Gagan Singh joined Renaissance Johor Bahru Hotel as General Manager in 2016 after being with Marriott International for over 16 years. He started his journey with Marriott as a Manager in Training in 1999 at the Goa Marriott Resort in India. Gagan received his first of many promotions with Marriott in 2000 in the role of Food and Beverage Executive. Goa Marriott was the first of two preopening assignments. His second preopening assignment was in 2001 at the JW Marriott, Mumbai as Assistant Restaurant Manager. His outstanding performance was recognised and he was promoted to Restaurant Manager in 2003.
Returning to Goa Marriott in 2004 as the Food and Beverage Manager, he held this position for three years before transferring to Renaissance Mumbai Hotel and Convention Centre and Marriott Executive Apartments as Director of Food and Beverage. In 2010 he assumed his second Director of Food and Beverage assignment at JW Marriott Pune and in 2012 he returned to JW Marriott Mumbai as Director of Operations. In March 2014, he moved to Courtyard by Marriott Pune City Centre as General Manager.
Gagan was recognised by Marriott in 2011 as Food and Beverage Leader of The Year for Asia Pacific. He has also been instrumental in performing a key role on the project Zenith team for Asia Pacific. His first assignment in 2011 was in Beijing and second assignment in 2012 in Thailand before moving to Johor Bahru.
Coming up through rank and file of the hotel industry, what were among the best learning challenges that you remember most vividly?
I joined Marriott in 1999 as a fresh graduate out of hotel school. On my first day, my General Manager and the leadership team met all the new joiners and spoke about the culture of our company. Associate wellbeing, empowerment and growth are the corner stone of the Marriott culture. As I have spent the last 18 years with Marriott growing through the rank and file to eventually become a General Manager, the one thing that I always remember is that we need to live this culture every day. Happy, empowered associates find a way to take care of the guests, enhance the business and drive loyalty. I’m very happy that as Marriott has grown to be the world’s largest hospitality company with over 6500 hotels worldwide, the culture of the company has still remained intact.
What are key points in managing customers’ expectations?
The key point in managing customer expectation is to put oneself in the guests’ shoes and try and understand their perspective. In the service industry, we have to remember that every guest’s requirements and expectations are different. Guests travel for different reasons; business / leisure, derive from different cultures and are of different age demographics. Any business today, especially hotels, cannot meet every single guest expectations unless they stay flexible and can quickly adapt to different guests’ needs.
How has business been at Renaissance?
The Renaissance Johor Bahru Hotel has for the last 5 years, been the number one 5-star hotel in Johor Bahru. Renaissance is a lifestyle brand of Marriott International. The Renaissance Johor Bahru Hotel imbibes the local culture and cuisine in all our guests’ touch points. This has made our hotel extremely popular amongst the locals as well as international travelers. The hotel has won numerous awards including the Luxury Hotel of the year 2017 by Luxury Travel Group and Travelers’s Choice awards as well as awards by Marriott International recognising the hotel performance.
Good food is synonymous with Renaissance, but what other facilities can customers experience at your hotel?
Yes, Renaissance Johor Bahru hotel has established itself as a leader in the food and beverage offering in Johor. Whether it is the buffet at our all day dining; Cafe BLD, or the Cantonese cuisine in Wan-Li, we have always strived to deliver authentic flavours to our customers. This is also the reason that we host a large number of weddings at our hotel. The Ballroom and pre-function with a capacity of 110 tables is the most popular wedding destination in Johor. The hotel room size is the largest amongst comparable hotels in the city. Another unique feature is the Executive Lounge on the 16th floor which can be accessed by our loyalty members and guests who book a club room or suite. Our pool terrace rooms, with direct access to the pool side, are extremely popular with the weekend travelers and are sold out couple of weeks in advance during busy periods. We continuously strive to offer the best experience to our customers and are now working to bring a world class spa centre to Johor.
Any challenges with the rise of AirBnb?
On the contrary! Businesses like AirBnb that help promote travel and make lodging affordable are a welcome addition to the travel eco system. Like I mentioned earlier, one guest could travel different times in a year for different reasons. In some cases, an AirBnb might be his choice of accommodation, while for the others a high quality 5-star accommodation would suit his/her needs. There is enough space for each of these formats to grow for many years to come.
Tell us more about your ballroom facilities
We have one of the largest meeting and banquet spaces in Johor, suitable for both large weddings and conventions. 6,923.7sqft of ball room and pre-function space is complemented with 8 meeting rooms ranging from 322.0sqft to 1,351.8sqft. This entire facility is located on level 2 of the hotel which makes it very convenient for large conventions with multiple breakaway rooms. However it’s not just the large ballroom and meeting rooms that make us the leader in Johor. We have a dedicated team of event planners / wedding planners who are equipped to help guests plan their meeting or wedding flawlessly. Marriott International unique Meetings Imagined app helps a guest plan meeting and form ideas about different setups for tea/coffee breaks. Through this app you can also message our team while attending a meeting on your requirements. So, innovation in the meeting spaces has been a key to our success.
Is the market challenging?
I will call Johor market exciting rather than challenging. There is a lot of push from the government to develop Johor, not only as a business but also as a leisure destination. This presents a great opportunity for all hotels in Johor to partner with the authorities and help position Johor as a No. 1 investment and tourist destination in Malaysia.
What are the 2 things that you would like to change in the hotel industry in Johor?
The hotel industry in Johor is like a family. Organisations like MAH have given us a great platform to exchange ideas, address challenges and to access and develop new markets together with the travel and trade fraternity. We need to continue to co-operate on marketing Johor as a must visit destination in Malaysia.