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Friday, 09 March, 2018, 15 : 43 PM [IST]

‘The Indian market is definitely on our radar to open a hotel’

European five-star luxury brand Kempinski Hotels has forayed into the Indian market by appointing Nijhawan Group as its India Representative. While Kempinski is recognised in India because of its past affiliations with the Leela Group, the brand is looking at doubling its existing room nights from this market in three years. As part of its first initiative in India, Kempinski Hotels conducted a three-city India roadshow across Benglauru, Delhi and Mumbai with a 12-hotel delegation comprising 8 general managers and 5 director of sales. During a one-on-one interaction at the Mumbai roadshow, Theo Ocks, Vice President-Sales, Kempinski Hotels, spoke to Disha Shah Ghosh about their expectations from India.

Q Why did Kempinski Hotels decide to appoint a representative in the Indian market at this point of time?
We have several hotels that already do a lot of business in the Indian market e.g. Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi and Çiragan Palace Kempinski in Istanbul. At this moment, the Indian outbound market is strengthening, and Indians want to experience true luxury hotels, particularly in Europe, with lot of history attached to it. We are looking at markets that are developing and in Asia, China and India look promising. We already have a sales representation in China and India was the next frontier for us.

“  Leisure, MICE,
government & corporate
traveller segments are our
focus segments in India”  

Q What made you select Nijhawan Group as your India Representative?
We had some good meetings with Nijhawan; we liked the fact they are in the business for many generations and are a known and respected company. They share the same values as we do. We look at long-term relationships and that’s what we see with Nijhawan. We want to make sure we understand the Indian market to cater to them; we want to showcase the amazing hotels for leisure, MICE as well weddings e.g. San Clemente Palace Kempinski in Venice which is located on a private island and offers 190 rooms. One can do a full buy out of the island for Indian weddings.

Q Any plans for brand segmentation? Where are your upcoming hotel openings?
Kempinski doesn’t believe in mass product and brand segmentation. We are a five-star luxury brand and will continue to remain so. We have a number of openings in Muscat (Oman), followed by Dubai, Yangon (Myanmar), Bali (Indonesia), Tel Aviv (Israel) and Almaty (Kazakhstan). With Air India launching direct flights to Tel Aviv we are looking at benefitting from improved access. For a small group like Kempinski, these openings are big numbers. In Asia, the largest concentration of our hotels is in China, and have properties in Bangkok, Jakarta and Myanmar. Currently, we have no deals in India. We would like to sign a deal with a hotel owner/ developer to expand our reach in India.

QYour expectations of room nights from India?
India represents 3% of our annual room nights. Our biggest markets are US, UK and Germany. In the next 3 years we are hopeful of doubling that number. Indian ranks among the top 15 source markets for us in terms of nationality.

Q What kind of trade activities have you chalked out for India?
Having appointed Nijhawan Group as our India Representative in January this year, we decided to do a three-city Bengaluru, Delhi and Mumbai roadshow with 8 general managers and 5 director of sales and marketing, representing 12 hotels. This is a testimony of how important is India as a source market for us. We decided to do this roadshow to benefit from the Indian booking season this summer. This tour has been a lot more about building relationships with agency owners.

In the next round, we are looking at educating the front line staff of agencies. We have three representatives across Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru who will undertake sales calls to create brand awareness. Besides the offline agents, we are looking at exploring opportunities with Indian OTAs.

Q In terms of traveller segments, which are your focus areas?
We receive a lot of government business and are interested in tapping this segment here in India as well. Last year, when Hamburg hosted the G20 Summit, the Indian Prime Minister stayed at Atlantic Kempinski Hamburg. The Adlon Kempinski in Berlin is located right in the diplomatic circle and therefore we welcome many government delegations and lot of corporate business. For weddings, the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi has hosted many highend Indian weddings. Therefore, leisure, MICE and government & corporate traveller segments, in that order, are our focus areas in India.

Q What is your strategy for India?
When we enter a new market we believe in long-term commitment. We hope to develop the Indian market for the long-term and hope to get a steady flow of Indian guests to all our hotels, not only in the few that are known, but also the lesser-popular ones. What we have realised that because of past affiliations in India, Kempinski is very well recognised in this market. For us, India as a market is definitely on the radar to open a hotel. In Asia, China is a bigger market for us at this point of time, contributing between 15- 20% annually. We are very well implanted in the key cities as well in the secondary and tertiary cities. As far as India is concerned, our first priority is Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru, followed by the Tier-II and III markets.

disha.shah@saffronsynergies.in
 
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