Pune: To stay ahead of competition, India’s rapidly growing hospitality industry is racing to provide value-added services, the latest entrant being the city-based St Laurn Hotels and Resorts, which is planning to offer helicopter services so that guests can fly between its properties without any hassle.
“We are currently undertaking a techno-feasibility study for the new project, which we hope to start by the first quarter of calendar year 2009,” St Laurn’s managing director Laxman Kariyaa said.
The hospitality firm is setting up a new company, St Laurn Aviation, with an initial investment of Rs20 crore for the purpose. It is also discussing wet leasing of helicopters with various companies that include US-based Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.
Wet leasing is an industry term for leasing aircraft on an Acmi (aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance) basis.
With business and leisure travel in India now growing at a fast pace and an increasing number of travellers willing to pay a premium for hassle-free and quick travel between destinations, a number of companies that include Jagson Airlines Ltd, are already providing choppers to ply clients.
Jagson Airlines, for instance, flies from New Delhi to Kulu and Shimla in Himachal Pradesh, and from Mumbai and Pune to the pilgrim centre of Shirdi in Mahrashtra. A 40-minute helicopter ride from Mumbai to Shirdi and back currently costs Rs8,000.
Hospitality companies such as the Tata group-owned Indian Hotels Co., which runs the Taj chain, and the Oberoi Group, have already been providing its private aviation services—Taj Air and Oberoi Aviation—to guests. Other companies offering helicopter services include Mesco Airlines Ltd, Million Air Executive Jet Service and Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd.
“There is an increasing premium on saving time and on comfortable, hassle-free travel, and demand for such services will build up over the next few years,” Kariyaa said.
St Laurn’s entry into the aviation business will complement its plans to open new hotels.
The company is investing Rs250 crore to build at least two 5-star hotels in Ahmedabad that will have 136 rooms each, and one at Shirdi that will have 106 rooms. Both hotels are expected to begin operations by early next year. It opened an 87-suite 5-star hotel last weekend at Pune’s Hinjewadi area—an information technology hub hosting companies such as Infosys Technologies Ltd, Wipro Technologies Ltd, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd andIBM India.