Taj Group of Hotels is eyeing a bold strategy towards increasing its market penetration in the loyalty space, specially in the international business market. Keeping in mind the combining of two eminent hospitality rewards programmes, the merger of spg.com, the Starwood loyalty programme with Marriott Rewards, for an Indian hotel chain it has become critical to be able to offer increased benefits for its own customers. Both for Shangri-La and Taj, this is a win-win situation.
Is this one-off or should we expect more such alliances?
The Warmer Welcomes alliance gives our members and brands exposure to new markets and the broader scale necessary to compete in an era of mass consolidation and disruption. While we are open to more possibilities, we are in no hurry to form more alliances as brand synergies and cultural fit is very important. The interest of our guests and loyalty members will always come first.
How do you see the strategy behind more such, assuming you remain open to them?
The main goal for such alliances will be to add more value to our most valuable loyalty members and guests. While we have no immediate plans of another alliance, we are open to more partnerships with like-minded brands that share our service philosophy and offer complimentary footprint in hotel locations.
Given the eminent presence of The Taj in India, how do you see the new emerged Marriott as a competitor to you group, specially in two categories – metro business travel and inbound tourism?
We have a lot of respect for all hotel brands, especially new entrants like Marriott as they help the larger cause of promoting Travel and Tourism in an underdeveloped hotel market like India. While some international chains have a larger footprint and distribution power, we feel that we operate in our own niche segment. We don’t want to be globally present but we definitely want to be globally reputable. We are proud of our legacy, passed down to us from Jamsetji Tata, and we will continue to develop our products and services which seek inspiration from the nobility of Indian heritage and culture. We believe that Tajness is the key to our differentiation, what sets us apart from our competition, and what brings guests back to stay with us time and again.
How relevant or important is market share in your perception?
Keeping a close eye on market share is imperative for any company. We are fortunate for the love and affection that we receive from our patrons and luckily, so far we have maintained or exceeded our fair market share in all our key markets. Our brand recall and engagement scores are much higher than all our competitors In India.
How do you see the future growth of Taj Hotels in number of properties, rooms and presence around the country?
The Taj brand carries a legacy of service and values and we want to ensure that this is brought to both domestic and international markets that matter to us. Our new philosophy of Tajness will focus on delivering great products and services which offer a taste of Indian tradition mixed with authentic local experiences. We are focusing on growing our brand footprint in key metros (like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore) and also in harnessing the growth that sectors including MICE or domestic leisure travel are seeing. We have about 2,000 rooms in our development pipeline in both domestic and international markets over the next few years. Taj has put many Indian destinations and itineraries on the global map (for e.g. Rajasthan, Goa, Kerala) and we will continue to do so for this beautiful country.
Recognition is Just the Beginning
The “Warmer Welcomes” programme will offer Shangri-La and Taj’s combined 6 million loyalty programme members the benefits most important to them:
Recognition: Members will be able to enjoy the perks of their elite status when they stay at any Shangri-La or Taj hotel with top-tier status matching.
Earn points across 200 hotels, 27 countries and 131 destinations: Members of either program will now be able to earn award points in their preferred programme while staying with Taj or Shangri-La whether in Mumbai, New Delhi, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Paris, London, New York and other key destinations in the world.
Seamless redemptions: Members will be able to convert points to redeem awards between both programmes.