Mövenpick sets sights on Incredible India

Maiden offering … Mövenpick Hotel & Spa, Bangalore

THE world is looking towards the East and with fair reason too. With significant economic growth, major infrastructure developments and a huge demand in the leisure and corporate travel sector in India, the Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts is keeping up pace with several projects on hand.

Lokesh Kumar, vice president of development and marketing of India, says: “I believe the tiger is roaring in Asia. We have done our fair amount of development in Europe, Africa and the Middle East and will now focus on Asia, specifically in India and China. Some statistics which make us focus in the region – there are only 150,000 rooms in the entire country – from one star to five star listed hotels. Also, amongst all Mice business that happens in the world, India only gets 0.03 per cent, because we don’t have enough number of rooms. In Delhi we have only 14,000 rooms, in Mumbai only 9,000 rooms and in Bangalore only 6,500. Hence, there is a huge disparity between supply and demand here.”

Following an announcement in 2010 to have a dozen hotels by 2015 for South Asia including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, the group launched its maiden offering with Mövenpick Hotel & Spa, Bangalore in 2011.

Kumar says: “Our first operational hotel is now completely stabilised as the first flagship of Mövenpick in the country. The second one will be a spa resort in the Northern city of Dharamsala, a 108-all suite hotel featuring a 28,000 sq ft spa. The property will have close connectivity to the Kangra Airport, 14 kms south-west of Dharamsala and will be just 2 kms from spiritual leader Dalai Lama’s residence. The resort will look out into the Dauladhar mountain range.

“We are also looking at projects in cities in the Western state of Rajasthan. In Udaipur we are at the finalisation stage of a resort, which will be situated in the centre of the Udaysagar Lake. It will be built like a fortress complementing the princely state of Rajasthan and an arrival experience by boat. In Jaipur we are evaluating a take-over. We are under discussions for a green field project in Goa and are at docks in Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta as well.”

Besides, the group currently has a project under construction in Colombo and have executed two deals in Bangladesh, one in Dhaka and one in Cox’s Bazaar, as well as looking in Kathmandu in Nepal.

With quite “a few balls in the air”, Kumar predicts a further rise in opportunities for hotel companies through his observations of the bludgeoning Indian middle class. “Out of 1.2 billion, more than 300 million belongs to the middle class, the foreign direct investment (FDI) is almost $2 billion a month which is distributed amongst this working class of people which makes them the owners of high disposable income which thereby impacts inbound and outbound tourism.

“Number wise, there are 750 million domestic tourists in India and a lot of hotels are now catering to this large growing market. International brands have started to make a beeline over the past 10 years and we are one of the latest ones to walk in.”

Another factor favourable to the company’s expansion plans include the Indian government’s infrastructure development projects including modernising projects at 40 airports.

Kumar further adds that the group is working towards welcoming more travellers from the GCC and Middle East region with various marketing strategies including tie-ups with airlines.

“The Qatar Airways crew stays with us in Bangalore. There are about 17 rooms that come to us from September to March – this is indication that there is a good amount of travel happening from the Middle East to India because they are increasing their flights during the peak winter months.

“Mövenpick is a very well-known brand in the Middle East and people understand our services and so we are going to try and be available at destinations which are familiar to travellers from this region,” he concludes.

By Shilpa Chandran