Le Méridien a brand of the Marriott Hotels was launched in Calangute on Saturday. Here Neeraj Govil, area vice president, south Asia, Marriott International, talks on the hotel prospects in Goa’s tourism industry. In an interview with Ramnath N Pai Raiker, he speaks on range of issues
Q: To begin with, what is the concept behind opening a resort in Goa, when the tourism scenario in the state is not exactly encouraging?
Marriott has a very strong bond with Goa since it’s opened its first resort in the state. Then last year, we opened W in Vagator, and we always wanted to be in this belt stretching from Candolim to Siolim, one of the busiest road in Goa. So that’s how Le Méridien came up. We feel that there is great demand (from tourists) still coming into Goa. Goa still remains one of the most attractive markets for us, the way we see it for couple of reasons; it is a 365 day (tourism) market, with those days of off-season long gone. Secondly, we believe that Goa has a market that is driving a very good average daily rate (ADR) as well. So when we see it, we see tremendous potential in the hospitality industry of Goa. The government here has been doing a lot towards tourism, and we see propensity not only for one hotel, but for many more hotels coming up here in the future. So therefore we want to be in Goa in a big way. Marriott today operates 15 brands in India and we are very happy to have more of a presence in Goa, if there is the opportunity for us to develop it.
Q: What would be the target clientele for Le Meridien Goa? Do you have any specific focus in this area?
Le Méridien, when you look at it will be very focused on the leisure customer and the customers who come for smaller meetings. So this hotel is designed for it. It is designed for small high quality meetings. This is not the hotel where you can have big banquet functions. We are going to attract leisure customers who want a great upper upscale experience. The Le Méridien brand is really designed towards targeting a customer who wants to discover a sense of the location during their stay. If you walk this property, you will see a lot of interesting artwork. The design is timeless chic.
Q: How does it feel to see Marriott has overtaken many other hotel chains to officially become India’s largest hotel company?
We feel great. We are really proud of that. After Marriott-Starwood merger in last September, we now have 87 hotels in India that operate under the Marriott flag. We have 15 brands like St Regis, Ritz Carlton, W, and Courtyard by Marriott and spread over 35 locations, and we are growing. Besides we have 103 hotels under various stages of construction, which will open over the next five years.
We are now focused on three things. One, we want to make sure that each of our brand has a very distinct identity and is able to capture the share of the market that the brand is located in. Secondly, we want to make sure that we attract the best in class talent to work at our hotels because without great people hotels are nothing. And finally, we want to improve experience for our customers.
Q: What is your market share in the Indian hospitality industry?
We operate in three segments. We have a great distribution in the luxury segment, where we operate brands like Ritz Carlton, St Regis, J W Marriott, Luxury Collection and W. If you look at our premium segment, what we also call upper upscale, then we have huge category of brands like Marriott, the Renaissance, Sheraton, Le Méridien, Courtyard by Marriott. In our third category, which we call mid-tier or budget tier, we have Fairfield, Four Points by Sheraton, and Aloft, besides Marriott executive apartments, which is for extended stay.
Q: You had stated that the company is also looking at hiring specialists as also investing in specialist positions like director of culinary. Is this the trend in the hospitality industry?
As we have grown our footprint in India, we have done two or three things. We have decentralised assets across our locations; before we used to run everything from one corporate office, but now we have two corporate offices, in Mumbai and Delhi. We have mini teams set up in places like Bengaluru and Kolkata. So we are basically ensuring that our resources are closer to the markets because essentially these micro-markets behave very differently. We have also understood the need to have specialists in certain disciplines, which either impact the guest experience directly or support the guest experience from the backend. For food we have dedicated resources now same as in engineering, procurement, culinary. We even have corporate chef or culinary director for India, who can really give the team the insights that they need to be competitive in this environment.
Q: Can you share with us something about your Goan roots?
I am from South Goa. I went to school, college… everything in Goa. I had my first job in Goa. My parents live in Goa. So as you can see, I am deeply connected to Goa. It is a place I come back to time and time again. It’s good to be back in Goa and open a hotel in what I consider my home state. So this hotel will get all of that support it needs to be successful.