Renu Basu, Senior Vice President - Global Sales, IHCL, elucidates how The Indian Hotels Company Limited delivers on all accounts – brand promise, event management and technology
One of India’s largest hospitality enterprise, The Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) has reimagined itself to unlock its potential. It continues to set the benchmark with refreshed brand scape, use of technology and much more. In conversation with Today’s Traveller, Renu Basu, Senior Vice President-Global Sales, IHCL, shares valuable insights into how IHCL leverages its market knowledge to drive business.
What is the concept of the Taj Wedding Studio and how effective is it in driving business for IHCL?
Unlike in the past, there’s a sea change in wedding nuptials in terms of scale, style and grandeur. Unique wedding experiences dictate the millennial’s agenda, right from the rites of passage to the ongoing festivities. The Taj Wedding Studio is the ultimate destination to create memorable wedding experiences; showcasing the latest trends in cuisine, innovation in banqueting, destination planning and wedding curation. It offers guests exclusive access to experts in the industry and a variety of services that are designed to address all their wishes for their big day. In doing so, the Taj Wedding Studio addresses the growing need for customization of weddings. Wedding as an important business segment from the hospitality perspective and much of it is driven by the brand reputation, respect and competence. IHCL, with over a century of experience and its eclectic and diverse portfolio makes for a great choice for all kinds of weddings. From the idyllic beach resort in Goa, Kerala, Sri Lanka to the iconic grand palaces namely Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur, Rambagh and Jai Mahal Palace in Jaipur and the Taj Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad to the international outposts such as The Pierre, New York, Taj Palace, Dubai and St. James Court, London offer spectacular settings for hosting weddings. In order to grow our share in the segment we continue to stay engaged with families directly and well as with the wedding planners. I believe that businesses are built on reputation and relationships. Interaction is the key, as is proven by the fact that prominent families of professional CEOs, as well as industrialists have come to us for the wedding in their families. Under the Taj Wedding Studio IHCL provides the entire value chain when it comes to weddings. An infusion of Western culture brings many trends into focus, namely, wedding shoots, the wedding proposal, the bachelorette party and a Western-style dinner, along with speeches, the toast, et al. An experiential wedding, which is trending, stresses on authentic experiences. Finally, post-wedding stress stipulates the need for a getaway, which Taj handles adeptly as well.
The IHCL has recently started the Taj B2B Sales Mission programme. What were the key takeaways from this year’s sales mission programme and how do you plan to take it forward?
Sales missions are a critical platform of our strategy to grow our business and enhance engagement. Building on the success of last year, the Travel Industry Sales team hosted the second edition of the IHCL Sales Mission at Taj Lands End, Mumbai, on the 17th of August and at Taj Palace, New Delhi, on the 20th & 21st of August 2018. The participants included all our key city hotels, palaces and resorts across Rajasthan, Kerala, Goa, and Ginger hotels, to name a few. This was accompanied by a strong presence of hotels from Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan, Dubai, Langkawi and London. We witnessed an overwhelming response with over 1500 of our inbound, outbound and domestic travel trade partners, including online travel agents, event and wedding planners (330+ persons in Mumbai and 1250+ in New Delhi). The enthusiastic response has spurred us to hold future events.
Currently, how many new hotels and re-launches are there on the list of the IHCL for 2018 - 19?
The Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL), saw an aggressive growth momentum adding 15 new hotels across brands with an inventory of 1825 rooms this financial year. The first half of the year also saw the Company winning the bid for the prestigious Taj Mahal, New Delhi and the renewal of the long term agreement for the globally acclaimed Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur. IHCL also strengthened its portfolio in the capital with the winning of the bid for The Connaught. The Company currently operates 170 hotels globally out of which 25 are in various stages of development. The Company has signed 15 new hotels, including three Taj hotels, five Vivanta hotels, one SeleQtion and six Ginger hotels in this financial year. This includes a Vivanta at Heathrow in London, a Taj hotel in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, a Taj hotel at the Deira Creek in Dubai and a Vivanta in Kathmandu, Nepal.
How does IHCL plan to tap the huge potential of MICE markets in India and abroad?
MICE is critical for us, as 30 percent of our business comes from it. Our deliverables here are the same as elsewhere – iconicity, reputation and our ability to deliver. We are adding a portal on our website, where our MICE partners can book online directly. We have a dedicated MICE team that is capable of catering to groups ranging from 10 to 10,000 people. From leadership summits to large incentive groups, our holistic approach captures the best of the weddings and MICE segment. We continue to remain the preferred choice for international and domestic conferences and meetings. Our conference and banquet services are the product of a rich lineage of hospitality combined with state of the art facilities and latest technology services. Almost all our hotels across the group, have dedicated onsite teams to take care of events, be it corporate or social in nature. Taj Hotels have historically played the perfect host to Royalty, Heads of State, visiting dignitaries and world leaders. The Taj Mahal Palace & Taj Lands End, Mumbai, Taj Diplomatic Enclave & Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi, have hosted numerous events of political and economic significance. Taj City Centre Gurugram and The Gateway Resort, Damdama Lake are some of preferred hotels for residential conferences as well as destination weddings as are our hotels in Goa, Jaipur, Udaipur and Hyderabad. An optimum mix of all the above will help us take advantage of the huge potential of this segment.