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Sat Sri Akal, the Courtyard way

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The newly opened 104-room Courtyard by Marriott Amritsar is ready to offer custom-made Ambarsariya experiences to clientele of all age groups. Akshay Nayak checks out the hotel to find out how it caters to different market segments

“Sat Sri Akal to Amritsar!” A warm namaste welcomes you in the pleasantly fragrant warm lobby of the newly opened Courtyard by Marriott Amritsar. The 18th Courtyard by Marriott branded hotel of the country exudes a dainty aura from the outside. Its insignia is clearly visible from the main road that brings you from the airport in just 20 minutes.
The 104-key hotel is chiseled to showcase sheer exuberance. Climbing the floors transfers you to either of the 35 Executive or 66 Deluxe rooms measuring 312 sq ft – one of the biggest in its category in the city. If you wish to be pampered more, you can upgrade to either of the three suites measuring 624 sq ft each. “To welcome our major clientele – families, we have thoughtfully included spacious big sofas in the rooms to ensure comfort and a feeling of home away from home,” expresses Rahul Sharma, hotel manager, Courtyard by Marriott Amritsar.

The jaunty touches
Equipped with best in class amenities, the swanky rooms tick several boxes of comfort and aesthetically placed art pieces along with notches of technological assistance thoughtfully placed around the room. Like the window blinders accessible by just toggling the button next to the bed, to the one-click laundry request, etc.
Sharma says that not just families but the hotel is well-equipped with a large banqueting space of 4800 sq ft divided into six rooms, to host an array of corporate events, especially from the pharma industry who visit the destination for BLeisure. “We are aptly a family-friendly hotel, but do not shy away from catering to the corporates too. We offer a 700 sq ft gymnasium with state-of-the-art equipment and a chic lively bar with 96 covers and commendable alfresco space,” he explains about the flexibility of the hotel in catering to a different segment of clientele. Not stopping at it, the hotel prides itself to be the youngest and a heartthrob for millennials too, with the opening of its latest rooftop lounge venue – VUE Bar & Grill that offers scenic views of the city, music, ideal ambience with finger foods and cocktails.At the lobby level, the name itself – Amritsari Kitchen echoes the ‘Modern Pindi’ twist to it. Offering multicuisine delicacies, executive Chef Aniruddha Deshpande ensures that you have the signature Amritsari Thaali, influenced by the rustic flavours, in the afternoon before you are off to visit the Golden Temple. On the return leg, his out-of-the-box Keto salads including nacho crisps and a power-packed mix of green apples, microgreens and avocados get you all prepped up for the energy-packed evening. Chef Deshpande’s team ensures that their offering reverberates Amritsari taste in each bite of the food right from the chole kulche with khatti mithi chutney in the breakfast to the multigrain mathri served with inhouse keri achaar in the room.

Room for all
Amritsar as a hospitality market is very cosmopolitan, in terms of brand presence, notes Sharma. There is a Hyatt and a Ramada branded hotel, while homegrown brands like Taj, Lemon Tree Hotels, etc, also here. Predominantly a pilgrimage destination, the city due to its proximity to Wagah border receives many visitors from across the country and also a fair share of FTAs, especially NRIs.”Though ITC and Lemon Tree in the city opened a little while ago, we have our fair share of the business. ITC is well received, so are we, and Lemon Tree – a 64-key hotel is doing 70 per cent of occupancy. Hence there is room for all when it comes to business,” he opines.
With all the unique offerings, and a strategic location, Courtyard by Marriott Amritsar witnessed 39 per cent occupancy in the first month of operations itself, depicting the high potential of Amritsar as a market for hospitality, points out Sharma. “The domestic travellers and NRIs rule here. Corporate business for us is about 5-7 per cent, whereas 25 per cent of the business is through international traffic which comes in. Our hotel’s room inventory distribution is heavily dominated by OTAs. As far as the performance is concerned, the city occupancy sat at 61 per cent in 2018, and the ADR was hovering at Rs 4100. With the opening of Kartarpur Corridor, I believe that the occupancy in 2020 will further grow at least by 5-6 per cent more in the city,” he voices.
The average length is 1.8 nights. So mostly all visitors stay for two nights. “Weekends are heavy while weekdays – Monday to Thursdays are weak due to lack of corporate movement, as there is no corporate service base in the city itself. There is some movement of PSUs and some services sectors but not as a big chunk,” informs Sharma about the occupancy dynamics in the city.
Although the city sees a good supply of branded room supply, Sharma informs that the reason behind lesser occupancy in the city lies in poor air-connectivity and lesser direct flights from the key metros due to which the destination remains underserved for long now. “Limited direct flights from key metros too has affected the corporate segment from travelling to the destination. Moreover, the train timings – especially Shatabdi Express – don’t match that of check-in and check-out timings, for which we receive requests for early morning check-ins and late evening check-outs,” adds Sharma.
The top clientele in Amritsar are from Delhi, Mumbai and surprisingly South India too which is also a dominant market in the city. “People from South India en route to Vaishnodevi, do a pilgrimage tour which includes Golden Temple on their list too. Ahmedabad from pharma’s point of view is a good market in Amritsar. Then there are ancillary markets that include footfalls from Bengaluru, Hyderabad, etc,” voices Sharma about the profile of the patrons that the hotel receives.
“In 2020, by the time we touch 60-65 per cent occupancy, the city will drive ADR. The city has the potential to drive more ADR. I hope we close around 66 per cent occupancy with Rs 4200-4300 ADR,” he envisions.
Speaking about his leadership mantra, Sharma concluded by saying, “Having spent 20 years in the industry, the look of the industry is very easy and glamorous from the outside, but it demands a lot of technical expertise over time. It is a highly demanding industry. The challenge – work-life balance goes for a toss. The best thing about the industry is, it humbles you down. If you are adaptable and are ready to unlearn to learn new things, this industry will open gates to multiple levels. In such a kind of setting, usually, 60 per cent of a hotel’s business is driven by the rooms while the remaining is by F&B. My vision for the hotel is to keep it 50-50 for both. We want to provide even the non-resident guests with culinary experiences that might make them visit time and again whenever they are in Amritsar. For that, we are devising a full-fledged plan. I have always believed in the mantra that big is not beating the small but fast is beating the slow. You should be fast to learn, adapt, and to change. Only that way you can survive.”

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