SINGAPORE - In his 12 years with Marriott International, vice president global sales Asia Pacific Ramesh Daryanani has seen his fair share of the meetings industry's evolving needs.
Mr Ramesh shares the factors shaping user experiences across Marriott International's (Marriott) properties, unique events delivered, and tips on how planners can reap benefits from the new Marriott Events Asia (MEA) platform.
Ramesh Daryanani, vice president for global sales Asia Pacific, Marriott International
Customers asked, "we love Marriott.com, meetingsimagined. com and the offers - but can we get everything from one place?"
After acquiring Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide in 2017, Marriott created a B2B marketing team to market to the specific needs of its B2B customers - amongst the various initiatives, MarriottEventsAsia.com was launched.
Close to 60% of our business is B2B. We wanted to tailor our message to them, help them succeed in their business, and share our expertise and best practices on a single platform.
Marriott insists on high standards from our hotels.
Our brand standard measures all aspects of our hotels yearly. Each property tries to keep up to speed in terms of product offering based on market demands, and we're pushing many hotels to renovate their rooms and ballrooms. Should they not follow, in some cases, we've decided to take them out of the hotel system.
MEA delivers a complete journey of what planners need to execute an event.
We look from a concept point of view - what technology could you use, coffee breaks that'd work, what could you specifically do in Bangkok? It's driven by what customers want. Right now we're just on phase one of MEA, next would be building the search functionality so you can zoom into specific hotel offerings and experiences.
MEA's website bounce rates don't lie - trip experiences resonate with our readers.
Customers love how they can see new trends, tips on planning meetings and new openings on MEA. They spend an average of 2.5 minutes on each page, looking at what they can do not just at the hotel, but also experience at the destination.
We use our internal events as a testbed for our customers.
Last year, W Shanghai hosted about 2,000 people from our APAC commercial team. Since we were dealing with hospitality professionals, we spent a lot on production and hired a planner to make it a unique event, raising the bar for the F&B experience. You could say we are the vision, and the planner executes.
We provide the hardware, so customers have all the solutions in one place.
JW Marriott Singapore South Beach for instance has a distinct ballroom with a curved in-built LED screen - that's us trying to transform traditional ballroom spaces with technology, and built-in infrastructure so customers don't have to recreate the wheel or outsource for services, software or entertainment ideas.
To celebrate the launch of Marriott Bonvoy, the invite-only event held a pre-event cocktail at the Fish Pool at The NCO Club of JW Marriott Singapore South Beach, followed by an exclusive Maroon 5 concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
It's all about going beyond the traditional hotel mould.
The Edition Sanya has a lagoon in the middle of the hotel, where we've done a kayaking competition. W Sentosa, Singapore has done a deejay pool party while other hotels have held cocktail mixing competitions, and even Masterchef sessions.
Planners want a personal touch.
Guests want us to know them before they even approach a hotel. We achieve that via technology and the various platforms we own. These systems give our associates information about the guests' previous stays and preferences before they even check in.
We are in the process of recreating the same for meetings and events planners. So, if a potential customer previously held an event in Bangkok and is now looking at Sydney, when our team receives the query we know exactly how to respond, what worked and didn't, and what they look for so we can best curate a proposal.
For a night, Manila Marriott Hotel's ballroom transformed into the wizarding world of Hogwarts' Great Hall.
The same points system can be used for work and play.
Loyalty is a big part of the event planning space, and with us bringing together the Marriott, Ritz Carlton and SPG programmes, planners have more choices in terms of what to do with benefits. One Marriott ID lets you track both personal and meetings points; for instance, booking special experiences for your preferred customers such as attending the Formula One event at a Marriott suite.
Asian countries are among Marriott's top markets.
Our top markets remain in Asia Pacific - Thailand, China and India, and top requested events are incentives. Asia is always leading the way in innovation, and MEA has been very well received, which is why we are looking to remodel this around the globe.
Ultimately, MEA will be the one- stop shop for all things Marriott.
The plan is to have one place to find 7,000 hotels across all 30 brands, all the functionalities you see on MEA, MeetingsImagined, and Marriott.com for groups and meetings - all happening this year.
Technology is king, but we'll never bypass the human touch.
Technology will enhance efficiency, but we'll never bypass the human element especially in the luxury space - which is what makes a successful event.