Marriott to expand, continue food delivery biz even after COVID-19

Mumbai, Jun 28 (PTI) Leading hotel chain Marriott International, which has seen its business plunge over 90 per cent across its 123 properties since the lockdown, will expand and continue its delivery and take-away business even after the pandemic-induced lockdown and social distancing end, as it does not see normalcy turtling back anytime soon.

The American group runs 123 hotels under 16 brands in the country, offering a little over 24,000 rooms.

As the lockdown was extended four times, the hotel explored newer options and landed upon the idea of home delivery of food under a new vertical 'Marriott on Wheels' and soon it roped in food delivery chains Zomato and Swiggy and is keen to continue and expand this model in the long term.

Neeraj Govil, senior vice-president (South Asia) at Marriott International, said the experience with these tie-ups has been good and they are extending the reach of this model further.

'Our experiment with 'Marriott on Wheels', and the ties up with Swiggy and Zomato has been good so far. We will continue to focus on this model to scale up our revenue because we see the pandemic-driven social distancing continue in the foreseeable future.

'Accordingly, we will be expanding this model and will also continue well after the pandemic is officially over. We don't see normalcy returning anytime soon, even though we are working towards normal operations from September,' Govil told PTI.

He added that the pandemic has prompted changes in hotel operations altering everything from how guests check in and check out, and dine in to how rooms are cleaned. Social distancing will have a place in our plans for at least a foreseeable future. Through 'We Care', we will be implementing certain changes to adapt to the new normal.

He expects hotels moving from aesthetically clean to clinically clean, making sanitisation and hygiene imperative to ensure safety of associates and as well as guests.

'The 'We Care' programme is an all-encompassing attempt to ensure that we align our protocols, procedures, processes and operations to instill a heightened sense of safety, security, and comfort and embrace the new normal and therefore the focus on delivery business,' he says.

On May 13, Marriott, in a novel initiative, tied up with food delivery firm Swiggy as part of expanding the Marriott on Wheels delivery service, offering over 20 hotels.

Following this, on June 12, it also announced tie-up with a similar firm Zomato, extending the Marriott on Wheels service to 20 hotels and another 15 hotels on their own offering the service, taking the total reach of Marriott on Wheels to 55 properties now.

Govil said Marriott on Wheels facility will be extended to more cities, as more hotels join the service provider.

Admitting that the business has been significantly impacted to the tune of 92 per cent in revenue, he said operations are restricted to some guest rooms and safe dining only now and sees a slow start to recovery which will be driven by urgent business and personal travel and even in the second quarter occupancy will remain low.

'The biggest crisis is the uncertainty about the virus and its near certain control' is how Govil put it and said social distancing, digital meetings and home delivery of everything possible will define the hospitality industry and many others and hopefully, our mobiles will control everything.

Marriott has been scaling up rapidly in the country over the past 10 years after entering Goa in 1999 and became the largest player now after the global merger of Starwood brands in 2016. It had just about half a dozen properties till 2007 but added over 110 more since.

In December 2019, Marriott had announced plans to open 54 new hotels in the country by 2025, adding 15,000 new rooms. But, those are on the backburner now but not shelved, said the company.

Globally, the group has a large portfolio under 30 brands, including the ultra-luxe The Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, W Hotels, The Luxury Collection, Edition, JW Marriott, and Bvlgari brands across 134 countries spanning over 7,300 properties. PTI BEN HRS