MUMBAI: Local food and beverages (F&B) and weddings are a particular focus in India for JW Marriott, as the hotel chain looks to tap into the growing domestic travel market.

“In India we need to position F&B extremely well,” according to Neeraj Govil, area vice president, South Asia, Marriott International.

“It is a huge talking point and it is one of the brand’s pillars [in India],” he told the Business Standard.

Food and beverages make up 45% of Marriott’s revenues in the country and can be a useful differentiator, he added. “Having a great local beer on the menu and good local food is important.”

Other international brands have also taken note of this and shifted accordingly. Lufthansa, for example, had traded on German attributes of punctuality, reliability and technical perfection. “We were not seen as warm enough,” said Alexander Schlaubitz, the airline’s vice-president, marketing.

“We were not seen, from a culinary perspective, respectful enough of the rich tradition and the meaning that food has in the Indian culture,” he told Business World. “So we started this 360 degree approach that focused on how we could redefine the experience for the Indian traveller.”

That has become essential for travel and hospitality bands as the domestic travel market has surged in recent years.

“If you looked at this business 10-12 years ago, you’d have more expats and foreigners, but now a huge chunk of our customers are domestic,” Govil noted.

And in another nod to local priorities, he explained that the use of physical space in Marriott’s Indian hotels is different to that in other countries.

“The expectation in India is very different, especially for weddings,” Govil said, with “huge banquet spaces, bridal rooms attached, you won’t necessarily see in other countries”, while separate entrances avoid disrupting the day-to-day business of the hotel.

“Our local affiliations have been strong from day one,” he stated. “It has now become more relevant because consumers are becoming more local.”

Sourced from Business Standard, Business World; additional content by WARC staff