US hotel major Starwood Hotels & Resorts will now go solo and expand its Sheraton brand independently in India as its 30-year-old exclusive marketing arrangements with ITC Ltd expired on December 31, 2005.
Both the entities jointly manage 10 properties in the country. Most of these properties are owned by ITC, while Sheraton manages their operations.
"Starwood has conveyed to ITC that it will have the option to expand its Sheraton brand on its own as well as in partnership with some other company.
Similarly, ITC also can expand on its own," Starwood Vice-President and Area managing director, South Asia, Stephen Ford told Business Standard.
But the absence of the exclusivity clause will not affect the existing arrangements between them. The 30-year marketing contract was likely to be continued minus the exclusivity clause, said Ford.
In addition to the Sheraton tie-up, the ITC-Welcom group operates 60 hotels at 50 destinations. Following this development, ITC and Starwood have separately initiatedtalks with other hospitality chains for expansion.
Starwoodhas plans to launch its Sheraton, Westin, W Hotel and St Regis across major metros and cities in India. The Le Meridien brand, which was recently acquired by Starwood, will be expanded to 15 from the present eight by 2010.
"Weare open to owning, franchising as well as contract management on merit," said Ford.
Amitabh Devendra, head of hospitality at Chesterton Meghraj, said the removal of the exclusivity clause provided room for restructuring of some of the ITC-Sheratonbrands in the country."Now some of the existing ITC-Sheraton hotels may be upgraded to super luxury levels. As ITC is a luxury brand and Sheraton not-so-luxury, Starwood can replace the Sheraton name with a more premium brand like say W (a Starwood brand) in some of the hotels," he added.
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