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"Weddings Are A Much Larger Segment For Us"
To understand Hyatt's offerings in weddings and MICE we spoke to Sunjae Sharma, Managing Director, India & Southwest Asia, Hyatt Hotels Corporations. Excerpts
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Has the hospitality industry returned to its profitable phase post pandemic, what has been the story of Hyatt?
There has undoubtedly been a lot of unmet demand, and we recognise that people want to rediscover the thrill of travel. The post pandemic tourism boom in India is being driven primarily by workcations, staycations, and weekend getaways. Now more than ever, people are venturing out to travel for leisure. They are eager to discover new things, relax, and reconnect with each other. And the performance of our hotels has made us confident that domestic travel will continue to soar.
At Hyatt, we have been on top of our game to innovate and reimagine the hospitality experience for our guests. We strongly believe that the human desire to connect and experience the joy of travel will trump all the setbacks that the industry has experienced thus far. And, as we continue to focus on emerging from the pandemic in a position of strength and responsibility, we are well on our way to accomplishing our goal of launching 10 new hotels in India this year, across various brands that will cater to the needs of both leisure and business travellers.
What are your differential offerings in the MICE segment?
As mentioned above, we have witnessed a rise in MICE bookings across our hotels in India. With ‘virtual events’ being in demand due to the pandemic, preparing for hybrid events became an important measure to ensure guest safety and satisfaction. We launched Together by Hyatt in October 2021 as an important step in this direction. Building on Hyatt’s deep-rooted expertise in delivering high-quality meetings and events, Together by Hyatt is designed to support planners at every step of the way as we reimagine what events can look like and collaborate to bring their vision to life, keeping attendee safety and wellbeing as top priorities. With hybrid events packages, Together by Hyatt uses seamless technology to offer small to large-scale meetings across multiple Hyatt hotels not just in India, but also in Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East.
What are your differential offerings in the weddings segment?
In India, Hyatt has been recognised as the final word in weddings, as our hotels are some of the most stunning properties in the country, bringing the best of international hospitality and cuisine with the finest of local culture.
We leave nothing to chance and always ensure that our guests have a selection of experiences to choose from. Each of our hotels has a wedding planner to help orchestrate the wedding from inception to completion. The planner is made available 24x7 for the wedding family and works in tandem with them to understand their needs and desires. We provide a wedding studio at the hotel that assists families to plan the wedding of their dreams – which are both personalised and allow for that element of surprise. At Hyatt, we ensure that every aspect of a wedding is steeped in mindfulness, wellbeing, and sustainability.
Between MICE & weddings, which one is a bigger revenue generator for you?
Strategically, both are important segments for us and fulfill business needs at different times & properties. However, from a revenue standpoint, weddings is a much larger segment as it not only generates revenues for rooms but also Food & Beverage.
You have played a big role in unleashing the revenue potential at Hyatt, what is your vision for the group?
We aim to continue our ambitious growth plans in India, and these plans are inspired by the ever-growing demand from guests, World of Hyatt members, customers, and owners for distinctive and differentiating hotel experiences. Currently, we have eight distinct brands operating in the country – Andaz, Alila, Hyatt, Hyatt Centric, Hyatt Place, Hyatt Regency, Grand Hyatt, and Park Hyatt. Recently, we also announced plans for the debut of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt brand in India as we signed a management agreement with Bhopal's Noor-Us-Sabah Palace.
We are focused on a multi-brand presence across cities such as Delhi, Gurugram (Gurgaon), Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Pune, and Goa, where guests are currently travelling or would like to travel. It is the first time in Hyatt’s history that we’re opening 10 new properties in a single year. Having launched five of these hotels – Hyatt Regency Dehradun, Hyatt Centric Janakpuri New Delhi, Hyatt Regency Jaipur Mansarovar, Hyatt Centric Juhu Mumbai, and Grand Hyatt Gurgaon – we are now operating across 37 hotels and eight distinct Hyatt brands in the country (Andaz, Alila, Hyatt, Hyatt Centric, Hyatt Place, Hyatt Regency, Grand Hyatt, and Park Hyatt). Our goal is to have a more diverse portfolio of hotel offerings in both existing and emerging markets, with over 50 Hyatt-branded properties in India by the end of 2023.
What are the big challenges facing the hospitality sector today?
The past two years have been unprecedented for everyone, both personally and professionally, and the protracted Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly had a lasting effect on businesses all over the globe. Industries and economies across the world are grappling with high attrition rates. That is true for the hospitality industry too – the post-pandemic resignation wave has prompted movement from one industry to another, and we are witnessing hospitality professionals seeking new roles. Retaining and attracting employees has been a challenge in the hospitality sector.
As ‘virtual’ became the new buzzword and industries pivoted to take the digital route, the role of technology grew immensely in the hospitality industry too. It prompted us to reimagine our services so we could create safer, reassuring environments for our guests to relax and work in while preserving the guest experience that Hyatt is known for.
Additionally, consumer behaviour has consequently undergone considerable change owing to the impending lockdowns, travel restrictions, and social estrangement. Moreover, travel has become extremely experiential and educational; it is about getting hands-on exposure to the real authenticity of a destination. Our luxury hotels aim to offer exactly that — an up-close and true experience of the destination in its best form.
Despite these challenges, we are certainly seeing an increase in bookings across our hotels in India. The trend of ‘impulse travel’ has resulted in guests booking trips in much shorter time frames over the past year, bringing the average booking lead time to less than a month.
We also understand that we’re now catering to a newer audience set that has evolved in its preferences, and safety, security, and hygiene have become their key demands – and we are well prepared to tackle uncertainties better, should the need arise.