Focus on Domestic Customer looking for a Staycation

Le Meridien Dhaka’s General Manager Constantinos S Gavriel says the hotel is experiencing a growing demand for social gatherings and get-togethers

It was in the decade of 1980s that the hospitality industry in Bangladesh started looking up, with two international hotels – Sonargaon and Hotel Sheraton – entering the Asian nation. Close to four decades later, till the pandemic wreaked havoc in the lives of millions across the world, the hospitality industry in Bangladesh had witnessed an upward trend, majorly due to the country having the second-largest share of readymade garments in the world. To cater to the international business travellers landing on Bangladesh soil, global hotel chains forayed into the country with Le Meridien being one of the most famous names. 

Located near the international airport, Le Meridien Dhaka has benefitted from the increase in the number of business travellers who entered the country before Covid-19, since the nation opened its doors in mid-2015. Talking about the challenges he has faced in managing Le Meridien Dhaka during these times of uncertainty, General Manager Constantinos S Gavriel says, “Our business, like the entire hospitality and travel industry across the world, has been facing challenging times due to the pandemic. This situation is new to us. Despite accepting the new normal, we are constantly learning to live with the new norms. Unfortunately, like many other properties across the globe, we had to close our hotel for almost six months last year due to Covid-19. On September 1, 2020, we resumed operations with new hope and new norms. These include the latest and most up to date Covid-19 guidelines and protocols from both Marriott International and the World Health Organisation.”

Le Meridien Dhaka

But it has been a task to reassure guests about their safety in the present times? “We want to make sure our guests and associates feel safe and comfortable when entering the hotel, by ensuring all safety and cleanliness protocols, collaborating with the reputed chemical company such as ‘Diversey’ for sanitisation and hygiene measures, limiting the sitting arrangements in the restaurants, lobby and banquets. We have strategically placed signages for social distancing, wearing of masks and other precautionary directions around the hotel and we make certain everyone is masked at all times,” he shares. 

With over two decades of experience in the hotel industry and the track record of being a successful General Manager across Marriott’s various leading properties, how does he set Le Meridien Dhaka differently as compared to certain competing brands, Gavriel says that the property has a special place in his heart. “On the global platform, the Le Meridien brand embraces diversification through ‘art and culture’ and in our hotel, we have the same aspiration to mirror local culture and traditions. From the beginning of my stay in Dhaka, I have been always amazed to see the acquiescence of the culture from this community. I believe no other brand has promoted its local culture as much as we do,” he avers, adding the capital city of Bangladesh is still in a position of market growth and his commitment to the property is to ensure excellence in service and offer authentic curated experience from the moment the guests they enter the property.

Latest Recipe, All-day Dining

On what drives the Le Méridien Dhaka’s revenue, Gavriel shares, “During the pre-Covid times, our main target guests were business travellers and local corporates but the demand has totally shifted since the beginning of the pandemic. We are experiencing a growing demand for social gatherings, families and friends wanting to get together and enjoy those postponed celebrations. Our guests are also showing more enthusiasm for smaller wedding arrangements and dine-in at five-star luxury hotels due to our high compliance of health and safety protocols. Our Marriott Bonvoy on Wheels delivery services has been a great success since the start of the pandemic, especially during the long lockdown periods in Dhaka. When we analyse the revenue stream today, 60 per cent comes from local F&B and local events.” This year, the property has witnessed over 40 per cent of occupancy and almost 70 per cent for ARR recovery versus 2019, he informs.

Favola, Italian Restaurant

Exploring technology is one of the most important emerging trends and extremely relevant in today’s day and age as it not only helps enhance and ease the guest experience, it is required from a safety standpoint too, given contactless service being the norm in the new normal. “In terms of technological advancement, we are currently using QR codes across all our restaurant menus, mobile check-ins, and the latest GPNS modern equipment for wi-fi access, touch-free disinfected appliances that support and ensure seamless guest experience,” informs Gavriel. As the borders have closed across many countries and Covid-19 travel restrictions and international flight suspension have come into force, Le Meridien Dhaka too witnessed a major loss of their international corporate business. “Our focus now is the domestic Bangladeshi customer who is looking for a short staycation within the city, until international travel resumes. In addition, we have extensively promoted Marriott Bonvoy on Wheels Takeaway and Home Delivery services. Apart from that, we have launched exclusive staycation packages and creatively arranged dine-in facilities to meet the market demand,” he shares. 

India, says Gavriel, is by far the number one feeder market for the property across the globe excluding Europe. “We are happy to host visitors from India in terms of hospitality. Our two cultures are very similar, and we have so many things in common thus we reflect that in our hotel’s services. During the pre-Covid times, we welcomed over 10 per cent guests from India and made regular sales trips to India to promote our five-star luxury hotel and services to the corporate and MICE clients,” he says, adding that during the pandemic the sales team in Dhaka worked closely with its sales colleagues in India through the Marriott NSO team to promote Marriott properties to the entire Indian market.

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'SMART MANTRAS ISSUE VOL 7, ISSUE 4'


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