A major milestone was passed in the Marriott empire last month with the opening of their 500th flagship hotel and an adjoining convention center. The location: three hours outside of Mumbai through the Sahyadri mountain range and into Pune, an education and information technology epicenter in western India.
As a growing city of 3.5M people, Pune is quickly becoming a destination for both business and leisure travelers. Akin to a miniature Mumbai, it has many of the same characteristics: crowded, noisy streets, a slew of Hindu temples and sites, rich culture and most importantly an exploding business community. It was natural for Marriott to develop here.
The opening of this 500th hotel is also symbolic of the evolving economic and travel landscape in India. As this once third-world country catapults into the future, quality of life standards and are on the rise and international brands are more in demand. Realizing this, Marriot is growing aggressively here; after this opening, nearly a dozen more properites will begin operation around the country in rapid succession. So the gala at this 500th hotel opening was more than a party — it was the breaking of a dam, with thousands of worker’s lives, traveler’s journies and an entire portion of the Indian economy flowing brazenly in pursuit.
As members of the international media, Gadling had the opportunity to join with a group of a dozen bloggers, producers, journalists and editors from around the planet to witness the opening festivities. The night of the opening ceremony, things got kicked off with a press conference announcing the hotel and convention center with Marriott executives Arne Sorenson and Simon Cooper alongside a peppering of regional dignitaries.
Festivities then moved over to the outdoor patio and the pool terrace and bar, where guests were treated to live entertainment, drinks and a grand fireworks show to top off the event.
It’s awkward in a way — as members of the media at a grand hotel opening, every corner of the hotel has been prepared to perfection. Guards stand at every floor paying sharp attention to each passer by and waving hello and farewell. It’s difficult to get into any elevator or visit one of the myriad, beautiful restaurants without finding a worker polishing a fixture or wishing you good day.
But beneath the layer of 409 and the starched linen shirts, after the fireworks have faded and the hotel enters normal operation, it’s easy to see how successful this hotel and convention center will soon be. It’s in a great part of the city just off of the main highway. The rooms are gorgeous and the showers are palatial. People genuinely seem to like their jobs here. And best of all, it’s a sweet slice of familiarity in this white-knuckle, rickshaw-riding, pollution-spewing, antique-market-hopping, sari-swirling, gorgeous, boundless country known as India. Like the exploding national economy, the growing education system and every single IT professional stacked into the Pune infrastructure, so too will this Marriott prosper.
Editor’s note: Marriot invited Gadling to this event and provided some transportation and lodging. We were free to roam and write at will.