From top-of-the-line luxury hotels to trendy ones, the last year has seen the hospitality industry in Coimbatore abuzz with activity. Three new hotels are already open for business while at least 10 others wait in the wings.
A sweeping driveway and a lily pool mark the entrance to Le Meridien. Inside, Swarovski chandeliers glitter and there are football field - sized banquet halls and elegant cigar lounges. Not far from there is Aloft, a Starwood property, where spotty mirrors hang on the wall and restored scooters and Java bikes from the Sixties stand on stone floors. The Park Plaza flaunts a style somewhere in between.
For years, executives visiting the city stayed at The Residency or the Alankar Grande. But now, three luxury hotels, barely a year old, are already buzzing with action, and 10 more are waiting in the wings. Suddenly, wherever you turn, hotels are springing up, with speciality restaurants, spas, fitness centres, 24-hour coffee shops and swimming pools.
Business is growing so rapidly in the city that it now needs many more hotels. Multi-speciality hospitals and super-speciality hospitals attract big business from home and abroad. And the city has always been an engineering hub.
Visitors are coming in from Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Kozhikode, Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad, and even Sharjah and Singapore. There are nearly 40 landings and take-offs every day at Coimbatore Airport.
Says T. Gundan, chairman, Surya Hotels: “It should have happened long ago. Bangalore is saturated, while Coimbatore is still emerging. The city has great climate, is well connected by air and rail, and is strategically located within easy reach of important cities in Karnataka and Kerala. And the Nilgiris is just a short drive away,” he says. Surya has signed a 30-year lease with Taj, and Vivanta by Taj Surya is soon to throw open its doors.
“The city is exploding with possibilities,” says M. Krishnan, president, Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Coimbatore. “Till a few years ago we couldn't think of holding big conferences here. But now, Coimbatore can take that load. In fact, more and more people are reluctant to go to Bangalore for meetings. Even Chennai is full up. Hotels don't need year-round room occupancy. Even if they hold 10-20 conventions a year, they can break even. People are also looking for hotels where they can hold weddings and other big functions.”
According to Sanjay Gupta, general manager of the luxurious Le Meridian, “Unlike other cities, Coimbatore is good for development for at least another 10 years. It is a healthy market, perhaps healthier than some metros or even other tier-two cities.”
Aloft and Park Plaza, though smaller and more modest than Le Meridien, are by no means short on style. Saurabh Mathur, general manager of Aloft, describes it as a jazzy, young and smart brand that caters to the second rung of executives. He sees no trouble filling up his hotel's rooms.
“There is so much movement in the city. There is always a need for rooms. Just look how difficult it is to get reservations in trains or flights in or out of Coimbatore. That speaks volumes for how busy the city is.”
General manager Akash Gupta of Park Plaza is optimistic too. He calls Coimbatore a ‘mini Chennai'. But he wishes the IT sector would perk up. “There would be no looking back then. If the Government could strengthen the infrastructure and make it attractive for the biggies to set up shop here, that would be a shot in the arm. Coimbatore needs to be prettied up. A few more malls, besides Brookfields, would help jazz things up.”
Coimbatore is already a hub of industry, multi-speciality hospitals and education. It has to be marketed aggressively, says Ravi Sam, Chairman, CII Coimbatore Zone. “It could be marketed as a convention centre. Big textile conventions such as ITMA (International Textile Manufacturers Association) ought to be held here, where there is such a vibrant textile industry. But lack of rooms and connectivity has kept such events away. That should change now.”
While walk-ins may not be numerous at the moment, the new hotels are confident that in time more people will use their services. If the city develops, the hotels will develop, is the refrain.
Already, Le Meridien has seen the prestigious launches of Volvo, Mercedes and Eicher. It recently hosted a huge convention of plastic surgeons. Aloft has a more no-nonsense approach to hospitality. Huge LCD TVs in every room, plug-and-play docking stations, and other hi-tech facilities make it a popular choice with young executives. At Park Plaza, says Akash Gupta, “We scrupulously follow the Carlton business philosophy of ‘Yes I Can' and ensure total guest satisfaction.” The hotel's many food festivals have been popular and it is a regular venue for conferences. Vivanta by Taj Surya is yet to start functioning, but all its rooms are booked for an upcoming event.
As M. Krishnan sums up: “The standard of living has gone up and people want better facilities. They can afford it. The city once lacked in the hospitality sector. Not any more.”
Le Meridien has 254 rooms in seven categories, starting from basic rooms at Rs 6,000 to a whopping Rs 50,000 for the presidential suite, plus taxes
Park Plaza has 107 rooms, costing Rs 5,500 to Rs 15,000 plus taxes
Aloft has 167 rooms from Rs 6,000 to Rs 15,000 plus taxes
This article has been corrected for a factual error.