New Delhi: Emerging from the economic slowdown, Indian Hotels Co. Ltd, owner of the Taj chain of premium hotels, is ramping up its business, opening hotels in countries such as Mexico, Morocco and other overseas markets, as it prepares for the first anniversary of the terrorist attack on its flagship Mumbai property.
The chain, which went into a cost cutting drive following the slowdown and the closure of Mumbai’s iconic Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, extensively damaged in the 26 November attack , is reviewing its freeze on recruitment, replacement hiring and salary increments that were to last until March 2010.
It will also partially open the heritage wing of the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel a day before the anniversary of the attack.
Back in business: Indian Hotels Co. MD Raymond Bickson. Rajkumar/Mint
“We are opening a hotel each in the British Virgin islands and Mexico while our Cape Town hotel will open in December 2009. Another two are underway in Morocco,” said Raymond N. Bickson, managing director and chief executive, Indian Hotels.
India’s largest hospitality chain, 25% of whose revenue accrues from its international operations, is exploring international markets although the slowdown has hit the progress of its new properties in West Asia, especially in Abu Dhabi and Ras-al-Khaimah, where construction is yet to start.
The thrust on foreign operations, Bickson said, is to protect the firm’s margins and market share, given that at least 30 hotel brands are eyeing entry into India. “Business is moving positively in Asia and even the Indian market appears to have bottomed out...While average room revenues and occupancies showed a 10% decline compared to last year, we expect to match the turnover of fiscal 2006-07.”
Indian Hotels’ gross revenue for 2008-09 declined to Rs1,706.52 crore from Rs1,823.16 crore in the previous year, and its net profit fell to Rs234.03 crore from Rs377.46 crore.
On reopening the heritage wing of its flagship hotel, which dates back to 1903, Bickson said, “We are planning to welcome our first guests on 25 November when we expect to reopen three of our restaurants—Golden Dragon, Wasabi and the Harbour Bar.”
The rooms and the remaining food and beverage outlets in the hotel, including the ball room, will be opened in phases, starting December until April, when the hotel expects to be completely operational.