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Purchase Of Experiences Is Outstripping Purchase Of Goods: Craig Smith, President & MD, Asia Pacific, Marriott International

During a visit to India recently, Craig Smith, President & Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Marriott International spoke to BW Businessworld about Marriott’s India journey, the new opportunities that the market presents and his vision for the group.

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Marriott International entered India 20 years ago with a resort in Goa and has now expanded to 36 cities and 111 hotels. With over 22,000 associates working in India, Marriott has become one of the biggest players in the hospitality sector, both in terms of revenue and presence. During a visit to India recently, Craig Smith, President & Managing Director, Asia Pacific, Marriott International spoke to BW Businessworld about Marriott’s India journey, the new opportunities that the market presents and his vision for the group.

Excerpts:

How would you sum up Marriott’s two-decade journey in India?

The journey has been interesting, and in the process, we have benefitted in two ways. Firstly, we have grown the number of hotels in India, and the interesting thing is that we are growing faster now. We have also benefitted from the talent side. India has an incredible base of very smart and hardworking people, along with some of the great talents helping in driving our success story here.

When it comes to experiential travel, what are the top trends defining this space?

In Asia-Pacific, the biggest trend is leisure travel, which has grown four times over the past few years. We have also seen significant growth in the weekend business — we call them ‘staycations’. People check in a hotel in the same city they live so that they can chill and relax.

Leisure travel is growing fast right now because people are looking for new experiences and they don’t mind spending on them. It is the first time in history that the purchase of experiences is now outstripping the purchase of goods.

From a revenue perspective, how significant is the wedding market for Marriott?

It is a very important segment for us. There is an average of 33 weddings that happen at a Marriott hotel every single day. We are creating memories, and the opportunity that is present is limitless. Wedding is such a segment, which we know for a fact is recession-proof. It doesn’t matter how the economy is doing, people are going to spend a lot on a wedding. This presents a constant opportunity to attract new customers.

The latest trend that we are now witnessing is that a lot of resorts are custom-made for weddings. JW Marriott in Jaipur, for example, has become a magnet for NRI weddings. A lot of Indian families living in Dubai, Europe, Canada or the US are looking to come back here for weddings. The marketing is witnessing a continuous growth.

What are your plans for the Indian market for the next two years?

Asia is the fastest-growing region in our company. And within Asia, the growth engines are China and India. We are growing at least 20 per cent a year here in India. New hotels, new jobs, and new talents are growing. I think growth is pretty much the biggest story that we have in this part of the world and are looking to leverage this opportunity.

What are the big challenges facing the hospitality sector in India?

I think today the big challenge remains that of connectivity and infrastructure, but the government has done a lot and is doing more to improve it. I think we have to fill the void left by Jet Airways and a few of the other airlines to make connectivity hassle-free.


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