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Sunday, 05 February, 2017, 11 : 29 AM [IST]

‘MICE travel from India to China is growing nearly 8% year-on-year’

Q. What is Marriott’s footprint in China in key gateway cities?
A. After the merger of Marriott and Starwood, we are upgrading 265 hotels which come under 17 different brands in Greater China which includes China, Macau, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Not only this, we will introduce more brands in the months to come. As far as our footprint is concerned, we cover all major cities like Macau, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Beijing, etc. In China, there are 160 cities with population of a million or more in each and we cover all these areas. Apart from the Tier I and II cities, we have a presence in Tier III and IV cities and in some cases in Tier V as well. Our foot print is quite large especially after the merger of Marriott and Starwood, and we have observed that this consolidation has gone down well with our customers as it offers them wider choices from different cities and locations.

Q. How are your properties designed to attract MICE travellers from India?
A. Earlier, majority of business travellers from India used to visit Hong Kong and Macau because of easy access but the trend has changed lately. In the last few years many Indian business travellers have been travelling to Greater China. Segments like holidays, weddings and MICE, particularly incentive travel, have witnessed growth in the last few years. Incentive is one of the segments which is witnessing growth year-on-year especially in cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou. In order to attract more people (particularly from Delhi), we paid utmost attention on food. As food is an important component to decide on any destination. In this direction, we are closely working with our sister hotels in India to make sure that we are doing the right thing. We have introduced the Chef Exchange Programme, which entails that chefs from India visit Marriott hotels in China, and help prepare food and beverages that suits the taste of Indian visitors and vice versa. By initiating the move we are able to provide authentic Indian food to our Indian guests. This has benefitted us as the number of Indian guests to Marriott hotels in Greater China is constantly increasing. Food

plays an important role in selecting a hotel or a place for incentive travellers which ranges from 20-300 and even 400 as well. We are happy to address this problem and will continue to do better.

Q. Have you taken important initiatives in the recent past?
A. The Chef Programme which I referred to does not mean that they visit for couple of days and come back to India. In some cases, chefs stay over there for a period of six months. This is to ensure that we consistently offer quality food to our Indian guests. Besides this, our entire leadership of China is here to understand various parameters of Indian guests like their behaviour, eating habits, likes, dislikes, etc. Based on this we want to customise the programme and implement it there. The entire approach is to know the exact need of Indian customers.

Q. How is the Indian market evolving in terms of MICE to China?
A. MICE travel is growing at 7 to 8% year-on-year. Interestingly, the growth, in terms of number of Indian guests in hotels in Beijing and Shanghai are sometime double digit. Again, if you look at Marriott City Centre in Beijing which is a 700 rooms hotel, India is one of the top ten in terms of customer mix. We foresee many more Indian business travellers to visit Hong Kong, and China will drive visitors from IT and pharmaceutical industries. Looking at Asia Pacific, China and India are going to be the biggest economies in the world. Business going from India to China and vice versa would grow manifolds in the days to come.

We can cater to different types of guests with our 17 brands in China and four more are in the pipeline. The upcoming four brands will be huge properties and will cater to large number of incentive groups and weddings in China. The existing brands and the upcoming properties will help us to cater to more number of guests.

Q. How is the investment from Ctrip to MakeMyTrip going to benefit?
A. Ctrip is closely working with us and one of our key partners. Ctrip will be working closely with MakeMyTrip in India. This will create more opportunities with two strong booking systems working together. I think Ctrip represents quite a big percentage of business in China on the domestic front and for bookings of Chinese people travelling abroad. Things will only get better and better with the working of two systems together. The inbound and outbound travel from both the countries will get further momentum with the investment of Ctrip in MakeMyTrip.

Q. How do you visualise India two years down the line as a MICE market?
A. In the MICE segment, incentive travel will continue to grow. We need to work closely with Indian customers and find out how we can undertake more MICE business besides tourism, incentive travel, and meeting groups. We need to get more individual corporate guests.
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