Taking a bullish view, Global hospitality major Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc is rolling out an ambitious plan to beef up its presence in India.
The Group sees China and India emerging as the largest markets outside the United States. “India can be the second largest market for us outside the U.S.,” asserted Vasant Prabhu, Vice-Chairaman and Chief Financial Officer of Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide.
In an interaction with The Hindu here last week, he said India required more hotel rooms than what it was expected to have in the next two to three years. “The number of rooms that are available here is surprisingly small, considering the country’s size and its potential,” he pointed out.
In India, Starwood currently has 26 hotels. He said it was planning to add another 18 hotels across the country in the next two-to-three years. This would improve the room capacity to over 10,000, he said.
“The way things are developing in India, we expect to have at least 100 hotels in the next five years in the country,” he added. “With over 6,500 rooms, we are already the largest international hotel company in India today in the high-end….in the four and five star categories,” he claimed. Queried further on the upcoming 18 projects in the medium-term, he said Starwood was planning to have seven Sheratons, three Westins, two Le Meridiens, three each of Aloft and Four Points.
Starwood, he said, would very soon launch its mid-market brand Aloft at Sriperumbudur. The property, he said, was being jointly promoted by Aura Matrix and the Citi group. Chennai would, however, be the first city to have an Aloft. This would go on stream in a few weeks, he added. Bangalore too would have Aloft by August, he added. Starwood, he said, had already brought four of its nine global hotel brands to India. It was hoping to bring another four in the next few years as part of its expansion plan in India.
Assembling large parcels of land at the right price and spending quite a time in getting the property up and running were challenges that were very unique to India, he said. “On an average, it takes five years or more for hotels to be developed in India and in most parts of the world it’s only two to three years,” he added.
The company, which currently has four of its nine hotel brands in India, plans to bring in another four in the next few years. “We are in talks with various developers to bring in our five star luxury brands St. Regis and W, and four star brand Four Points, and the mid-market economy brand Aloft.” said Mr. Vasant M. Prabhu, Chief Financial Officer and Vice-Chairman of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
Asked whether there will be enough demand, citing as example how many hotels that came up prior to the Olympics in Beijing now enjoy “good occupancy at reasonable rates”, he said the demand will certainly rise to meet the supply. “During boom years, people who came to Bangalore, used to stay in Chennai and made day trips to Bangalore and back because of the lack of good hotel rooms at reasonable rates in that city,” he pointed out.