Should localization be the new norm in the Indian hospitality industry?

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Over the years, several multinational corporations ranging from Coca Cola at netflix have successfully embraced product localization to grow and expand in a particular region or country, adapting their products and services or creating new ones to meet the needs of local consumers. For instance, Uber has adapted its mobility services according to the country of operation, offering boat rental in Egypt, motorbike taxis in Thailand and car rikshaws in India. Within the hospitality industry, IHG is a successful example of a well-executed localization strategy. While growing in a tough market like China, the company recognized that localization was about more than translating content into different languages ​​and employing a national workforce and introduced a new local brand, HUALUXE. This brand was developed with the Chinese traveler in mind and highlighted the special Chinese hospitality, customs and cultural experiences, helping to improve the company’s competitiveness in the market. Reports indicate that after the pandemic, HUALUXE hotels recovered much faster than other international brands operating in the country.

While the localization trend in the Indian hospitality industry has been around for years, it is more prevalent in the restaurant industry where global chains like McDonald’s, KFCand Dominoes customized and localized their menu to meet the preferences of Indian consumers. With the exception of their marketing and advertising strategies, the hospitality industry has largely pursued standardization so that their properties look and feel the same regardless of their location. However, with the increase in the number of travelers looking for authentic, unique and local experiences and willing to look for alternative accommodation to obtain them, the era of standardization seems to be coming to an end.

Hoteliers are responding to these changes by developing unique properties and incorporating local design, art, cuisine, and more. to the property. Major hotel chains such as IHCL (Selections), Marriott (Tribute Portfolio), Radisson (Radisson individuals), and ITC Hotels (Mementos and Storii) launched sweet marks, to move away from cookie-cutter hotel properties and offer differentiated products ranging from iconic heritage properties and bespoke boutique hotels to contemporary properties with distinct designs and features. However, having soft marks alone is insufficient. Hotel chains should embed localization strategies into all aspects of their operations, starting with “Namaste,” which the industry has long struggled to institutionalize. A higher level of localization of products and services should be common practice now that domestic tourism is emerging as the savior of the sector and international travelers are also seeking distinctive local experiences. Local customs, cuisine, events and culture should be incorporated into hotel offerings. For example, it is strange that masala tea, which is the favorite drink of the majority of Indians, is often not an option in the tea supplies in the room. Strangely, the industry continues to favor English breakfast tea over the local favourite. There are several such aspects that the industry should assess and implement.

Localization not only helps hotel businesses stand out from the competition, but also expands their customer base without eroding the value of their other properties in the same micro-market and promotes greater customer loyalty. Going forward, the secret to staying competitive in a developing hotel market like India will be to have a clearly defined localization strategy.

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