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Arohi Tambe, Marketing Star Of InterContinental Chennai Mahabalipuram Resort

31/03/2020

Since Intercontinental Chennai Mahabalipuram Resort offers great beach weddings, please tell us about the booking scenario at that time? Also, please tell us if weddings bookings generate more revenue for the hotel or corporate bookings?

Arohi Tambe:- Weddings are a large business segment for InterContinental Chennai Mahabalipuram Resort. The Hotel was first to introduce and market Mahabalipuram as an alternative for luxury Beach Weddings and has worked closely with partners like WeddingSutra& Luxury Wedding Planner to sensitise the Market & develop brand awareness with a sustained ATL & BTL Marketing for the Resort over 3 years. InterContinental Chennai offers a Full Resort buyout for Destination Weddings.

The period of qualifying to convert a Wedding is usually 7-8 Months. Wedding celebrations are very important and emotional decisions for families, as a Marketing function- effort just doesn’t stop at a guest knowing of your Hotel or driving sales queries for Weddings. It is an entire journey where guests need to feel that the Hotel is a part of their extended family as in case of Destination Weddings- hosts are operating outside of their hometowns/ residences and completely rely on hotels and wedding planners on entire planning & execution of wedding down to the suggestion on vendors for the set of services.

In our hotel Marketing continuously works on creating vendor empanelment for Wedding Services and ensure that a family’s entire journey of hosting a wedding is seamless- this sometimes requires us to create itineraries, suggest photographers, work on the wedding mood board & advise on local elements in Gift Hampers. Weddings for InterContinental Chennai contributes to 23% of the Total Operating Revenue for the hotel. Both corporates and weddings are an important segment for the Resort and it will be difficult to prioritise one over others. 

MICE Tourism is generating large revenue for hotels, what is your take on it? Also, tell us, what Intercontinental Chennai Mahabalipuram Resort is doing to grab this opportunity?

Arohi Tambe:- MICE or C&E were always a large contributing segment for Hospitality Industry- Markets like Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi & Hyderabad & Pune are completely MICE/ Corporate business-driven cities. Our Resort also bags the fair share of this segment however the nature of MICE is very different for InterContinental Chennai- the events are largely Corporate Retreats, CXO Timeouts, New Hire Gala Meet-ups, Reunions, Quarterly AGM & Annual Awards Night. 

We are in the most strategic location- Mahabalipuram which has excellent road, air & railway connectivity from domestic commercial hubs and Chennai main city this makes us a preferred choice of Large Conference & Event as well as small retreats. As a Resort, our success has been in creating tailored packages with experiential dining for all these events- from a Sandpit Angeethi by the Beach, to meetings by design we create experiences by using the sprawling location of the Resort that companies feel the novelty with every event. We work with IHG Business Rewards program and create variable loyalty points driven packages for Corporates. We have recently Ikigai Meetings programs for wellness-inspired Corporate retreats and our Corporate guests are appreciative of the foresighted approach. 

What kind of research is done by the team before changing the marketing strategies of the hotel? How is Intercontinental Chennai Mahabalipuram Resort planning to pace up with the changing trends?

Arohi Tambe:- As a hotel, we try to be relevant in our offerings to the customer, as the consumer requirements have become more dynamic to keep up we try and avoid too much standardisation. As a brand InterContinental Hotels & Resorts has 75 years of history in Luxury Travel and over 200 hotels worldwide; we use the system strength to create brand experiences that customer is looking- since every location and every travel unique so is the offering of InterContinental Resort. We run Monthly & Quarterly pilots with our IHG Rewards Members/ Non-member through feedbacks, one-on-one interaction and studying the booking behaviour. Competition Benchmarking and text analysis are the key tools that we use to improvise services. While tools like Hotel scorecards, IHG Fundamentals& STR are used to work on long term/ short term strategies. 

Generating direct bookings is a great challenge for the hotel these days. Please share with us what Intercontinental Chennai Mahabalipuram Resort is doing to get direct bookings? What kind of deals do you provide to your loyal guests?

Arohi Tambe:- Webdirect for InterContinental Chennai performs at a 40% bookings on an average, in the season we get 60% FIT Transient & Leisure through direct IHG Channels. While hotels do face challenges in generating direct bookings as compared to other OTA Partners; tools like Loyalty Program and Brand led campaigns/ Brand website and Group OTA sign-up helps in driving business to the hotel, contracting with inbound series operators, DMC and tour operators is facilitated by the hotel group while qualifying/ conversion is solely handled by the hotels. IHG Rewards Club is the strongest marketing platform for us as we have seen 1:24 conversions, referrals & repeat stayers through the program. Offers and packages are seasonal & based on the Market requirement. 

Social media marketing plays a vital role in the growth of the hotel these days. Please tell us, how active is Intercontinental Chennai Mahabalipuram Resort on social media and how keenly is it following the latest trends?

Arohi Tambe:- The resort has always been in the forefront when it comes to social media. We actively collaborate with social media and local influencers to promote our new offerings and packages. We have seen a tremendous response when we engage with them. They reach out to a niche audience with discerning choices. 

We do not just limit it to influencers, we also engage with media who have a strong presence on social media. We have been featured on Provoke Lifestyle’s (A Chennai based Lifestyle magazine) Youtube page as well as The New Indian Express’s Instagram page for our many activities.

We are always looking at innovating the content we create- be it indulging in an IGTV video that showcases the resort in a new and exciting manner or tempting our patrons with our mouth-watering delicacies through our Instagram stories.

Please tell us about one of the famous marketing campaigns run by Intercontinental Chennai Mahabalipuram Resort and what was it?

Arohi Tambe:- InterContinental Chennai Mahabalipuram Resort created one of a kind offsite Gourmet Dining Experience with its award-winning Contemporary Chinese restaurant Tao Of Peng. The offsite campaign was a limited-time promotion created in a format of ‘Tao of Peng Gourmet Pop-up’ at the sister IHG Hotel Crowne Plaza Chennai.

This exercise was done to drive maximum trials of Tao of Peng’s Veg & Non-Veg Tasting Menu showcasing the best food items from the restaurant. One of our major campaign targets was to generate a unique customer database for Tao of Peng though trail menus; which helps in the retargeted sale and cover conversion at the restaurant in InterContinental Chennai Mahabalipuram Resort.   

The campaign was activated from 26th April-5th May at the Cappuccino (All day dining restaurant in Crowne Plaza Chennai). As it was IPL season, popular team CSK was staying in Crowne Plaza Chennai; thus housing high occupancy and an increased Brand Exposure to 45% Unique Customer Footfall/ day at their All Dining Restaurant.

The menu pops up promotions were carried out with a 360° marketing plan. In the 10 days of the campaign, the pop-up clocked close to 1.5M Impressions inclusive of Influencers, Publishers, Facebook Ads, Blogs and sponsored articles. The influencer strategy helped us create a brand recall for InterContinental Chennai, 175 diner walk-ins via mediums like Radio, Print Media Article, Influencers & Publishers. The social media engagement led to a reach of 0.4M+ users, with a re-engagement Rate of 0.8% in 10 days.

Room stay and accommodation brings immense revenue to the the hotel then how does your team make sure to get room reservations when the season is off?

Arohi Tambe:- Various online and offline Marketing Campaigns are activated to drive business during the off-season at the Resort. Special rate contracting, participative bundle promotions with Airlines and creating advance purchase offer rates help in driving off-season occupancy. We use the high season to conduct potential market studies and conduct sales blitz, this bridge-building exercise helps us drive direct MICE queries during the off-season, of course, dynamic pricing has to be kept in mind while doing any kind of online and offline sales campaign. 

What does the marketing team do to retain its customers?

Arohi Tambe:- Courtesy mailers, special occasion calls, member recognition and reward points- no blackout dates are few direct Marketing initiatives that we practice to retain our guests.  

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