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Hotels shifting from mere accommodation to experiential destinations

A decade ago, the sole purpose of a hotel was mere lodging. Travellers then were looking for a decent, hygienic accommodation to catch-up a good sleep or rest after a hectic day at work. Today, the travel community has evolved extensively. Now, travellers are looking for something more even while selecting a particular hotel. To cater to this demand, hotels are now curating various experiences to further increase their market share. Now hotels are majorly focusing to engage their clients through various innovative strategies.

Speaking about the shift, Devesh Rawat, General Manager, Indore Marriott Hotel said, “It is true that the concept of a ‘Hotel’ has evolved over time. It has advanced to how people live, travel around the world, conduct their business, commune with nature and even construct their fantasy lives. The modern hotel not only offers a mere accommodation, but also provides its guests with an escapist experience through its design, sense of spectacle and amenities. The hotels are now becoming a destination within themselves. With the changing demand, we are also bringing in a different style of concepts to keep up with the interests of our guests. We have a designated Experience Specialist who is assigned to each guest.”

Voicing similar opinion, Soumodeep Bhattacharya, Director of Sales & Marketing, Le Meridien Goa Calangute said, “Le Meridien as a brand has captured the essence of the changing audience – our ethos of ‘Destination Unlocked’ is derived from this trend of travellers looking for authentic experiences that are unique and distinct. At Le Meridien Goa, right from the hotel’s design story to the itineraries we help our guests with is rooted in local love and is aimed at helping them discover a side of Goa they have never known before.”

While most of the hotels focus on personalisation to enhance the experience, some of the players are attracting travellers by experiences like shopping, gastronomy, art collection, etc. Speaking about the trends Sanzeev Bhatia, VP & GM, The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa said, “To meet the guest expectations and to enable them to have various experiences within the hotel, we primarily focus on innovating and experimenting in areas like F&B, spa, shopping, art, curated events and more. For shopping Experiences – guests have Craft House, a luxury Lifestyle store. For art lovers, our Art Spice is an arts organization and gallery devoted to promoting the visual and performing arts and help perceive art in its totality in an across the board in an interdisciplinary manner.”

Similarly, Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru believes that engagement is the key in driving luxury hotel business. Starting from recreational activities, dining experience to relaxation and sensuous activities the property provides it all. Rajan Malhotra, Director of Sales and Marketing at Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru added, “A fine dining experience is more than great food. It starts with the ambience and service that sets the context for what is in store for the guest. Considering the kind of culinary exposure travellers get these days and are becoming cognizant of the unique dining experiences, we also bring international and traditional cuisines in a most authentic way to the city by hosting food promotions.”

A trend which has continued in the last couple of years has been the power of domestic market. Most of the hotels are witnessing a healthy mix of domestic and international travellers, with domestic leading the numbers in certain properties.

Rohit Dar, General Manager, The Westin Hyderabad Mindspace, said, “The Indian tourism and hospitality market is vast in its offerings and demands. Due to the diversity, the market is evolving by the year. Though there is a continuous shift in business, approximately 40 per cent contribution comes from this segment.”

In the case of Indore Marriott Hotel, approximately 91 per cent of the business comes from domestic travellers.

Similarly Bhattacharya said, “We see a healthy mix of domestic tourists all year through contributing to almost 70 per cent of our total business. During October -  February, we have an influx of tourists from UK, Russia and other European countries visit the state.”

Today, technology has become an indispensible part of every industry, with hospitality being no different. Technology has played a key role in personalising services and has shaped the hospitality industry. Even hotels in India are now looking to induct technology in areas that can enhance the overall guest experience.

Speaking about the need for technology in hotels Dar said, “Technology has become an indispensable part of our lives; as it connects us to the world in a split second. India has always been an experimental market; with the Indian dependency on technology, I would say that it is ready for technological innovations.”

On the contrary, Bhatia feels that technology is no doubt advancing rapidly, but India will adapt it after a few years. “Technology has a major role at present for us and everyone else. The growth in online business is multifold. Globally hotels have introduced Chatbots and AI for hotel operations, is India market ready for such innovations? I don’t think our market at present is ready for it but may be after few years we may start using its potential,” he added.

In 2017, hotels have even witnessed a positive growth in terms of occupancy and ARR, which was stagnant in the last couple of years.

Speaking about the growth Dar said, “2017 has been a good year for the hotel, where we saw an increase in our overall revenue as compared to 2016. Occupancy has been four per cent above 2016 and rate has been above two per cent. We are expecting to continue this upbeat approach in 2018 grow RevPar by over five per cent from last year.”

Echoing similar views and speaking about trends in MICE Malhotra said, “We compete with other luxury hotels in Bengaluru and we have shown the maximum growth vis a vis our competition set in 2017 and the trend looks similar for 2018. Bengaluru has a bigger market share of corporates and MICE. Leisure is still in single digit percentage for the majority hotels in the city.”

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