In 20 years, India among top 3 countries for us: Marriott International COO

R. Ravikumar Chennai | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on December 23, 2011

Zooming in: Mr Arne Sorenson, President and COO of Marriott International.   -  Business Line

India will see enormous growth in travel and tourism in the next 10 to 15 years, says Mr Arne Sorenson, President and Chief Operating Officer, Marriott International Inc. “Your Incredible India campaign is incredibly brilliant,” he said in his brief 15-minute interview to Business Line. He was on a whirlwind trip to India recently, for the first time after he took over as the company's COO a couple of years ago. He is also set to become the company's top executive once its long-time CEO Mr J.W. Bill Marriott Jr steps down in the next three months.

Excerpts from the interview:

Are the debt crises in Europe and the US taking their toll on hotel occupancy across the world? How's the hotel industry doing in India?

Markets are growing, perhaps, at slower paces in the US and Asia Pacific. Europe is the hardest market to predict – for now. But as I see it, by and large, business travel takes place, more meetings happen than in the last two-three years. We see comparable year-over-year sales across the globe are up in high single digits over the same time last year.

And specifically, in India, there was a growth of 15 per cent in supply (of hotel rooms) in 2010-11; demand grew by 17 per cent during the same period. We expect corporate demand to grow even faster in the months to come, as the sector resumed travelling.

As we see it, the global economy is still growing, but at a slower rate.

But, it has shrunk inbound tourism to India. Hasn't that affected your business here?

We are doing pretty okay. For us, almost 75 per cent of the business in India comes from domestic travellers. We are the fifth largest hotel chain in India – in terms of number of rooms. At the moment, we have 15 hotels here and 45 more in the pipeline.

More and more global hotel brands are increasingly looking at setting up hotels in India. Many have already made much progress. How is Marriott placed in the market here?

Our philosophy is to have one leading brand in each distinct segment of the marketplace. So in India, all our brands, from Ritz Carlton in the luxury space to Courtyard Marriott at the other end of the spectrum, are competing well with other brands in their respective categories. Our plan really is to grow with India.

In 20 years from now, India will be one of the top three countries we do business in. The country is bound to see enormous growth in travel and tourism.

Are you focusing only on the business travel segment or on the leisure segment too?

Though predominantly business, we will grow our leisure portfolio.

Marriott has been operating in India as an asset-light company. Would you invest in properties here?

No. Not in a big way. We recently formed a joint venture with SAMHI Hotels – in which we have a minority stake – to set up 15 Fairfield Inn hotels here. We have been an asset-light company not just in India, but globally… even in the US. Globally we have 3,500 properties. Of this, only eight are owned by us.

Is the tie-up exclusive?

No. We have tied up with a few other partners for Fairfield in India.

Where will the first Fairfield property be launched?

In the NCR.

Will your Fairfield in India be different from that in other parts of the world?

Yes. It will be different in India. Rooms will be bigger; they will have three F&B outlets and bigger public space. It will be a full-service hotel, and priced very competitively.

Published on December 23, 2011
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