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Purchase of experiences is now outstripping the purchase of goods: Craig Smith, President & Managing Director – Asia Pacific, Marriott International

On his recent visit to India, Smith spoke to Everything Experiential about Marriott’s India journey, the new opportunities that the market presets and his vision for the group.

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Marriott International entered India 20 years ago with a resort in Goa, and has now expanded to 36 cities and 111 hotels. With over 22,000 associates working in India, Marriott has become one of the biggest player in the hospitality sector, both in terms of revenue and presence.

Under Smith’s leadership, Marriott International launched its 100th hotel in 2018 and became the first International hospitality chain to have reached a 100-hotel milestone in India.

On his recent visit to India, Smith spoke to BW Businessworld about Marriott’s India journey, the new opportunities that the market presets and his vision for the group.

Excerpts: 

How would you sum up Marriott’s two-decade long journey in India?

It's been an interesting journey and we have benefited in two ways.

Firstly, we have grown the number of hotels in India and the interesting thing is that we are growing faster now. We have also benefited from the talent side.  India has an incredible base of very smart people and very hard-working people and as a group we have been blessed with some great talent from the country who keep driving our success story here.

When it comes to experiential travel, what are some of the top trends defining this space?

In Asia-Pacific the biggest trend is leisure travel which has grown four times over the past few years.
We have also seen significant growth in weekend business and we call them ‘staycations’. People check in a hotel in the same city they live so that they can chill and relax.
Leisure travel is growing fast right now because people are looking for new experiences and they don’t mind spending on them. It is the first time in history that the purchase of experiences is now outstripping the purchase of goods.

From a revenue perspective, how significant is the wedding market for Marriott?

It is a very important segment for us. There are an average of 33 weddings which happen at a Marriott hotel every single day. We are creating memories and the opportunity is limitless. 

Wedding is a segment that we know for a fact is recession-proof. It doesn't matter how the economy is doing, people are going to spend a lot on a wedding and it’s an opportunity to attract new customers.

The latest trend we are now witnessing is that a lot of resorts are custom-made for weddings. JW Marriott in Jaipur, for example, has become a magnet for the NRI weddings. Lot of Indian families, living in Dubai, Europe or Canada and the US are looking to come back here for the weddings and the marketing is witnessing continued growth. 

What are your plans for the India market for the next two years?

Asia is the fastest-growing part in our company. And within Asia the growth engines are China and India. We're growing at least 20% a year here in India. New hotels, new jobs and new talent are growing. I think growth is pretty much the biggest story that we have in this part of the world and we are looking to leverage this opportunity. 

What are the big challenges facing the hospitality sector in India?

I think today the big challenge remains connectivity and infrastructure but the government has done a lot and is doing more to improve it. I think we have to fill the void left by Jet Airways and some of the other airlines to take connectivity hassle-free.


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