In late 2016 after the Marriott and Starwood merger, Taj lost its top spot as India’s largest hotel company. Marriott along with Starwood and Ritz Carlton today has a total room inventory of 18,000 rooms versus the Taj with an inventory of 16,640 rooms under 4 brands.
Then in December last year to strengthen the customer loyalty a new collaboration named ‘Warmer Welcomes program’ was formed between Taj’s Inner Circle and Shangri-La’s Golden Circle. This is all set to debut in March this year and will bring together about five million Golden Circle members and nearly one million Taj InnerCircle members.
Now in a strategic move to restructure the brand portfolio, Taj Hotels has announced that it be doing away with the Vivanta and the Gateway brands. All the Taj hotels will very soon be divided into four sub-categories : Taj Hotels, Palaces, Resorts and Safaris. The classification will depend upon the location and nature of the hotels.
The result of this new re-branding exercise will be that all the 53 Vivanta by Taj hotels and Gateway hotels globally will be merged into the Taj brand. The Gateway was launched by Taj in the year 2008 and Vivanta was introduced in 2010 as an upscale premium brand. This should be in line with their inspiration to bring Tajness all over the place.
This new restructuring is expected to be completed by the end of this year. There are also talks that during this exercise Taj will also pull out some of the properties that are not generating the target revenue and reduce the total portfolio its current size of 125 hotels.
IHCL managing director and chief executive officer (CEO) Rakesh Sarna said in an interview.
We wanted to turn the clock back and get back into full-blooded Taj hotels but this time, we resisted the temptation of saying luxury, upper upscale or upscale. We said let’s abolish the word luxury and speak of world-class hotels. So, we made our decision that we will exit Gateways and Vivantas, define them as world class hotels and tag them as Taj Hotels
In the past I have stayed at the Taj Gateway Nashik, The Gateway Hotel, Agra and at the Vivanta by Taj in Bangalore and to be honest I could not differentiate much between the 2 brands apart from the lower quality of amenities at the Gateway Hotel. Also, our service experience at the Taj Lake Palace Udaipur and Vivanta by Taj Srinagar was far better.
It’s interesting to see how how Taj is upping it’s game in various ways to compete with the large global hotel brands. IHCL is not only working on strengthening its loyalty program and partnership alliances in the Asia region but also with the launch of ‘Tajness’ and now this brand restructuring the company is focusing on strengthening the brand value.
While the strategy of differentiating various offerings has been successful for the global hotel chains such as Marriott, IHG, Starwood and Hilton, clearly it did not work for the Taj and they now want to ride on the success of their luxury brands to be able to bring in revenue for their other hotels as well. Will it work or not, I don’t know yet. But we wish them luck.
If you have stayed at the Vivanta & Gateway hotels, tell us how you would differentiate between the 2 brands.