Taj chalks out expansion plans, rides travel revival

NEW DELHI: Riding high on a strong revival in travel, Taj Hotels is going to expand aggressively its footprint in the next 2-3 years. While the lion’s share of this growth will be domestic, India’s largest hospitality group is also looking at having a bigger footprint in countries that have a strong Indian diaspora and/or are big destinations for the desi travellers including North America, Europe and Middle East. The Tata Group company currently runs two hotels each in the US, UK and Africa; three in UAE and eight in India’s immediate neighbourhood.
Taj parent Indian Hotels Company Ltd (IHCL) currently has a portfolio of 242 hotels across brands including 63 under development across four continents in over 100 locations. It plans to have 300 operational hotels by 2025 by opening over a property every month. To achieve this while remaining a debt-free company, IHCL MD-CEO Puneet Chhatwal is planning a shift in the ownership-management contract properties. “IHCL will focus on re-structuring its portfolio to achieve a 50:50 mix between its owned/leased and managed hotels, which currently stands at 54:46,” he said.
About the international expansion being looked at, Chhatwal said: “We are exploring strategic partnership opportunities in key global markets across the UK, US and Europe among others, which have substantial customer crossover with India. The Middle East, with locations such as Makkah — where IHCL has a Taj hotel in the pipeline, — Riyadh, Jeddah, Abu Dhabi and AlUha, will continue be a strong focus area for us in the next couple of years for developing our brand.”
“The company will continue to expand and strengthen its presence across the Indian sub-continent, in cities that are on popular travel routes, especially among the Indian diaspora. We will continue to have a strong focus on markets such as Dubai, where IHCL has recently opened Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, The Palm (the third Taj in the city) and has another hotel at Deira Creek in the pipeline. IHCL is the only Indian hospitality company with marquee hotels in key global destinations such as London and New York, in addition to Sri Lanka, Dubai, Maldives and South Africa among others,” Chhatwal said.
Since the pandemic has shown how domestic tourism is, IHCL is now trying to develop new destinations and is going to open hotels in Lakshadweep and Diu. The company’s “Ahvaan 2025” strategy envisages raising IHCL’s current portfolio of 242 hotels to 300 hotels. As part of this plan, Taj will grow to 100 hotels; Vivanta and SeleQtions to 75 and lean lux Ginger to 125 hotels.
“This will include a combination of management contracts for Taj, SeleQtions and Vivanta hotels, while Ginger’s expansion will be driven predominantly through operating leases. We will continue to invest in strategic assets by unlocking capital through partnerships for long-term growth,” said Chhatwal, who has signed 50 new hotels and opened 25 new ones in the last two years. The group plans to have 500 properties for its homestay brand “amã Stays & Trails” by 2025.

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