Accor has its 3 brands open in New Delhi’s Aerocity; Casse believes the destination needs joint marketing

Accor Hotels opened Pullman and Novotel recently, and now has over 1000 rooms to offer at New Delhi’s Aerocity. TourismFirst catches up with Accor’s India CEO, Jean-Michel Casse to get a sense of what it would mean to market his three brands, and equally what it will take Aerocity to become a successful destination.​

Jean-MichelYou just referred to the market in Delhi, now that a good 7-8 hotels are open in Aerocity and Accor, with three of your formidable brands, ibis, Novotel and Pullman, is the largest stakeholder of Aerocity, what kind of cooperative spirit do you foresee as critical for the future development including marketing of this destination?

First I believe we have a role to play because as you rightly said, we have now three brands here. We have the GM of this hotel saying that this property is an Airbus 380; I have my economy section that goes to the Ibis and then the premium business to Novotel and then first class that is Pullman. We have a huge inventory but in three different class and the common point is that this adds into a significant capacity for MICE between the three. This enables you for conferences and weddings and events.

What about a common forum for Aerocity? Do you think for this development to succeed, some sort of joint action may be desirable?

Yes, as the Aero City is settling down, with all the existing operators and the hotels and those due to open, we really need to sit down and discuss together in terms of promoting the destination. Mainly, because it is a huge MICE destination that needs to be promoted. We may have to at a certain point put in some common resources to be able to sell this destination so that we do not put into jeopardy the business that goes into Gurgaon or Delhi but that we are able to generate our own business. Because when you look at any destination in Asia, if you look at the business and the traffic jam that you have in Malaysia or in Indonesia, it is becoming a nightmare for everybody. In Mumbai it is the same. Here in terms of MICE and in terms of meetings, you arrive at an airport and you are 5mins from the hotel. You can attend a day meeting or a day conference and fly out that same night. This is giving us, with all these MICE facilities so close to the airport, possibilities that no other capital city in Asia has.

It is obvious that we have to speak with other hotels as well because, though we have three brands of our own, we are often having massive group requests for which even I with three hotels, don’t have enough rooms. So we need to speak with the JW Marriott and the Holiday Inn, as well as the Lemon Tree and the Red Fox to put in these resources together. We need to put together the combined room inventory regardless of whoever benefits as the main venue, which should be fine. Because no one is willing to give 100% of their rooms for any MICE activity because you have your own crews and corporate accounts that you need to maintain. So really the objective is to speak with our neighbours to promote one single destination called Aerocity.

How do you see the business coming in for Pullman or Novotel? Apart from MICE, or apart from layover traffic from the airport, are there any other specific segments that you will be looking at?

Yes, we have other segments. If we think about the crew as an airport hotel, though the crew is not necessarily a priority in any other hotel, in this hotel it is becoming a necessity because it gives you the base business. The crew is going to be a big base component for all the hotels here. Then there are corporate accounts. We realize that in the corporate accounts we are midway between Delhi and Gurgaon, you have a very convenient location. Please also remember that many big company accounts are moving into Aerocity for office space. So there is WorldMark –  they are already offering amazing spaces for offices. So we are becoming more and more attractive for these accounts. We at the Pullman have an entire office block . These companies cannot find enough spaces in Delhi or even in Gurgaon.

How is the competitiveness in terms of rate for the office space you are creating?  

These are almost the same. Even as Accor we were contemplating moving here. We believe that for the time being it is a little bit too expensive so we will stay in Gurgaon for a year and will evaluate again. But today what you can find here in Aerocity, I would say you would be paying between Rs.170-200 per sqft. But big companies are coming here, including some big worldwide NGOs. All our offices are being taken over by Kotak Bank. And then a bank like that is receiving all their partners and people coming in for training so it is really generating business.

Another segment that we should not ignore is leisure. By being at the airport you realize that for international leisure, most of the international flights arrive between midnight and 2-3am. And they are taking off 2-3hours later. At this time in the night, you cannot take a bus to Agra or Jaipur so there is always 1 or 2 hours before or after taking your flight. There is real business in this segment and it is better than staying in Delhi. So leisure will become increasingly important.

How much has the Aerocity development cost you?

That we are not at liberty to share. We are one of three owners, it is a fund called Triguna in which 1/3rd is InterGlobe, 1/3rd is ourselves and 1/3rd is a fund venture from Singapore. We have the Pullman and Novotel in Delhi, we have the combo Novotel and ibis in Bangalore, we have a Novotel in Chennai and we have another combo of Novotel and ibis to open in Chennai in the coming year. So there are 7 assets within this joint venture.

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