Visionary who makes his dreams come true

Nair: India has great potential in the luxury hotel industry

With seven new hotels announced in an investment of $270 million, Captain CP Nair says he can see his dream unfold in front of him.

The honourable chairman for The Leela Palaces, Hotels & Resorts, Nair is best known as the elder statesman of Indian hospitality.
Nair built his first hotel in 1986 – the Leela Palace, Mumbai – at the age of 62, he was already big name in India’s handloom industry.
“Every prospective property in our expansion plan that is on the roll takes forward and consolidates our positioning in the market place,” Captain Nair told TTN.
“That is to be the most premium hospitality group of hotels in both the business and leisure category. After having stayed in world class hotels such as Waldorf Astoria in New York and Adlon in Germany, it was my dream to give India the most premium high end hotel stay experiences. With our expansion on the anvil I can see the actualization of my dream.” It is a story that has been told many times, and with his small chain of trophy properties, Nair has seen his business go from strength to strength. This move, however, coupled with a plan for new hotels in Mauritius and the Maldives in partnership with their marketing partner Kempinski Hotels and Resorts.
The group is also exploring the UAE market with Kempinski, and is reportedly looking at properties in the key gateway cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Nair would not offer any details, however: “There are offers for us from Maldives, Mauritius and UAE to help, put up and manage five-star hotels on the lines of Mumbai, Bangalore, Goa and Kovalam. For now we are focusing on consolidating our presence in India,” he told TTN. “The growth potential for the luxury hotel industry in India is highly promising. It is going to swell many-fold in the next five years,” he added.
The group recently announced seven new properties in India.
In the north of the country, India’s capital, New Delhi, will see the opening of a new landmark hotel, The Leela, Kempinski Gurgaon, Delhi in early 2008. The hotel will feature 319 rooms and suites and 90 apartments which will constitute The Leela Residences. This upscale mixed used development on a plot of five acres includes a premium shopping centre spread over 15000sqm.
The group is also creating another upmarket, trophy hotel in South Delhi, with 250 over-sized guestrooms and service apartments. It is scheduled to open in 2010 with a total project investment of $241 million.
A new palace hotel in Udaipur overlooking the picturesque Lake Pichola, The Leela Palace, Kempinski Udaipur is under construction, and scheduled to open in 2008 with 82 oversized guest rooms and Royal Suites evoking the life and times of the royal past.  In the harbour city of Chennai, formerly Madras, a 15-storey hotel, The Leela Palace, Kempinski Chennai with over 300 rooms is being constructed at an investment of $73 million and will open by 2009. This will not only be the largest and the first beachfront business hotel in the city, but its 1600sqm Convention Centre, will be the most contemporary and well laid out meeting area in Chennai.
The Chennai project will coincide with a further investment of $69 million to be made in a luxury hotel in Hyderabad. The 325 room property, The Leela Palace, Kempinski Hyderabad will welcome guests to a very upmarket central location in Banjara Hills in 2010.
Pune, the new IT hub, is the fastest growing second tier city of India and urban experts see the city developing as an extension of Mumbai. The Leela Palaces & Resorts is part of this development and the group will invest $30 million into building a 350-room luxury hotel where the first phase will usher 250 superlative rooms into the market by 2009 on a five-acre plot close to the airport.
These properties will bear the Kempinski name, Nair said, giving the international chain the opportunity to expand its footprint into India.
Another property is being built in Nair’s hometown of Kannur in Northern Kerala, once a proposed airport is built. “I am keen to see north Kerala on the global tourism map. It is the pristine, untouched and unexplored face of ‘God’s own country’. What is holding it back from being a hot tourist destination is the lack of infrastructure and accessibility,” he said.
Captain Nair also spoke on the requirements for developing a robust tourism infrastructure in India. “With the tremendous potential we have for boosting tourism in the immediate future, there is great urgency in creating the requisite infrastructure for it,” he said. 
By Clark Kelly