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Check out these niche hotels
Sangeeta Singh and Nanditta Chibber
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November 05, 2005

Staying in plush hotels will no longer be only for high-flying executives and the wealthy. The hotel industry is getting into all kinds of hotels - from economy and budget to upwards of three stars.

And besides building new hotels, players are redoing old hotels and properties, managing and leasing them, all of which means more style and comfortable stays for travellers.

What's more, real estate developers are making attending conferences and seminars an experience to reckon with.

For instance, Delhi-based InterGlobe Hotels, which is a joint venture between InterGlobe Enterprises and Accor Asia Pacific, plans to build 25 hotels under the brand Ibis in 12 years, five of which are already under execution.

So, while Mumbai and Pune will see two Ibis hotels each of over 150 rooms, Gurgaon and Jaipur will have one each with the former having over 215 rooms.

All these hotels will have three star facilities. InterGlobe, however, is not restricting itself to three stars - under Sofitel and Novotel brands it is managing five-star category hotels, and three-to-four star ones under the Mercure brand.

Novotel Hotels are coming up in Gurgaon, Pune and Mumbai.

InterGlobe is also developing and managing an international standard convention centre in Hyderabad, which will have its first large conference, 'Pravashi Bharti' in December.

"The facilities there are mindboggling. Within a fraction of a second, several halls can be converted into large convention halls, partions can be created � this is something India has never seen," says Uttam Dave, president and CEO InterGlobe Hotels.

The size speaks for itself - spread over 2,90,000 sq feet, Hyderabad International Convention Centre can accommodate 6,000 persons.

According to Dave, the occupancy rates of over 70 per cent suggest that there is enough space for several new hotels to come up.

"The possibility of a turnaway factor, where people postpone visits because of lack of accommodation, is also high. Besides, demand is rising at around 15 per cent," says Dave.

To make the best of the opportunity, other companies like the Kamath's and Taj are also coming up with their budget hotels. IndiOne, a Taj project, is developing 30 projects, from the commercial town of Bangalore to holy places like Hardwar.

Not just that - companies are also waiting for the opening bids for the Commonwealth Games, to be held in 2010.

According to Dave, the government will see serious bidders only when rates are reasonable. "Sometime back, the Delhi Development Authority had two to three rounds of auctions of properties in Delhi, but because the rates were so crazy, there were no takers," says Dave.

While some hoteliers are getting into developing properties in IT parks, holy cities, smaller industrial towns and national parks, others like InterGlobe are focussing on central business districts.

According to Dave, there is a lot of assured business in CBDs and increased inbound travel is facilitating that. "While inbound travel has grown by 25 per cent in the last two years, the hotel industry is not growing at the same speed, and unfortunately the government is not considering hotels a priority sector along with infrastructure and housing," says Dave.

So, what does the hotel industry expect � prime land at discounted prices? "No," Dave is clear, "we want to pay market prices, but the procedure should be expedited." Will the government take this seriously?

Leisure hotels

Leisure Hotels is tapping natural, cultural and spiritual destinations for the mid-market traveller. Started in 1989, the company today has 11 properties.

The company's getaways in Corbett - Corbett Hideway, a luxury resort and Corbett Riverview Retreat - are its premier brands.

It has formulated the concept of developing and selling cottages at the Corbett Riverview Retreat, and also maintaining and using them for tourists.

Restoring a haveli in Uchagaon along the Ganga, its new venture will promote it as a river-dolphin viewing destination.

With the success of their ventures, and as the company is now also managing properties, Vibhas Prasad, director, business development feels that "we have reached a stage where we can manage the properties of our choice".

The company's core competency of managing and publicity has broadened its vision of expanding in managing properties for others.

Leisure Hotels targets niche segments of the leisure traveller to destinations where luxury resorts and hotels were previously not considered profitable.

But the success of The Himalayan View Retreat in Ramgarh, Chardham Camp in Uttranchal, Haveli Hari Ganga in Haridwar and the others tells a different story.

Sarovar Hotels

Started in 1991, Anil Madhok's Sarovar Hotels are now a leading multi-brand hotel management company. Sarovar Hotels manages, franchises and markets 32 hospitality centres across business, leisure and religious destinations.

Its affiliation with Carlson Worldwide continues under the Park Plaza and Park Inn brands; and now it has launched Sarovar Premier, Sarovar Portico and Hometel brands as domestic brands, encompassing five-, four-, and three-star categories respectively.

The Park Plaza Royal Palms in Mumbai and The Promenade in Pondicherry are two recent additions in the business hospitality sector. At the Jim Corbett National Park, the company is refurbishing the Solluna Resort, rebranding it as Solluna Sarovar Premier.

Sarovar Hotels 'Park Inn' in Badrinath is one of the first ventures introducing four-star hospitality in pilgrimage destinations.

According to Anil Madhok, managing director, Sarovar Hotels, "Future plans include developing of hometels - our three-star, limited service, no-frills brand."

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