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The Marriott Powerhouse

With 87 hotels and over 18,000 rooms in India across 15 brands in 19 cities, Marriott International is not only a hospitality behemoth, but boasts a culture of high performance, commitment and excellence

In today’s dynamic travel and hospitality world where change is a buzzword, an oft repeated question that arises is, ‘What draws the demanding millennial market to travel experiences?’ Discerning travellers of today, who work hard and play hard seek novel experiences in an authentic environment. Hotels and travel companies are hard pressed to offer something extraordinary, be it location, service, style, soul, design, seclusion, facilities or romance. But, above all, as far as the hospitality industry is concerned, properties must affect the way you feel – life should be better after you check-in. Marriott International strives to be one such luxury brand.

With more than 75 exceptional properties in gateway cities and distinctive resort locations around the world, Marriott International hotels are reputed for their authenticity and for putting guests at ease in an environment of relaxed elegance and effortless luxury. The desire for an authentic experience translates into Marriott properties reflecting and embracing their locale and offering quietly meaningful services that help travellers achieve their goals seamlessly. The company’s primary purpose is the guests’ over-all well-being and is in sync with business whiz Steve Jobs’ dictum, “Give customers exactly what they want, the way they want it, when they want it – before they even know what they want.”

Being customer-centric is exactly what the Marriott brand is all about. As part of the core Asia Pacific leadership team responsible for creating and executing a strategic road map to establish brand positioning and expand market share of the Marriott portfolio in South Asia is Neeraj Govil, Area Vice President – South Asia, Marriott International.

With over 14 years in the hospitality sector, Govil brings a wealth of international experience and expertise to the table, spanning across several disciplines, including Operations, Marketing Strategy and Business Development. He is reputed for his strong financial acumen, the ability to create innovative business models and consistently deliver outstanding results in operational excellence, service delivery and revenue growth. In conversation with Today’s Traveller, Govil expands on key priorities, leveraging brand portfolio, the merger and future plans.

Govil reflects on the recently concluded merger which makes Marriott International “the largest hotel company in the world.” He informs, “The merger has brought significant brand portfolio strength, whether it is in the luxury, premium or select service tiers. Coupled with the geographic distribution, this gives us tremendous leverage.” Key priority areas over the next two years “would be to elevate the positioning of each of our brands, ensure that they have definitive and distinct nuances making them unique and thereby enabling our guests choose the one that fit their needs and expectations the best.” Govil informs that Marriott International has “a healthy mix of hotels, both in the business and in the resort space,” and that it is their fervent endeavour to be able to offer ‘the right brands at the right place’ in the country.”

Two other priority areas according to Govil include increasing the brand’s loyalty base and talent development, both of which he proceeds to expand upon. With three exceptional loyalty programmes in place, namely, Marriott Rewards, Starwood Preferred Guest and Ritz Carlton Rewards, Govil points out how, at Marriott, “We strongly believe that rewarding our customers extends beyond just product or service purchases. We believe in providing unique experiences which they can remember and which create repeat usage.” When it comes to talent development, Govil brings in the other advantage that the merger has brought in its wake, which is “a joint pool of some exceptionally talented individuals.”

With a 100+ hotel pipeline Govil explains that there is a continuous requirement to develop resources to translate and execute the vision on the ground. “We stay committed to nurturing and training our associates as well as providing them opportunities within the vast eco system of our network to further their careers. We continue to strive to create a culture of high performance, commitment and excellence,” declares Govil.

Today, size matters, and to be successful in today’s hospitality world, a wide distribution of brands and hotels across price points is critical. Currently, Marriott International has 87 hotels with over 18,000 rooms in India across 15 brands in 19 cities, making them the largest operator in the country by number of guest rooms, apprises Govil. There is robust growth across all segments, including luxury.

Select service brands like Courtyard by Marriott, Fairfield by Marriott, Four Points by Sheraton and Aloft have expanded their presence in emerging tertiary markets, and Govil foresees that they will become major revenue drivers in the coming years. Says Govil, “The bandwidth we now have post the merger has seen a very positive acceptance from our customer base and why not, because now our guests can enjoy a huge distribution which means more choice, the broadest portfolio of brands, the power of such a vast global footprint and loyalty programmes with great member benefits coupled with an unparalleled guest experience.”

Reiterating the value add-ons of Marriott International’s merger with Starwood, Govil dwells on how it impacts guests.“With the addition of Starwood’s strong brands, great properties, and talented people, we have dramatically expanded our ability to provide the best experiences to our customers.” From a pre-merger total of just 7 brands countrywide, the company is a composite of 15 brands post- merger. “A merger of this size provides us with a larger pool of marketing dollars to curate campaigns specific to the target consumer and engage with them through digital and social media platforms,” reveals Govil. Millennials are the new customers, and Govil shares that the agenda is “To work on influencer strategies to create immersive experiences to keep them curious, intrigued and wanting for more when they engage with our brands.”

In conclusion, Govil affirms that future plans indicate an upward trend. With 87 hotels already established, there are over 1oo hotels on the anvil within the next five years. “Our expansion plans will see us further consolidating our portfolio in established Tier 1 cities. We will also be opening hotels in markets like Vishakhapatnam, Coimbatore, Jodhpur, Srinagar, Indore, Coorg and Siliguri. As far as South Asia goes, we already have hotels in Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan and we will soon open our first resort in Sri Lanka,” signs off Govil.

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