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Bengaluru: Hotel chain Marriott International Inc plans to bring four more global brands to India and has already signed on properties for these, top executives at the company said.

The chain opened its 100th hotel in the country, a Sheraton Grand, in Bengaluru’s Whitefield on Tuesday, and said it plans to open 50 new hotels in India over the next 3-5 years.

India is only the third country in the world to house 100 hotels from its stable, after the US and China. The US, Marriott’s homeground, has roughly 4,500 hotels while in China the company has close to 300.

“I was here five years ago and I predicted that we will have 100 hotels opened here in India and I think there were some gasps among our Indian team. We should be opening those 50 new hotels mostly over the next three years. If you think about that pace, we should be nearing 200 hotels in five years and I don’t know why we shouldn’t be able to achieve that," Arne Sorenson, president and chief executive of Marriott International said on Tuesday.

Sorenson was speaking at a press conference announcing the official opening of the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Convention Center in Whitefield. Marriott expects to open 15 new hotels in the country this year, the same number of new properties it opened the year before.

The chain has also signed deals to bring four more of its global brands to India—Edition, Moxy, Delta and Tribute. All four brands operate in either the mid-scale or luxury price segments.

For Edition, the company has signed on one property; for Moxy it has already signed on a couple of hotels. It has also signed one hotel each for Delta and Tribute in Goa and Kochi, respectively, with the Kochi property due to be launched at the end of the year.

“We’re seeing a lot of traction. We’re seeing it across all segments to be honest. We’re seeing it in tier-I markets and also in tier-II and tier-III markets. It’s not any particular segment," Neeraj Govil, Marriott’s South Asia vice president said in an interview on the sidelines of the press conference.

Marriott’s India room capacity is just over 21,000 and close to 60% of its business comes from Indian consumers. A vast change from roughly 13 years ago when 80-85% of business came from foreign customers, although the company only had four hotels in the country then.

Although all segments are growing, leisure travel is growing faster than business travel and that has led to exponential growth in the resort segment, Govil added.

The company classifies 14 of its properties under the resort category and plans to focus on opening more in the space. But Govil and the company’s APAC president and managing director, Craig Smith, did not put a number to their plans to open new resort properties.

“Leisure demand continues to grow 4x of what business demand is growing at. Although we are concentrating on business demand and trying to capture that especially for the Indian market. We started off as a business hotel company so you have to re-engineer to get into these new categories like resorts," Smith said.

For instance, the company needs to make sure it has air-lifts for specialised resorts. Safety is another big concern while opening resorts in the middle of nowhere, as is finding people with the right skills to deliver experiences—especially in the wellness category.

Marriott has also seen very strong lifts on average room rates according to Govil, especially in certain geographical pockets like Mumbai where the occupancy rates are supporting the increase in rates. But the company has kept in mind that occupancy rates are at an all-time high while hiking room rates, he added.

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