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TD Conversations: Kunal Chauhan, General Manager, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar

He speaks about pivoting products to deal with the pandemic and shares his plans for the hotel.

The newly appointed General Manager of JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar has more than two decades of industry experience across leading hotel chains in India to draw upon. Moving to Mumbai recently, after his last position as General Manager at The Leela Palace, Bengaluru, he is raring to go, with many ideas for creating bespoke guest experiences and crafting an environment with the finest employee work culture.

Image: Courtesy JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar.

Excerpts from the interview…

You have come in just when the hospitality industry is facing its most demanding challenges. How do you plan to work towards recovery?

JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar has been a front-runner in the Indian hospitality space, and I am incredibly pleased and eager to be part of this fantastic story. We wish to leverage all strengths of this beautiful property and build on its reputation as an excellent luxury business hotel to take advantage of its fabulous spacious banqueting and open spaces to establish it as a go-to hotel for conferencing and social events. Furthermore, with the resumption of business travel, it will be beneficial for companies to partner with a hotel like ours offering excellent corporate facilities, award-winning dining options, luxurious accommodations for their travellers. The focus has now moved to guests looking for experiences to unwind and leverage on this. We at JW Sahar are crafting stay experiences like our recently launched room offer, ‘You Stay We Pay’ – which allows guests to enjoy a 100 per cent hotel credit on the room booking amount to rejuvenate and come together with friends and family. With current relaxations on restaurant capacities and timings, our focus is to re-create the experiences guests have missed; we prepare for the relaunch of our lunch buffets and brunch at JW Café. Home delivery with Marriott Bonvoy on Wheels is a crucial focus, with people still wary of moving out of their homes. We have a menu crafted by our culinary masters encompassing specialties from all our award-winning restaurants.

“With the brief halt on air travel, our hotel smoothly transited into a resort feel.” Image: Courtesy JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar.

As an airport hotel, when air travel has been at a virtual standstill, and business travel will still take a while to recoup, what are your strategies to attract a different clientele in the interim?

Yes, we are near the international airport, but our hotel, with its magnificent facilities and convention ability, is much more than a simplistically put airport hotel. Hence, with the brief halt on air travel, our hotel smoothly transited into a resort feel, and a popular destination for social events, our strengths with facilities and programmes like ‘Family by JW’ and ‘Shaadi by Marriott’ have ensured business continuity. We have also launched many packages for staycations, You Stay We Pay, Spa-cation, etc, to ensure we have something for everyone. So, I must say that this time has helped us make many new friends, and I hope these relationships will be mutually enjoyed and celebrated for years to come.

Spa-cations have become popular. Image: Courtesy JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar.

What is your vision for the hotel, both short-term and long-term?

The immediate focus is ensuring we help keep up and strengthen the trust our guests have always shown in the JW Marriott brand with our ‘Commitment to Clean’. Guests will gain the confidence to travel soon, and we need to be well poised to receive our guests when they start to travel and welcome them as their home away from home. Our long-term plans revolve around sustaining the market leadership that JW Sahar enjoys in its micro market. We are working tirelessly to keep pace with technological advancements across the property, taking up numerous efforts towards sustainability and working on revenue diversification. But most importantly, keeping our guests at the centre of our universe.

“The executive lounge is an exceptionally well-designed space, and like me, our guests love the facilities here too.” Image: Courtesy JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar.

What is your favourite thing about the hotel?

I have not one but two favourite places in the hotel. The number one on my list is our executive lounge. This is an exceptionally well-designed space, and like me, our guests love the facilities here too. The second would be Romano’s. I feel that from the quality and taste of the food to exceptional warm service, everything has led to Romano’s becoming one of the most popular restaurants in the city.

“I feel that from the quality and taste of the food to exceptional warm service, everything has led to Romano’s becoming one of the most popular restaurants in the city.” Image: Courtesy JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar.
Romano’s Lab. Image: Courtesy JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar.

Can you tell us a little about yourself? Your background, past career, stints at various hotels, personal achievements.

I am an alumnus of IHM Jaipur and the Oberoi Centre for Learning and Development. I am probably one of the few very fortunate hoteliers whose career of 21 years has been blessed with a touch of excellence. When I refer to excellence, I have had the privilege of working for renowned best-in-class hotels in India and mentors/superiors whose pedigree as luxury hoteliers is exceptional. My experiences in city hotels and resorts have armed me to elevate guest experiences and create beautiful memories for discerning guests.

GM, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar, Sahar
Image: Courtesy JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar.

As far as personal achievements are concerned, I believe general managership of a hotel is a team sport and place for personal excellence is very limited. In the last few hotels, my teams have had the privilege of being listed in the top 10 hotels in India, Asia, and the world by various coveted luxury travel magazines. My food and beverage team’s excellence has been appreciated and recognised by multiple renowned forums. Hotelier India cited me personally as the best F&B director and since then I have been a part of the finalist in the Best Luxury Hotel General Manager category on many occasions. I was also a runner up for the same in the year 2019. In my new role of leading JW Sahar, I am glad the ownership and Marriott leadership has trusted me to lead a world-class hotel. I envision a stellar hotel leading in the hospitality landscape of Mumbai.

Image: Courtesy JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar.

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