Starwood plans further expansion with more India hotels
Starwood Hotels & Resorts have confirmed ambitious expansion plans in India with the transformation of some of their India hotels to be re-branded under their Luxury Collection to provide exclusive luxury holiday experiences for discerning travellers.
Giving special attention to India holidays and treating them as the most important market after China in Asia Pacific, Starwood Hotels & Resorts have set out a target to double their properties from the current 19 India hotels over the next five years. Starwood is known for its globally popular brands such as Sheraton, Le Meridien and Westin, all of which have a strong presence in the India holidays market.
“India is the fastest growing Asia Pacific market for international visitor spending. With domestic travel rapidly growing, it is now easier to work with the Indian government and the business environment in general has shown significant improvement in the last few years. Our importance to the Indian market might even overtake China in a few years.” - Starwood Hotels & Resorts-Asia Pacific's President, Miguel Ko said when explaining the company’s strong emphasis on the India holidays industry and travel sector.
ITC Hotels, which has used the Sheraton brand for 10 of its properties since 1979, today renewed its 3-decade old contract with Starwood to use its most premium brand, Luxury Collection, at seven of their India hotels. ITC's Luxury Collection will be making its entry into the India luxury holidays market with an exclusive arrangement with ITC to provide exclusive luxury holiday experiences throughout this fascinating holiday destination.
The 7 ITC Sheraton properties to be converted to Luxury Collection are ITC Maurya in Delhi, ITC Maratha and ITC Grand Central in Mumbai, ITC Sonar in Kolkata, ITC Windsor in Bangalore, ITC Kakatiya in Hyderabad and ITC Mughal in Agra. Though Starwood’s contracts with ITC Hotels and others such as Vatika for Westin are franchise-based, the hotelier is looking at “putting equity on the ground”. “That is how serious we are,” Ko said adding to the idea that Starwood was firmly establishing its presence in the market for luxury holidays in India.
While the co-branding franchise arrangement still needs to be vetted by the Foreign Investors Promotion Board, ITC said it would continue to own and manage all the 7 luxury hotel properties while Starwood would be responsible for marketing and distributing the Luxury Collection hotels overseas. Both companies are optimistic that re-branding would occur by the beginning of next month.
Nakul Anand, chief executive officer, ITC Hotels said that the impact of the re-branding on the hotels’ average room rates has to be still worked out with the price increases accordingly adjusting to the new quality of luxury holidays they'de be providing. “Today, the rates are determined by market forces and the fact that demand is far greater than supply. We are still working on the economics of the upgrade,” he explained.
The new contract also includes the re-branding of WelcomHotel New Delhi as a Sheraton, while the Chola and the Park in Chennai and the Rajputana in Jaipur will continue to retain their Sheraton connections.
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