‘Leisure destinations in India will continue to do well’

Ramesh Daryanani, Vice President, Global Sales, Asia Pacific at Marriott International speaks on his approach, recovery trends in areas under his charge and what he expects for the Indian industry in the near future

It was the realisation that connecting with people brought him joy that led Ramesh Daryanani to pursue a career in hospitality, an industry he had no plans to venture in to begin with. So when an opportunity knocked his doors, the finance and accounting graduate, didn’t think twice. “If all these years that I have been able to sustain professionally should be attributed in my ability to keep the head down, focus on the job and get behind the details,” says Vice President, Global Sales, Asia Pacific at Marriott International.

The journey, however, has not been easy. “When I look back at my career with Marriott, I feel fortunate as the organisation delivers the promise to look after its people and I’m one of those examples,” he shares. For Daryanani, professional approach has always been to balance revenue and guest satisfaction. He believes these metrics and components are what allow the business to sustain and grow because focussing solely on revenue does not help in protecting and growing owners’ assets to deliver expected returns. 

Predicting trends

Daryanani feels with depreciating Rupee, rising airfares and limited airline capacity, the next-gen Indian traveller will opt for domestic travel over an international flight. This is a trend, he predicts, will be here for another year-and-a-half. “Moreover, only 6.5 per cent Indians possess a passport today despite Indian Government issuing 12 million every year so that will be another reason,” he says, adding, MICE too will witness a strong comeback soon. “The chances of missing out increase manifold for those who intend driving revenues by organising meetings and events. It needs to be done now,” he opines.

For 2023, Daryanani predicts a lot more outbound travel. “The visa officers are going to process visas a lot faster, especially as the world now needs to plan better as China is not in travel plans presently. The country will start travelling in second half of 2023. Till then, the world will need India. Also, like Indians in India have been exploring their backyard, Europeans in Europe have been doing so too. The Americans have been visiting Europe while Australians are either travelling within their country or visiting Hawaii, Fiji and Thailand,” he shares. This trend, feels Daryanani, will give the industry time to set things up to be ready for inbound travel as and when it returns. “While that will happen soon, commercial inbound is going to kick in a lot sooner than the leisure segment,” he shares. 

Facing challenges

Before the pandemic, Marriott International was focussing on placing India on the global map as a destination for meetings, events and leisure while trying to navigate aspects like infrastructure, ease of entry and visa approvals. “The pandemic helped to an extent and there has been some progress. However, the focus now is on how to accelerate it. India has always been great for business travel due to the presence of Fortune 500 companies here as well as it being known as an outsourcing destination,” says Daryanani, adding that despite this, aspects like history and architecture in India remained either unknown or low down on visitors’ priority list. 

As the industry didn’t expect the recovery to be so quick, there has been dearth of talented people to drive it on a safer plain. “There is an additional task of figuring out on how to inspire new talent to join the industry as well as ensuring they get trained and are ready to deliver the experience at the earliest,” he says, adding one needs to be passionate to be a part of this profession. “We are trying to find such passionate people. The passion for hospitality, the experiences you have here and how holistic it makes you as a professional is what we’re trying to imbibe in new talent,” he explains. 

Another challenge for the Group is to re-educate people about its brands and create awareness about the offerings through its loyalty programme. “Now that the country has opened up for travel and people are hunting for hotels to stay, Marriott wants to re-establish itself at the top of the mind of these travellers by introducing a few new initiatives and sustaining the old ones like credit cards and Marriott Bonvoy on Wheels,” he says.

On road to recovery

Daryanani shares Australia as a destination surprised him with its recovery, beginning February. And not only Australia, even Korea, Indonesia and Singapore, riding high on domestic travel, bounced back well. “The reason: it is easier for travellers to enter these countries which is driving the demand,” he reveals. In India, he shares that the Group has hit 71 per cent occupancy and it is up on the ADR as compared to the 2019 levels. 

Elaborating on regional trends in India, he shares the southern region, primarily Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad, are witnessing a rebound as companies are bringing people back to offices. Thus, it is driving travel and leading to a lot of meetings and event businesses in South India. He shares that drivable destinations from bigger cities have fared well. “Also, all leisure destinations will continue to do well. We have witnessed record occupancies in Goa, Mussoorie and Jaipur and I don’t see the trend shifting. If anything, it puts a few Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities on the national map as people are exploring places where they can travel easily on weekends,” he explains. 

Creating value

The Group is also upgrading its app to encourage guests to do mobile check-ins and offer increased guest-hotel interaction. The programme catches customer preferences to enable the brand to enhance their travel experience based on their preferences. Marriott Bonvoy, the Group’s travel loyalty programme, is an attempt to be a part of the customer’s journey from start to finish, he shares, adding, “We’re not there yet but I think we are ahead of our competitors in terms of planning for that journey and seizing some of those opportunities.”

With 169 million members across the globe, Marriott International is trying to create value for them by looking at what they can do with the points. For this, they have introduced experiences like using points to receive personalised greetings from an IPL player. “Guests can access these via Marriott Bonvoy programme and it’s great to see these programmes evolving to add more value,” he says. 

Another initiative that Marriott International has undertaken is co-branded credit cards, currently offered in Japan and Korea and soon-to-be-launched worldwide. Daryanani elaborates that with these cards, users can have a meal at a Marriott hotel and earn points on credit card or they can use previous points to pay for that meal. “As it is tech-enabled currency, people like it. They understand the use of the programme and how it benefits them across all parts of a travel journey,” concludes Daryanani. n

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'BW HOTELIER - THE WEDDINGS & MICE SPECIAL'


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