Like a bride and groom, they drank their champagne with their arms intertwined, signaling the marriage of two legendary Asian hotel brands. It helped that Jennie Chua, chairman and CEO of Raffles International, and Raymond Bickson, managing director, The Indian Hotels Company (of which Taj is an entity), “go back over 20 years”. Their friendship helped seal the marketing alliance between Raffles International and Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces in a record three months. “Normally for alliances like this, you need to sit down and put aside your egos – and you know how difficult that is – but we came to this in three months,” said Chua. Taj and Raffles are looking at their marketing alliance to “leverage” each other’s strength and leadership in their own marketplaces. “Taj is like a 10,000 tonne gorilla sitting in India and this part of the world. We need their strength. We’re literally without any presence in the sub-continent,” said Chua. “In turn we hope to bring some strength and synergy to them in places where we presently have properties.” While Raffles intends to leverage on Taj’s strong domestic network in India, the latter stands to benefit from the Singapore-based chain’s spread of properties in 32 destinations. Bickson said he saw the alliance bringing together two niche players with strong loyalty programmes. “We have 75,000 members in our loyalty programmes. What we are both bringing to the table is our distribution channels and branding.” Already the tie-up has yielded results. Raffles International senior vice president, marketing, Diane Ee-Tan said an incentive group from Singapore heading to India has been referred to stay at a Taj property. As expected both hotels said the marketing alliance, for now, is just that. “We’ll take baby steps first,” said Bickson. The alliance will be implemented in two phases. The first will see the cross marketing of the luxury brands – eight Raffles Hotels and 14 Taj Luxury Hotels. The next stage will involve the next tier – Swissotel Hotels and resorts and Taj Business and Leisure Hotels. Both are also looking at joint participation at the International Luxury Mart this December and ITB next March. There’ll also be cross-promotion and joint food and beverage promotions.