TTW – How long have you been in charge of Swissotel Kolkata?
Marco Saxer : I have been here for 2 years 3 months since 2011 of April. Before that I was in Kuwait working with another Swiss group hotel, Movenpick.
TTW – In these two years what are the similarities and the dissimilarities that you have come across if we compare hotel industry in Middle East and in India?
Marco Saxer : For every location there are different and specific challenges. Each hotel runs on its own strategy. We can’t copy one and process it for the other. We have to adapt our own strategy and understand the market. But at the end of the day the main is to make your guest feel comfortable and make their stay a pleasure. That is the main part. For India price is a very big factor. Like many other metropolis Kolkata is also initiating some developments. Kolkata was very lucky until some couple of years back when it had some few hotels and the competition was not as tough as now. 10 years they had a nice time and 3 years back we came in and now we have a portfolio of visitors coming and the type of customers and their need. In Kolkata we have seen some increase in the inflow of guests and the market has grown. There is a visible boost of hotel industry in Kolkata.
TTW: How was the year 2013 for you?
Marco Saxer : We have definitely have seen a growth in comparison to last years and the previous year and there have been a growth in revenue, and have enjoyed profits as well. The growth is quiet visible than the initial years. However, I am quite optimistic about 2014. On the other hand some couple of hotels are coming up and thus unfortunately we are going to put pressure on the rates as of we have to make sure we still get the profits and the revenue as the new competitors are coming. We are still new even though we have opened 3 years back. We have to make sure that we can sustain our growth as I believe that we have not reached our limits yet. For us with the Taj Gateway opened months back. They have their own problems and difficulties like other and have taken some time to build up their own corporate strategies. Thus the city has suddenly come with some varied hotel inventories. Then there is the Lalit at the center. Though they are not our direct competitor yet there is a underlying competition between the down town and we near the airport. So in the coming year two sets of hotels will be coming up, one the down town and the other, the up near the airport like ITC, myself and Novotel and these will be another competitor set which are going to compete.
TTW: Do you enjoy some special benefits for being positioned near the Airport?
Marco Saxer : Normally I would say in other cities, t stationing near the Airport or an Airport hotel is definitely an advantage. Unfortunately Kolkata airport is not as dominant as the ones in Mumbai, Delhi, or any of the other cities where air travelling is primary. So the traffic from the airport to my hotel is very little than from the other sectors. At this moment the advantage is there, my hotel is near the airport, there’s a shopping mall next door, I have a beautiful hotel but only relying on the airport will not be enough.
TTW: Apart from raising the rates what are the other factors that you are going to initiate?
Marco Saxer : As we are new, young and fresh we need not have to undertake any new renovation and revamp. The product is still very new. The unique feature of our hotel is it is very modern, made in European style. We are very stylish and there is no second to us in Kolkata. We have put a lot of money on the artworks to make It a stylish place. The room and the FLV are very nicely made with all modern amenities and carry a typical European style. The food is typically European be it Swiss or Italian. Moreover, the ballroom is new in the city which none of the competitors have. The structure is unique standing pillar less and spacious. It has a good meetings space and can be accessed easily. The swimming pool in the hotel is one of the attractions. On Sundays and Saturdays there are many visitors around the city. Moreover, we have Splash mainly for the winter time. It has a super location and shares uniqueness but unfortunately we can only keep it open during the winters. However it is also open for rain dance party as well. These will help us to compete and at the end of the day we are a small hotel with 147 rooms rendering best of our services to our guests. This is also unique as I can take better care of each of the guests individually. I have been seeing my guests for last two years and they are very regular. I know them. I know there references, what they like and doesn’t, what he needs when he arrives.
TTW: With the increase in demand do you have any plans on increasing the rooms?
Marco Saxer : Unfortunately, no. Though we have much land around for an expansion but as I have already said I want to take individual care of my guests and I want to concentrate on quality service. Moreover, generally our rates remain high during winters as more visitors come to us during this time but unfortunately the business is bit slack during the summers. The price is quite less during summers and thus even the demand is divided evenly over the year then supply and demand will be stabilized.
TTW: Luxury is an important part of hotel industry. How is Swissotel faring as a luxury property?
Marco Saxer : Luxury to me is that my guests should feel at ease and at home. There shouldn’t be any discrimination among the guests.
TTW: What are the demands of the international and domestic travellers who visit Swiss property?
Marco Saxer : We have a significant amount of foreign travellers checking-in at our property. We provide all the best services to them and cater to their need. They come here to relax – to find pleasure and comfort. Moreover, far from the crowd of the city’s centre they can have a nice time enjoying the cozy hotel premise, the mall outside to entertain them, we have nice FLV programs and good food. We cater to need of the local and domestic travellers also. Our Indian food is up to the mark and we have nice rooms catering to both domestic and foreign visitors. We really take care of the guests and the comments that come are good.
TTW: Travellers from which country visit most?
Marco Saxer : Number one is US followed by UK. Some of the others are like Germans, Swiss and some from German speaking countries. All these travellers come for long stay like 2 month to 6 months.
TTW: How do you want to promote Swissotel as a MICE property?
Marco Saxer: For my hotel I am restricted by the number of rooms I have. So I can take maximum 40 rooms and I can lend my conference room for 1000 people together. There is an imbalance between the function room and other rooms. However, all the new hotels coming up like us, Novotel, Pride hotel, we believe we are surely going to carve a niche in the MICE sector.