Neeraj Govil, Area Vice President – South Asia, Marriott International, elaborates on how the group’s innovative concepts and invigorating partnerships help drive results and guest satisfaction in the wedding space.
Tell us about the involvement of Marriott in the wedding segment.
The whole premise behind the campaign ‘Shaadi by Marriott’ is to show that we have our fair share of the burgeoning wedding space. This is a segment we have been interested in for a very long time. There are two reasons for that; the first is that we are looking to attract domestic tourists and ensure we endear ourselves up to them. Wedding is beyond just the couple. People place a lot of trust whenever they ask any hotel to manage their wedding. We are likely to win them as an audience. The second reason is that we are a global player and the largest hotel company in the world. More and more Indians are now travelling outside India. We are confident that if people can understand and value what we can do in India, when they travel outside India, they are likely to stay at a Marriott property. We see this as a means to grow our share of wedding business in India. It’s about reaffirming our commitment to ensure that we are serious about dominating this space in India.
Are you going to do away with all the external wedding planners?
We are not doing away with them, we are working in partnership with them. If a consumer wants to work directly with the hotel, we are more than happy to work with them. We are working with a lot of wedding planners across India. The whole idea, from an operations perspective, is about planning to be able to cater to all sorts of weddings. A great example is JW Marriott Hotel Kolkata that was opened last year. We have had great success in the wedding space because of the way the hotel is laid out and we are now putting bridal rooms in our hotels because we understand the need of the bridal room next to the Grand Ballroom. We have also put specialist wedding planners in our hotels.
Conducting a wedding is extremely different from conducting a MICE event. If someone wants to do a food tasting, they usually visit the hotel. However, we are now increasingly visiting a client’s home so they can sit down and taste the food, conveniently. This personalisation has been very well accepted by our guests. We also launched a campaign towards the end of last year which stated, “If you do your wedding at a Marriott, we will take care of your honeymoon”. We are trying to be a one-stop-shop for weddings, but this is not at all about getting rid of our partners. We realise that partnering with Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla will elevate this whole concept. They are pioneers in their field and through such unique partnerships and initiatives, we look to offer our guests handcrafted experiences like never before.
Talking about MICE, how strong is Marriott in this segment?
Marriott is a big player in MICE; we have got big hotels. A large portion of our business comes out of MICE. Most of our JW Marriott properties have large banqueting spaces, both indoors and outdoors. Even our resort locations are pretty big in MICE. We understand the value of this sector and as we are moving ahead with designing our future hotels, we are making sure these hotels are designed in a way that they facilitate the movement of larger groups without meddling with the operations of rest of the hotel. We are also keen to be close to large convention centres. For instance, Aerocity has a large convention centre planned that makes it a great place to be. We are also going to open an Aloft in the same location, very soon. Growth, for us, has been phenomenal, despite the fact that demonetisation, at some point or another, had an impact. We have well-mitigated all negative impacts now. We have also seen a significant amount of increase in our weddings and are looking for a double-digit growth in this segment of business.
What is your opinion of the GST?
We are complying with the GST. Most of our hotels lie within the 28 per cent bracket and the rest are in the 18 per cent space. We haven’t had any adverse impact yet, but I think it will make international MICE all the more difficult to get because India will become uncompetitive as a destination as other locations like Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Dubai have a significantly lower GST rate.
Market Vice President – North India and Nepal
How is North India performing overall?
The North India market is phenomenal at the moment. If there is a bit of sluggishness in terms of inbound tourism, it is because performance in Rajasthan has been sluggish. On the contrary though, Rajasthan has achieved phenomenal numbers in comparison to last year because of domestic tourism. The wedding segment has grown in leaps and bounds from the domestic market, but at the same time, inbound has slowed down a bit.
Which is the best performing city for Marriott in North India?
Delhi-NCR has done extremely well, so has Jaipur. Also, Lucknow is among the top markets of our growth trajectory. Remote locations like Jaisalmer have done very well and continue to do well. There is a lot of traction that is happening. One city that we would love to see doing well is Srinagar. However, due to the current situation, it’s lagging behind a bit. In conclusion, most of the cities are doing well.
Do you think budget or mid-segment hotels are performing better than luxury ones?
Both these sectors are doing very well for us. We have 15 brands in the country. In most of the larger cities we have luxury brands as well as select-service brands, both doing well in terms of growth rate. There is double-digit growth in both these segments in comparison to last year. Growth mostly comes from B-category cities or the cities that are in remote locations.
What are the group’s immediate expansion plans?
We just opened Four Points By Sheraton in Srinagar. We will have four more hotels by the end of the year. We have JW Marriott coming up in Jaipur, Fairfield in Jodhpur and Amritsar, and a Marriott in Indore.