Aerocity Doing Micely
The NCR’s MICE campaign focussed on the Aerocity complex of hotels grows in numbers and things are beginning to look good.
Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma,
(L to R) Heddo Siebs, General Manager, Andaz Delhi; Antony Page, General Manager, JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity; Tristan Beau de Lomenie, Director of Operation LUXE Hotels India, GM Delegate – Pullman & Novotel New Delhi Aerocity; Pierre-Etienne De Montgrand, Director of Operation ibis & ibis Styles, India; and Vinay Bhardwaj, General Manager - Sales & Marketing, Pride Hotels.
AEROCITY.EVENTS a platform begun solely for the purpose of selling the area as a MICE destination is coming along nicely. With the number of hospitality participants growing from three to five and with more facilities coming online, selling is becoming less challenging and International MICE clients are taking notice. It’s something that all the hospitality partners noticed at the recently concluded IMEX event in Frankfurt. Here’s what’s happening in the words of the three founding members and the two new ones.
Tristan Beau de Lomenie, Director of Operation LUXE Hotels India, GM Delegate – Pullman & Novotel New Delhi Aerocity: We had two more members joining us, Pride Plaza, which was a great surprise for us, for this hotel to come on board. It’s a buzzy hotel which does good with groups and events. Then we had our colleague from ibis Pierre-Ettienne de Montgrand. It was a great event and we got some leads and a good turn around. We are building this attention and curiosity about Aerocity and what it is all about. It’s the second step, but we need to continue and reinforce it. We need more members. Today we have five members, along with the founding partners Pullman, Andaz and JW Marriott. That translate into 2500 rooms being represented within Aerocity.events. It’s not enough. We need all the hotels in this area to be part of the effort. There is no reason why the others should not participate, they should have the guts to come on board and fight for this destination, which ultimately will become a hub in North India. We need all the resources. More needs to be done.
Since early 2017, we are operating 670 rooms. All the sealed rooms have been fully equipped with bullet proof glasses. It’s fantastic, you have a great view of the runway and you have perfect soundproofing. Now, we are able to deliver the Pullman promise of different room categories. We are also building a strong corporate base thanks to the Executive floor which is now available, with a great Executive Lounge on the 6th floor of the hotel where you can have your breakfast as you watch planes take off and land.
MICE is still the bread and butter of our complex. MICE is what lets this hotel survive. We are creating demand and bringing events which will not take in Delhi otherwise. We had a very successful Woman Economic Forum for the second year, with close to 600 delegates, a lot of them returning delegates and we are already preparing for the third year. So, you can imagine how successful the event has been. MICE again is definitely the key for Pullman and Novotel. I wish I could have more corporate and more FITs. I wish Aerocity would be completed. All the hotels are structurally complete and running and operating, the offices, the shopping complexes and the hotels. What is not completed, is the common facilities. This is delay which we cannot afford and is not acceptable and is affecting my business.
Antony Page, General Manager, JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity: In 2017 we have seen a better growth than we anticipated above and beyond 2016 from the MICE segment and the group from aerocity.in has grown and we have gone back to Frankfurt again, this time with six team members (representing five hotels). This is our second year and it was a little different from last year, but overall, it was better for us again because there was more traction, more diversity. Last year we spoke mostly to the Americans and the Russians. This year we had people from China, other parts of Europe, from Australia as well as other parts of South East Asia.
2017 is now starting to see rate growth in Delhi, which is terrific. The integration of additional hotel rooms in the city has happened and now demand is outpacing the supply and we are starting to see growth. I predict that the rest of 2017 will grow and 2018 and 19 are looking very strong.
I think from our point of view from Aerocity, once GST kicks in, we are no longer disadvantaged by the tax structure, vis-a-vis Gurgaon. We are now going to be on a level playing field. Now, when the guest is going to take a room in Gurgaon, and they compare the rates including taxes, we are at par with them.
I think the message that we have always been saying to everybody in Aerocity, has been to be part of the future and help contribute. I understand there are different stake holders and it’s fantastic that ibis and Pride Plaza have come on board this year, because they saw the returns from our last visit. I think the other hotels as well as the shopping centre has received business from MICE. Now we need to start generating events in Aerocity, that might be of a more cultural or leisure focus, be it for music or the arts.
I think the beauty of Aerocity is its diversity in brand. Both local international, at different levels of lifestyle vs traditional affordable luxury as well as having your mainstream business hotels. We have everything in Aerocity. Part of aerocity.events is that we would be able to work together for the big MICE business. Even though the JW Marriott has its own set of MICE clients, when you build something together, you can focus on the destination. When we were in Frankfurt and Las Vegas last year, selling Aerocity in Delhi as a destination and sell India as a destination, it was great.
Heddo Siebs, General Manager, Andaz Delhi: I think it looks very positive going ahead. We have already had an event in February and more events coming up in November of this year and then again March. That already shows that we are on the right track. Last year we were just three hotels participating, which has grown to five this year. It all goes in the right direction. We just have to be patient and have to be consistent in being there and staying focussed in order to really put Aerocity on the map much more. I think what is also very important is that we have to members for example of the ICCA (Indian Corporate Counsel Association) and other associations where we can be more aware of what is happening so we can pitch for new business.
At Frankfurt, what was very interesting was to see how India was represented compared to other big countries, which had several big cities attending. When it comes to India, there was an India stand, with DMCs, airlines, travel agents; then there was the Hyderabad stall and then us. There is no other city from India represented.
From a MICE selling point We are 15 minutes from the airport with 100,000 square feet of event space and 3,500 rooms (2500 represented at aerocity.events) all within walking distance, newly developed and with security, which is a point which came up time and again at IMEX.
Andaz Delhi is a nice addition to bring in a lifestyle brand to Aerocity with 37,500 square feet of event space. It’s not only a lifestyle product, but also the much needed event space. With us having the ballroom, the pre-function area and the courtyard--a total of 25,000 square feet (11,000 square feet ballroom; 9,500 square feet pre-function area; and 8,500 square feet of courtyard)--it forms a very important venue.
Also very important for the MICE business is our effort to sell Delhi as a destination. Aerocity is not Connaught Place, right? But within our hotel and our 401 Reasons to fall in love with Delhi and our Delhi Art, there are a lot of reasons where you are encouraged to explore Delhi within our hotel. We are also very well connected to the city, with our local heroes, guests can really explore Delhi through us on a very different way. The metro station brings us to Connaught Place in 12 minutes, so we are actually very close to city centre. It air conditioned, clean and nice and neat.
We need to push the brand of Aerocity more. Talk to people and make sure that they understand that Delhi is a good place to come for MICE and India is a fantastic country to visit. There are still some perceptions in the world due to media and we just have to overcome it. It’s our duty to become the ambassador of India, of Delhi, of Aerocity.
Vinay Bhardwaj, General Manager - Sales & Marketing, Pride Hotels: Aerocity.events is very unique. For the first time, I see hotels joining hands and agreeing to showcase the destination as such rather than the individual hotels. Every hotel in Aerocity.events is unique, catering to different segments. We don’t see competition among us. The whole idea was to promote the destination primarily.
Last year, we were keen to join but weren’t ready to participate, this year we were all set and eager to go. In the last 12 months, I have personally seen MICE moving into Aerocity more frequently and business has started picking up. I think going forward, the other hotels in Aerocity, who are not part of this platform will be tempted to participate more often.
From Pride Plazas point of view, apart from the big guys, the Marriotts, Hyatts and AccorHotels of the industry, we are the only Indian hotel chain here (apart from Lemon Tree). This place is picking up so very well in MICE. Normally I see MICE happening till about D minus 30 days, but in Aerocity it is happening D minus 7 days thanks to the infrastructure we have here. We have no traffic issues, there is access to the airport and we can easily move in and out of the Aerocity. There are no long logjams to get through before reaching the hotel after landing in the city.
Everybody was eagerly awaiting for the convention centre to be completed and I can only see it going further from here onwards. I have seen hotels near airports the world over not doing to well, but this place will be a clutter breaker.
As far as Pride Plaza is concerned, YTD we are up by 82 percent over last year so far, I can only see us grow by 30 to 35 percent over last year.
Once Aerocity hosts big international fairs, where requirement is 2000 or 2500 rooms, the best thing about Aerocity is that you have all kinds of segments, starting from Five Star Delux to Four and Three Stars, which helps everyone and it makes sense to organisers to hold MICE events in Aerocity.
We need the convention centre to come up, this is the need of the hour. We also need more representation of all the other hotels in fairs to make the global market aware of our product.
Pierre-Etienne De Montgrand, Director of Operation ibis & ibis Styles, India: ibis always wanted to be part of the Aerocity.event effort, because I think it’s a unique opportunity to promote this destination in Delhi. Very few people even within India know about the volume of convention space we have to offer here, along with one of the best infrastructures we can have in the city, with fantastic proximity to the airport. We can tell anybody there will never be a traffic jam from the airport to your room.
Delhi is one of the best long haul/short haul destination in India today. We can have meetings within the region as well as internationally. In this conference destination promotion ibis wants to play more of a supporting role for all the big hotels. This is the biggest ibis in India. It is the teamwork of the three hotels from last year. If everybody in the destination plays a part, then it becomes an amazing effort. MICE and the large 1000 or 2000 delegate meeting is not our core business for us. We do MICE, but its for up to a 100 people. We don’t do weddings or social functions, BUT, what we know is that if we support each other as a team, then and only then can we all benefit, once the destination is known as a MICE hotspot.
I strongly believe when you look at it in terms of value for money vs security and all other parameters, Delhi Aerocity venue is one of the best, verses what you can get in Singapore for instance. We need to make a lot more noise and let people know that the next time they can do their business at a much better price point. We are also showing of a different image of the country. You are checked into your room within 20 minutes of exiting the airport, which after a five or six hour flight is a real boon. You reach your venue, do the event, then take a day or two to do some sightseeing before jetting off again. We can do this without thinking of a two hour drive, thanks to the metro connectivity.
This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'MICE issue'
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