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Thursday, 06 September, 2018, 12 : 05 PM [IST]

‘Hotel rates are expected to improve in Kolkata over the years to sustain quality and growth’

Eastern India is on the expansion radar of Marriott International. After opening the premium JW brand in Kolkata a year and half ago, the hotel Group is eyeing major brand expansion both in West Bengal and across the borders in Bangladesh. Gaurav Singh, GM, JW Marriott, Kolkata and Cluster Manager for Bangladesh in an interview with TravelBiz Monitor shares how JW brand unlocked the premium hotel market space in Kolkata and the Group’s future strategies in the region.
QWhat is the kind of responsibility you handle being GM for Kolkata JW and Cluster Manager for Bangladesh? What is the portfolio that Marriott is having across the border?
JW Marriott Kolkata, the brand’s maiden property in East of India, is an iconic property. It has established its credibility in the market in just 18 months after its launch, not just in the city, but nationally too. My aim is to convert this into becoming a flagship property for us. As Cluster GM for the Bangladesh properties, I strategically guide the operations of our hotels operating and yet to open in Bangladesh. I support the GMs of these properties in terms of driving our business.

The properties that I am overseeing in Bangladesh are Westin Dhaka, Four Points by Sheraton Dhaka, Gulshan, Le Meridien Dhaka. Upcoming projects to open later this year include a Marriott branded hotel in Dhaka, we are yet to reveal the brand that shall adorn this project and Courtyard by Marriott Siliguri. Our Siliguri project will mark Marriott International’s entry to the rest of East of India outside of Kolkata where we operate the JW Marriott and Westin.

QHow is Kolkata evolving as a premium hospitality destination? What kind of space JW has been able to carve out in the location you are in?
Kolkata as a city has a very diverse culture with a mix of art, literature, music, club life, and food. Kolkatans are very fond of their food, and as a property we have carved a niche through our food and beverage offering, with the hotel providing one of the best dining options in the city. One of the other specialties is our Banqueting and catering spaces, as we not only offer the most modern and largest space in any hotel at the city, we do it with our culinary expertise backing the space with quality offerings. This has made the hotel the preferred destination to host the most elaborate weddings.

QWhat is the supply-demand scenario in the city for the premium or luxury hotel space?
The addition of us into the city of Kolkata in the luxury space has evolved this space in the market. Our neighbour (ITC Royal Bengal) is opening another large inventory, multiple restaurants offering at the hotel next door. This is expected to support the growth of demand that the city has witnessed over the last few years. No other new supply in the luxury space is expected in the near future though I understand that many in the upscale to moderate tier hotels will come about to support the growth.

QIf industry reports are to be believed, Kolkata has been lagging in occupancies and hotel rates against other metro cities. What is the current scenario in the market?
To some extent this is true. The city actually seems to have decent demand in the luxury space today with yearround average occupancies in mid- 70%. While demand has grown and so has the supply by new addition of hotels, rates in general have stayed suppressed compared to the rest of India. Kolkata trends clearly below most other metro cities for a price for room and F&B offering, while the city offers a wide range of choices in brands, scale, quality, and size of hotels. I feel over the next few years rates need to improve on the whole for the city to sustain quality and growth.

QWhat is Marriott’s focus on the Eastern part of India which is still under-penetrated by international brands?
East India is under our expansion radar. The first of it will be in Siliguri, where we are bringing in a Courtyard property, with us being the first international brand to enter the North Bengal market. We should be opening that by the last quarter of 2018. We are also aiming to bring the Fairfield flag to Kolkata soon and few more in the future. We are hoping to flow into Assam and the other North Eastern sister states as well in the near future as this corridor gains more popularity and connectivity for tourists and businesses improve.
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