2018. Recently in May 2022, he was elevated to Senior Vice President – Goa. Ramos attributes this phenomenal journey to IHCL’s pioneering leadership which is backed by a rich 118 years’ legacy. “It is indeed a privilege to be part of a team that personifies the hallmark of Indian hospitality. Given the dynamic nature of this industry, each new day in my professional life has brought with it a new learning. Having worked in the industry for decades, I have had the honour of leading iconic hotels from the IHCL portfolio across the country. Being of Goan origin and having begun my career in Goa, it came back a full circle when I was appointed as the Senior Vice President – Goa. In my new role, I am humbled to be in service of the state and look forward to IHCL’s growth in the region” he adds proudly. Known to turnaround loss-making hotels, Ramos has had the opportunity to lead legendary hotels from IHCL, during which he has brought numerous accolades to India. Reminiscing his tenure at each of the hotels, he shares “Working at Umaid Bhavan was a novel experience. The Rajput culture is very different; it had an air of nobility around it. The coveted Umaid Bhawan Palace is a magnificent piece of Rajasthan’s heritage, and a symbol of new Jodhpur.

Ramos with the royal family of
Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur

Built between 1928 and 1943, it is the home of the erstwhile Jodhpur royal family and currently the world’s sixth-largest private residence. During my stint as General Manager, it was a proud moment when the legendary palace was awarded with ‘Best Hotel of the World Award’ by TripAdvisor in 2016. It was a milestone achievement not only for the hotel but also for the country on a globally recognised platform.

My experience in Kerala was again different from the one in Rajasthan. Taj Kumarakom is located in Kumarakom, a little village with a close-knit community. It is laid back and relaxing, people mostly use boats and canoes as the main source of transportation. Children would also travel to schools using boats. It was like being in Venice, only this place was paradisiacal with nature surrounding on all sides.
Taj Malabar in Cochin at the tip of Wellington Island came with its own unique experiences. The hotel witnessed magnificent ships, the likes of Queen Mary passing by frequently and naval drills in practice. Every time, it was a new canvas painted outside the window. It was lovely to be there. Taj Malabar is the most renowned hotel of IHCL in Kerala. I am very emotionally attached to this property. It used to be a sailor’s hostel during the British era.
I was fortunate to work with people from diverse cultures. Each hotel had a unique story reflecting the cultural influence of its people defined by the historic legacy of the past,” Ramos describes his various stints as a hospitality honcho.

Taj Resort & Convention Centre, Goa
The most recent feather in the cap for IHCL is Taj Resort & Convention Centre in Dona Paula. Ramos is quite proud of this project and the passion in his eyes is quite evident when he speaks about it. “Taj Resort & Convention Centre is a gift by the Fomento Group to the state of Goa. I can confidently say that there is no other hotel like it in the state. Goa required a Convention Centre facility; it is now fulfilled with the introduction of Taj Resort & Convention Centre. The state is now equipped to host conventions at this splendid property. Located on a hillock overlooking splendid views of the sea, offering signature hospitality encompassed in an architectural marvel, Taj Resort & Convention Centre is an experience like no other. This resort has increased the possibilities for potential business in Goa, we can cater to every category of guest, be it leisure, weddings or conferences all at one place. I can describe it as one of the finest convention resorts in Asia, as it has the best vistas. If one were to go to the terrace or in any of the room balconies, the panoramic views of the magnificent Arabian Sea, Zuari River, Mormugao Harbour and Vainguinim Beach paint a resplendent backdrop.”

Giving Back to Society
A true leader, Ramos loves helping the less fortunate and has constantly strived for local communities to share in the benefits of IHCL’s presence with maximized local employment and generating new avenues for business opportunities with a collaborative approach towards helping improve the quality of life and giving back to the state. Speaking on the various CSR initiatives conducted by IHCL, he adds “At IHCL, inclusion and business responsibility is embedded in our DNA. We give back to society by enabling livelihoods for less privileged target groups through skilling and leveraging our business value chain to support traditional art, heritage and social purpose organisations. Additionally, our hotels support the neighbouring communities in Goa by maintaining and promoting public spaces, tourism spots and heritage sites. We also collaborate with public welfare groups to amplify our reach in service of the local community. Amidst the pandemic, various initiatives were carried out by the hotels across the state in aid of those who were deeply affected in these unprecedented times and in support of different healthcare workers. Moreover, IHCL has always represented responsible tourism with sustainable business practices. Guided by the framework of ‘Paathya’, we have undertaken a number of initiatives including phasing out single-use plastic, reduction in carbon footprint, water conservation, utilisation of renewable sources of energy and extensive community engagement. ”

Promoting Goa as a premier wedding destination
Ramos has witnessed the tourism sector evolve in Goa. When asked to share his thoughts about Goa as a popular wedding destination, he raves about all that the state has to offer “Goa has always been synonymous with paradisiacal beaches, splendid architecture, delectable local cuisine and warm welcoming people. From an intimate affair to grand celebrations, the State has catered to a wide segment in weddings. With a variety of options to choose from paired with remarkable hospitality service, Goa has already created a niche for itself among the top wedding destinations in the country. At IHCL Goa, we believe in going beyond to create memorable experiences that are truly momentous and etched in history. Unparalleled venues and exceptional service ethics are key to crafting the most memorable weddings,” he says.

Living up to ‘Tajness’
IHCL is one of the largest and most renowned names in the world of hospitality. Guided by its values of Trust, Awareness and Joy, IHCL has perfected its craft, earned a reputation and built a culture loved by its patrons called ‘Tajness’. Ramos elaborates on the term and says that one can’t describe it; it is a culture that is ingrained in every associate at IHCL no matter their designation. “Tajness is the DNA that every Taj employee carries with them. They are the ones who put guests before anything else. True luxury lies in the details. It is built with time and care and an unparalleled vision. With years spent perfecting a craft, with decades spent acquiring a reputation and with centuries spent building a culture, we aim to please our guests and remain in the service of humanity. Luxury becomes real when it has a legacy. IHCL is built on a legacy. Tajness is not something physical, but one that manifests itself in a feeling and is something that has existed for over a hundred years. A feeling enriched through care, warmth, and a strong sense of nobility. A feeling steeped in tradition, etiquette and expertise is what Tajness is all about.”
Having attributed his success to IHCL, Ramos says that it’s an integral part of him and takes pride in speaking about the company’s journey in Goa. “Taj Fort Aguada Resort & Spa, Goa was the first luxury beach resort in the country to open its doors in 1974, welcoming the world to India’s sunshine state. It was also the host hotel for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in 1983. Thus, IHCL became pioneers in making Goa one of the most popular tourist destinations.

Vincent Ramos (extreme left) with Puneet Chhatwal, Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer (third from left) and the senior
management of IHCL at the launch of amã Stays & Trails in Goa, India’s first branded homestay portfolio from IHCL

Currently, IHCL in Goa comprises of a group of brands and businesses that offer a fusion of warm Indian hospitality and world-class service. These include Taj – the iconic brand for the most discerning travellers, ‘World’s Strongest Hotel Brand’ and ‘India’s Strongest Hospitality Brand’ as per Brand Finance 2022; SeleQtions – a named collection of hotels; Vivanta – sophisticated upscale hotels; Ginger – which is revolutionizing the lean luxe segment; amã Stays & Trails – the first branded product in the home stay market in India; Qmin – the gourmet culinary and food delivery platform from IHCL; and TajSTATS – India’s leading airline caterer and a leading institutional player. The brand is growing rapidly. It is a huge portfolio, we have over 1500 rooms across Goa, this itself speaks volumes about us. With a footprint of 21 unique destinations in the state, IHCL continues to define the changing landscape of tourism in Goa as the largest hospitality operator and leader in the tourism sector,” says Ramos with a hint of pride.

Challenges faced in the shadow of Covid
The year 2020 changed people’s perception, it is considered as a year that altered lives and businesses. As a state that is dependent on tourism, it has reshaped the travel and hospitality landscape drastically. Though holidaying was far away from the minds of the people, many wanted a welcome break once state borders began opening up. IHCL rose to the challenge and went out of their way to keep their guests safe while ensuring that they had a relaxing holiday. Ramos outlines the various operational changes that IHCL saw in the face of the pandemic. “The pandemic posed an unprecedented challenge and created a new, altered reality. Safety and hygiene became the prime deciding factors in travel. At IHCL, we detailed a comprehensive five-point mitigation strategy – R.E.S.E.T 2020 – that catered to the rapidly changing market conditions, government policies and dynamic customer needs. Keeping the well-being of IHCL’s guests and associates at heart, enhanced and exacting safety protocols were developed in accordance with the norms laid down by World Health Organization (WHO), Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the Government of India. New SOPs and their stringent implementation among our own staff played a vital role in our ability to carry this across to our guests. I-ZEST: IHCL’s Zero Touch Service Transformation – a suite of digital solutions was introduced across our hotels to ensure social distancing for both, guests and associates, while maintaining secure and seamless services.”

Vincent Ramos receiving the honorary certificate for Taj Fort Aguada Resort & Spa, Goa
(India’s first luxury beach resort) at the hands of Shripad Naik, Union Minister of State for
Tourism on Goa Statehood Day 2022

As a representative of the tourism industry and being a hotelier himself, Ramos feels that one should have the foresight to look ahead and feel the pulse as far as performance is concerned. Regarding the upcoming two quarters and the tourist season, he says that things are looking bright. “The next two quarters are looking very bright and I think we should see some exponential growth in the numbers. We have already had a great quarter one in the history of IHCL and the forthcoming quarters look promising. We are optimistic of the upcoming season. With opening of international travel, we are looking forward to a healthy and fruitful season ahead. Post pandemic recovery has been phenomenal especially in the case of Goa, more so because Goa was comparatively the least impacted state during the peak of the pandemic. The domestic/local market demand is here to stay and the next season remains favourable.”

From the point of view of a local in the state, Ramos shares his inputs for successfully running hospitality ventures in a post-Covid market. “The hospitality industry is constantly evolving and dynamic in nature. Post-Covid customer expectations have changed with the new normal, realigning the services keeping in mind the changing demands of today’s traveller is key. Resisting change can result in an irreparable loss.”
Further, he also says that cleanliness plays an important role as far as attracting tourists is concerned. “As a state we have to focus on cleanliness and hygiene. Everyone has to contribute. In addition to the property premises, hotels need to keep their surroundings clean. We, along with the tourists, have to be educated on keeping our environs pristine. We have everything else including infrastructure, natural landscapes, heritage and culture; all we need to do is maintain hygienic precincts. There are no issues as far as manpower is concerned. At IHCL, we took good care of our employees during the pandemic. Our employees are loyal to us, which has resulted in outstanding results as a team. We are also creating more opportunities of employment by getting more hotels in our portfolio.”

Taking IHCL forward in Goa
As a company, IHCL is leading the hospitality sector in Goa. With big plans ahead, Ramos says that the hospitality major intends on expanding exponentially and are going to be very aggressive in their expansion plans in order to create employment and generate revenue for the state. “I think that our prime responsibility is to create employment for the people. India is a young and budding country and we need to have our younger generation growing and working hard. We recently announced ‘Ahvaan 2025’ – a three-pronged strategy to grow profitably in the coming years. This will further accelerate profitable growth by scaling its diversified brand portfolio across its traditional and new businesses. amã Stays & Trails, a group of heritage bungalows, guesthouses and homestays will have new additions to its portfolio in Goa in the current financial year. We are also working towards expanding other brands in the region. Furthermore, with the food and beverage industry thriving, Goa will witness an addition of the globally acclaimed Italian cuisine restaurant Paper Moon, 7Rivers Brewpub, Qmin Shop, C2C to IHCL’s exquisite array of bars and restaurants.”

Ramos being felicitated by the management of Taj Resorts, North Goa

With the pandemic confining everyone to their homes, travel has never been so sought after and been more exhilarating than it is right now. Goa has always been a popular travel destination and continues to thrive despite the pandemic. Lately, the state has seen an augmented surge in weddings, MICE and domestic leisure. It comes as no surprise, given that we are a matured leisure destination with high quality hospitality offerings that match international travel standards. Commenting on Goa’s position as a popular tourist destination, Ramos adds, “Unlike other states in the country, tourism is the backbone of Goa’s economy, with 40% of the population directly or indirectly dependent on it. Hence, we are constantly focussed towards adapting the tourism landscape to meet the changing demands and expectations of today’s traveller. Additionally, Goa has a well-developed infrastructure with an international airport that is in line with its importance as a recognised leisure destination. We did very well during the pandemic. Everyone felt comfortable coming to Goa and perceived it as a safe destination. People have repeatedly come back to Goa, thanks to the clean air, nature, the services, the hospitable people and choice of hotels available. People from all over India came here and contributed to our state.”

Bridge between Government and Industry
Ramos juggles myriad roles in his capacity as a hotelier. As a committee member on the boards of various government organisations, he has to liaison with various government officials and dignitaries. In order to boost tourism in Goa he is always at the helm of matters as far as decision making is concerned in the tourism sector. “We are the backbone of the tourism sector and we advise the government bodies on how to go forward. I think the best thing that happened during Covid was when we excelled in the travel and tourism sector despite the circumstances at the time. I am proud to say that we kept the finance department out of the ICU as we generated revenue for the state and kept Goa’s coffers full.”

Vincent Ramos celebrating with the first batch of hospitality professionals at Don Bosco VTI, Quepem

IHCL has a tie up with all the Institutes of Hotel Management in India and various government colleges in the country. “We take training and skill the students at our hotels. We also have something called as outdoor catering where we give students the opportunity to acquire the skills required to work in the hospitality sector. My worry as of now is that the private colleges that are mushrooming all over the state need to make sure that they produce quality students, which is not happening. When it comes to government colleges, all of them are doing impressively well,” he adds with a note of concern in his voice.

Personal Life
With handling IHCL in Goa and being a part of various organisations, Ramos has his hands full and very little time for pursuing his hobbies and interests. “I have very little free time but I love gardening, I enjoy being amidst nature. Recently, I spent my weekend at Netravali. I love driving through the serpentine lanes of Goa and exploring offbeat places. Unfortunately, the only reading that I do is on my mobile phone these days. I’m bombarded by all kinds of articles and news bytes on my handset. If I have to pick out a favourite hobby, it would be gardening,” he says with a sparkle in his eyes.

Vincent Ramos along with his wife Deena and son Ruben

Ramos speaks fondly of his wife and son. “My wife, Deena works at LIC. She has a comfortable 9 to 6 job which is unlike mine, but I guess that is what balances us both out. My son Ruben has completed his Master’s in International Hospitality from the Business and Hotel Management School of Switzerland. He is now an entrepreneur involved in the manufacturing of a port wine named ‘Vinho Fontainhas’, he plans to come up with his own Feni someday. We live in Miramar and my parents’ live in our ancestral house in Chorão.”

Future Plans
While retirement is the furthest thing from his mind and having no other future plans, Ramos says his life is tied to IHCL, but someday plans to return to his roots. “IHCL is an integral part of my life. I want to make sure that IHCL is at the forefront of everything in Goa. On the personal front, I plan to take up farming after I retire. I would like to follow in the footsteps of my ancestors and use the family land in order to leave a legacy behind for my future generations. But that is a story for another day,” he concludes with a smile and twinkle in his eyes.



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