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Bollywood and weddings two new focus areas at Starwood Expo

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SUDIPTA DEVMumbai

Dhananjay S Saliankar

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Asia Pacific recently organised a five-city road show, Starwood India Expo 2013. Besides Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru the seventh edition of Starwood Expo included two more additions this year – Chennai and Kolkata. “We had a great turnout in Chennai and that has encouraged us to go there next year also. Kolkata has shown us some good results without doing much activity. With a lot of interest coming from Thailand, Hong Kong and Macau for Kolkata because of direct flights we thought of doing a B2B event there. The other cities – Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru have always been successful,” said Dhananjay S Saliankar, regional director – Starwood Sales Organisation, South Asia.

Forty-six hotels participated in the expo this year from 18 countries. “With European market reaching a saturation, India is a big market for them. There is short lead time to always get more business,” said Saliankar. Canada is a new entrant this year while North America came for the second time. “They really saw some great results, we grew the market over 100 per cent in the last two years with B2B partners. We signed up tours with Kuoni, Vacation Exotica and other large players. We are also working with smaller agencies,” stated Saliankar.

The invited delegates included travel agents, tour operators, corporates and conference organisers. The two new segments targeted this year were – wedding planners and production houses. “Thailand has always been popular for Indian weddings. We are keen to focus on markets like Mauritius, Dubai, Hong Kong. We’ve got the largest inventory of 3800 rooms in Sheraton Macau. We also want to develop the Bollywood segment and have invited the production houses,” said Saliankar.

Talking about a few highlights he pointed out that luxury brand W in Barcelona has taken close to over 20 Indian groups, mostly MICE segment. “This has given us an advantage in the B2B market though we do not have a W here, to create a strong awareness and popularity of the brand,” said Saliankar. Similarly, St Regis Bangkok has hosted a number of Indian weddings.

Saliankar also spoke about the StarNet booking engine for Starwood hotels through which travel and retail agents, including those in secondary cities can book on the best available rates and get 15 per cent off the bar.

Jenny Seraphine, complex sales manager, Attachee Commerciale, Le Meridien Fisherman’s Cove, Seychelles said that her property had a lot of exposure in India, “The Indian market is growing year by year, as an increasing number of Indians are visiting Seychelles. We get many leisure groups, though the MICE segment is also growing. There is good flight connectivity via Doha and Dubai. I hope to get more clients following the expo this year.” Tejal Mehta Seebhujun, sales manager-India, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Mauritius said, “We have three properties and have always been very focused on India.” The global personalisation programmes ensures that there are Indian guest relations executives to interact with the guests, Indian cuisine and cultural programmes. The housekeeping, waiters and kitchen staff are all trained for the Indian market.

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