Exclusive Interview: GM Chandrashekhar Joshi, JW Marriott Jaipur Resort & Spa
GM Chandrashekhar Joshi of JW Marriott Jaipur Resort & Spa analyses the business potential of Jaipur as an emerging destination for luxury traveller, destination weddings and bleisure
Jaipur is a mature hospitality market. As a global luxury hospitality brand, how do you see the market evolving?
Jaipur is an integral part of the golden triangle itinerary and considered a (tourism) landmark as India's ‘Pink City’. The city is also a major MICE destination, besides being popular for destination weddings and large-scale conventions. Its rich culture and spectacular forts, palaces and havelis continue to attract tourists from across the world, making it one of the top leisure destinations in the country. The luxury segment will continue to grow as people explore the destination not just to make a statement, but discover and define it for themselves. As per CARE hospitality reports, in FY18, Jaipur witnessed about 7.3 per cent growth in room supply. Despite the increase in supply, the city occupancy rates zoomed to 67.3 per cent and there was about 6 per cent growth in average room rates. In line with the occupancy rates and ARRs, RevPARs registered about 10.8 per cent YOY growth during the year. Going forward, about 1,100 rooms are expected to be added to the Jaipur hotel market.
What have been the challenges you have faced in the Jaipur market?
The seasonality of the destination is a challenge. The business dips with the rise in temperature during summers, when Jaipur is not considered a lucrative or preferred destination to be in.
Which is your big revenue earner – MICE or weddings?
Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur have been leading in the destination wedding market. Jaipur, with its proximity to Delhi, attracts a lot of clients from India’s capital city, looking to host either extravagant events or weddings. The location of the resort also plays a major role in attracting the wedding segment, situated as it is right on the Delhi-Jaipur Highway. Our customers from Delhi do not have to drive into the city. Weddings have been a big revenue generator for us because of the customised services we offer and the palatial architecture of the hotel, which exudes a royal vibe. Surrounded by the Aravalli range, our resort is also a perfect getaway for corporate events. We offer the largest pillar-free ballroom amongst any five-star hotel in the city, and a total of 57,000sq. ft of outdoor and indoor venues. To our corporate clientele, it’s not just the venue that matters; they look at the entire experience. We have in-house events teams, which customise and plan guest itineraries within the resort and at nearby recreational venues for meetings and team-building activities.
The Palace Studio suite at JW Marriott Jaipur
What would you consider to JW Marriott, Jaipur's USP, which sets it apart from the competitors?
JW Marriot is a global brand with 200 luxurious rooms and villas, featuring amenities and services that celebrate the region's rich tapestry of history, heritage, and culture. JW Marriott Jaipur is inspired by the regal palaces of Rajasthan and features grand arches, pleasant fountains, intricate jaali metalwork, delicate inlays and hand-painted patterns in a classical blue-and-white palette. There are varied options of room categories—Royal Terrace Rooms, Royal Courtyard Rooms and Royal Pool Villas with private plunge pools, as well as 2-bedroom Palace and Presidential Suites.
JW Marriott Jaipur features grand arches, pleasant fountains and delicate inlays
What are the out-of-the-box F&B concepts that you have introduced to the Jaipur market?
Our signature restaurant Mohan Mahal is a concept rarely to be found in the country. Inspired from the architectural marvel of Sheesh Mahal, the restaurant is lit only by candles, which reflect the light on to more than three lacs mirror pieces. Mohan Mahal epitomises of luxury dining and serves a traditional Rajasthani thali curated by our expert culinary team. Jaipur is also a market that caters to luxury travellers in the leisure segment.
Jaipur is also a market that caters to luxury travellers in the leisure segment. Do you think there is scope for further growth in the luxury-leisure market?
India's leisure travellers are a rapidly growing segment, with people preferring the mix of business and leisure travel, and these could either be foreign or domestic travellers. There is the pure leisure traveller too, whose primary purpose is to holiday or sightsee in Jaipur. Due to the growing economy and rising income levels, the number of domestic travellers is increasing.
Everyone is talking about the need for hotels to become more sustainable. How does JW Marriott Jaipur stack up on the sustainability front?
At the resort, we have taken several steps towards incorporating sustainable practices. Among them are Building Management System Control to utilise electricity in an optimum manner; installation of interface cards for the air-conditioning units in the villas to save electricity when the room is not occupied; the optimum use of STP-treated water for horticulture and pathway cleaning, and the and the commissioning of solar panel for hot water to reduce the electrical load on heat pumps.
Do you think there is scope for further growth in the luxury- leisure market?
India's leisure travellers are a rapidly growing segment, with people preferring the mix of business and leisure travel, and these could either be foreign or domestic travellers. There is the pure leisure traveller too, whose primary purpose is to holiday or sightsee in Jaipur. Due to the growing economy and rising income levels, the number of domestic travellers is increasing. Everyone is talking about the need for hotels to become more sustainable.
How does JW Marriott Jaipur stack up on the sustainability front?
At the resort, we have taken several steps towards incorporating sustainable practices. Among them are Building Management System Control to utilise electricity in an optimum manner; installation of interface cards for the air-conditioning units in the villas to save electricity when the room is not occupied; the optimum use of STP-treated water for horticulture and pathway cleaning, and the commissioning of solar panel for hot water to reduce the electrical load on heat pumps.
In what ways do you engage with the community ?
We are strong believers in our Serve 360 initiative — ‘Doing Good in Every Direction”. We are currently working with two associations— Praveen Lata Sansthan, an NGO whose primary focus is to alleviate the problems of the poor and their struggle to obtain a life of justice and dignity. It is focused on the girl child welfare, women empowerment and rural development. The second organization is the Rajkiya Government School, Kukas in Jaipur, which we have completely refurbished in terms of infrastructure.
What is the Indian market like for luxury hotels? How has it evolved and grown over the years?
The growth in global tourism has made travelling convenient and the world smaller. People are travelling for leisure, more often than they were before. Indian travellers now splurge and the spends are not limited to just overseas travel. India’s rising middle class and the disposable incomes of its people have continued to support the growth of domestic and outbound tourism, which is why International hotel chains have increased their expansion and investment plans. The Indian government is also encouraging tourism to generate revenue and promote the country globally, which has proved to be boon for luxury hotel companies.
How has the definition of luxury changed over the years, especially in the context of luxury hotels?
Luxury was once synonymous with how expensive a product or experience is. But not anymore. People's taste and preferences have now shifted and there is an emphasis on the cultural perception of luxury. No longer is luxury travel about brands or popular destinations. It is about experiencing the most creative and adventurous of things—an experience through which our guests can express who they are. The approach to luxury has become less formal and more personal.
How do you think technology has changed the hospitality industry?
The digital space is the new lobby, where you are constantly required to engage with your customers in real-time and in person.Just mechanical replies do not work anymore. It’s a rarity to find a paying customer visiting a hotel without having checked TripAdvisor beforehand. Technology has helped reduce costs, enhance operational efficiency, and improve services and customer experience. Both customers and businesses can benefit from improved communication, reservations, and guest service systems. Our guests can now navigate their entire stay through an app. Tech nology is also allowing us to know more about our consumers and helping us cater to their unique needs.
Over the years, you have explored various markets such as Pune, Mumbai and Mussoorie as a general manager. How are these markets different from Jaipur?
Jaipur probably is one of the most diverse of all markets and caters to all segments—MICE, domestic and international leisure and weddings, besides being the top preferred location for offsite corporate events.
In your opinion, how has the role of general manager evolved?
The role of a general manager has evolved from that of a hotel operator to one of a mentor and consultant. A general manager doesn’t restrict himself to day-to-day operations of the hotel but is involved in sales, revenue, marketing, strategizing with the team,developing a team member’s growth plan and training them.
What kind of approach do you prefer while working with your team?
I believe in teamwork and my style is collaborative. I prefer being a part of the team’s journey and getting to our targets together.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
I prioritise things at my workspace and in my personal life—be it health, happiness or career. I understand the importance of each and how necessary it is to achieve a balance between all. I believe in enjoying the moment.
What has been your source of inspiration?
My parents have been a great source of inspiration in each phase of my life. My father inculcated the ethic of working hard, while my mother gave me my value system. They have been the pillars of strength in my life and helped me grow to what I am today.
What does success mean to you?
If I had to sum it up in one word, I would say, ‘balance’. I feel successful if I can achieve a balance in everything I do, whether at the workplace or in personal life, be it with my co-workers, team members, employees or family.
How do you deal with failure?
I introspect and take away the learnings. It helps me move ahead as a more confident and mature person.