Indian Hotels Company (Taj group) on Wednesday announced the opening of the first international ‘gateway' hotel, with the re-branding of the Taj Airport Garden Hotel here.
Announcing this, Gateway Hotel group Chief Operating Officer P. K.Mohankumar said Colombo Gateway was the 21st hotel in the chain, which aimed at the upscale market (mid-market). As many as 17 more hotels would come up under the brand. “By 2015, we will be a 50 hotel brand. That is our medium-term goal,” he said. Ginger, Vivanta and Taj Luxury are the other brands of hotels, across differing prices bands, promoted by Indian Hotels Company.
The hotel here will be the only Gateway hotel abroad for now. The brand would concentrate on India because there was a huge demand for hotels in this category.
Indian Hotels Company was looking 50 to 60 towns that had airports for its Indian expansion plans. Rohit Khosla, Area Director, Sri Lanka and The Maldives, said that the brand was not ruling out expansion in Sri Lanka and other overseas markets. It was open to expansion through tie-ups and was also through the properties management route.
Explaining the rationale behind choosing Sri Lanka for its only international venture, Mr. Mohankumar said the Taj Group and Sri Lanka shared a special relationship. Taj came to Sri Lanka about three decades ago and never left. “In fact, we expanded our presence like no one else did,” said Mr. Mohankumar, who was in charge of the Taj Group here in the late 1990s. The Gateway brand was launched in September 2008. Right now, the hotel had 2,000 rooms across India (and now, Sri Lanka), and had been operating with 70 per cent occupancy since the first day of operations, he said.
The Taj Airport Garden Hotel is located in a 38 acre property in Seeduwa, which is ten minutes away form the airport and located right next to one of the largest lagoons in the country. Indian Hotels bought the property about 25 years ago and has 110 rooms and suites. In the past year, it had moved up from a $45-50 per room/day hotel to $80 per room/day hotel. With the re-branding and the consequent improvement in quality of service, the hotel will move up beyond the $100 per room/day range. “This is reflective of the market conditions and we are very upbeat on Sri Lanka,” said Mr. Khosla.
To add 100 rooms
The Airport Garden Hotel will add another 100 rooms at a cost of $10 million. This new wing will be ready by the end of 2012. The hotel will aim for the five-star categorisation. Mr. Mohankumar said the conditions in Sri Lanka presented tremendous opportunities for growth and it was time for everyone to bring their act together. It had to shore up its human resources development to seize the growth opportunities that had presented itself, he added.
Taj, which came to Sri Lanka about three decades ago, is the only international chain with three properties — the Airport Garden, the Taj Samudra and the Taj Bentota.