Industry expresses disappointment over GST slab rates, seeks reconsideration

It is too early to assess the impact of the soon to be rolled-out GST (Goods and Service Tax). However, industry stakeholders have expressed concern over proposed slab rates for hotels, restaurants and travel. They fear that this move could make India ...

Posted in Tourism Currents | By TF Bureau

Addressing connectivity piece to make India a competitive wedding destination market, says Suman Billa

Suman Billa, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Tourism was at his candid best. Speaking to industry stakeholders on various facets pertaining to wedding tourism at the first ever FICCI Wedding Tourism Summit held recently at Hotel Lalit in the capital, ...

Posted in Tourism Currents | By Shashank Shekhar

It was a heavyweight session, involving some of the senior leaders in the hospitality industry space, domestic and international. It is merely an excerpt from the engaging session which saw serious discussion on the road ahead for these hospitality giants, besides them delving into how to maintain distinctive brand identity.

HICSAChristopher J Nassetta, President & CEO, Hilton

I think most people know Hilton in the global context. At this point we have around 8,00,000 rooms and about 1,000 hotels around 105 countries across the globe. We just reached a major milestone in the history of our company by splitting from real estate, which is a huge part of our legacy.  We now are a pure consumer branded company, which has been the goal for some period of time. In addition to having some success in getting that done, we have seen record levels of growth having opened a hotel a day on average last year.

Mark Hoplamazian, President & CEO, Hyatt Hotels Corporation

We have a large base around the world and about 7,000 properties. We are thrilled to be long-time passengers with about 40 years in the industry and are excited about the growth that we see coming in the future.  We got 5 hotels in India and we plan to have a lot more. The new Andaz in Delhi just opened up and it is helping us establish a different kind of position as far as contemporary luxury is concerned in that category and location. Overall, it has been a good time for the company and we have had significant growth.

Rakesh Sarna, MD & CEO,
Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris

We have rolled back our brand architecture to a smaller brand. Our focus remains to grow responsibly and we remain India centric. We only go outside the borders of India into areas which are married to our brand, areas where our brand gets the respect and recognition it deserves. We are have crossed our customer base to markets in South East Asia as well. There is much to do going forward. We have world-class hotels across all brands and need to price our products accordingly and make sure we continue to grow consistently.

Vikram Oberoi, MD & CEO,
The Oberoi Group

I think what makes us slightly different, is that we have hotels that have loads of guests of the graft kind of luxury segment, both pleasure and business. We operate distinctive hotels which give guests great experience and by doing that what we see is a good number of return customers. 

On the best and worst parts of their jobs

Christopher J Nassetta, President and CEO, Hilton

I would say the worst part is that it takes a lot of time away from the family and friends because when you are running a global business which is travel branded, you can imagine that one must travel a lot to run it well. That has a consequence, travelling back to back, and needs a lot of balancing. The best part of my job I would say is the people. Meeting people from the industry everywhere I go, talking about the future of our company; talking about the purpose of the company; the impacts that we are having on people’s lives, and most importantly talking about how the work we do is creating opportunities for our people. So, the best part about what I do is seeing the pride that comes with our association at every level throughout the world and seeing people feel inspired by the work they do, whatever that work may be. It makes me really happy on being part of something that is having such a positive effect.

Mark Hoplamazian, President and CEO, Hyatt Hotels Corporation

I would say that the best part for me is the hospitality that we receive throughout the world, during the travels that entail our jobs. Specially in India. There is this incredible sense of warmth that I feel every time I come here. There is no other market in the world in which I go to where I end up in people’s homes for meals more than I do here. That is really special. The worst part for me is probably the same as what Christopher earlier mentioned. The job tends to take a lot of time away from friends and family.

On the Marriot Starwood Merger

Vikram Oberoi, MD and CEO,
The Oberoi Group

I think the merger is quite significant and time will tell how things pan out. From our perspective, it is important that we are distinctive and focussed on our guests.

Christopher J Nassetta, President and CEO, Hilton

We tend to concentrate on the portfolio we have and one that continues to expand. Our large strategy is one that is focussed on organic growth and making sure that we are giving the customers products that they want. We have a very customer-centric approach. Continuing to do that and maintaining the existing brands and ensuring that the customers get what they want seems to be working for us, from an organic growth point of view. I think we are leading the industry and our focus is to have the purest brand portfolio out there. We want every one of our brands to be the category leader and that is what we are here to do, whether it is here in India or anywhere else in the world.

On Taj collapsing all its brands and merging them in to one brand

Rakesh Sarna, MD & CEO,
Taj Hotels Palaces Resorts Safaris

I believe that you need to choose what game you want to play. The world is large enough for everyone to get a slice of the pie and make an impact on their guests. We have to effectively communicate to our customers that we do not take their faith in our brand lightly. We did a lot of soul searching, introspection and spoke to thousands of people. It became clear very quickly that our core stakeholders which is our guests, colleagues and potential partners, all wanted a single brand. The easy thing would have been to ignore this and continue with what we are doing but we took the difficult path and went in the opposite direction of the industry trend. We strongly believe that now we will be able to attract the kind of numbers we deserve, have discussions with owners who have faith in us and improve ourselves.

On competing with Loyalty Programs

Vikram Oberoi, MD and CEO,
The Oberoi Group

Actually, we choose not to have loyalty programs. We are a small and niche brand and have a high number of guests who use our hotels regularly. If you see research on the loyalty programs, it actually talks about entitlement. If you are entitled to something it doesn’t necessarily lead to loyalty in fact leads to dissatisfaction because my expectations become considerably higher. We approach the situation differently. We believe in achieving loyalty through experience and we do not believe, for us at least, that the answer lies in loyalty programs. 

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TourismFirst-coverOne of its kind, TourismFirst is a monthly magazine that brings together the larger tourism product of India. It connects tourism with its diverse linkages, most notably infrastructure, and many of India's current national programmes. TourismFirst brings the best of global best practices through its Global Exchange pages.