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Kolkata 2006: a space odyssey

By Gargi Gupta in New Delhi
September 07, 2006 12:18 IST
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At the ITC Sonar Bangla, it's almost doubled. Average room rents in 2005-06 were in the range of Rs 4,000-Rs 4,500. This year, Ranvir Bhandari, area head, projects, east, expects the figure to touch Rs 8,000.

At the Oberoi Grand, ARRs have gone up 54.8 per cent in a year, a sudden escalation from the 15 per cent rise in the two previous years.

Hyatt Regency is faring well in Kolkata too, with ARRs up an average 27 per cent, while occupancy is up 20 per cent to about 84-85 per cent -- the highest for any Hyatt property in south Asia.

Average occupancy has hovered around the 80-per cent mark in Kolkata's other five-star hotels as well. At The Park, ARRs are up 30 per cent, at Rs 4,500, and expected to shoot another 40 per cent next year.

According to Amitabh Ray, general manager of the Oberoi Grand, "ARRs now are marginally higher than what they were before 9/11."

Not only did the terror attacks in the US lead to a decline in tourist bookings, but, to place that statement in perspective, 2001-02 also saw the opening of two new five-star hotels in the Kolkata: the Hyatt Regency and ITC Sonar Bangla, leading to a glut of rooms. These years saw a sharp business downturn.

Now, not only is business travel back and booming, Kolkata is shaping up as a favoured destination for the meetings-incentives-conference-events business too -- thanks to competitive rates.

Despite the ARRs' rise, Kolkata is relatively cheap; it costs half as
much to host a conference in Kolkata than in Delhi or Mumbai.

Hotels in Kolkata like the Oberoi Grand have also been wooing MICE traffic with throw-ins like cruises, trips to nearby Santiniketan and golf sessions. The Park has also recently commissioned The Galaxy, an 8,000 sq ft new banquet space with spiffy facilities, and now expects brisk MICE business.

"Kolkata is poised for a great leap forward and is fast catching up with the other metros. ARRs are likely to touch $200 in the current season of November to February," says Vijay Dewan, managing director, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels.
But Amit Nag, director, marketing, Hyatt Regency Kolkata, sounds a note of caution: "Demand has not been climbing as it should. The boom this year was the result of all the excitement in the telecom and BPO sectors. Also, there is nothing new happening in the manufacturing sector, except perhaps the Tata Motors project."

And then, of course, will come the four hotels that have already been announced: the 208-room Intercontinental in Rajarhat, DLF's five-star property, possibly a Hilton on the EM bypass next door to Emaar-MGF's seven-star hotel, and of course, the redone Great Eastern Hotel. And to top it all, there will be ITC Sonar Bangla's addition of another 300 plus rooms.

But all this will take another four odd years. Hoteliers can enjoy the boom till then.

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Gargi Gupta in New Delhi
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