Mumbai: Indian Hotels Co. Ltd (IHCL), which operates the Taj chain of hotels, is upgrading most of its The Gateway premium hotels to more upscale Vivanta as part of a wider brand restructuring, a top company executive said. The company is also looking at taking some of its fine dining restaurants like Shamiana and House of Ming outside of India in a bid to strengthen its food and beverage business.
“The migration of The Gateway into Vivanta—the ones which are possible—would be completed by the end of this year. We will keep Gateway brand in our drawer and take it out as and when it becomes relevant," Puneet Chhatwal, managing director and chief executive, IHCL said in an interview.
However, the hotel brand would not be sold to any other hotel chain. “We will keep it with ourselves," Chhatwal said, adding the company “wants to have just four hotel brands—Taj, Vivanta, SeleQtion and Ginger." SeleQtion is a yet-to-be launched collection of boutique hotels that would include the recently acquired The Connaught Hotel in New Delhi.
The new strategy will see most of the 27 Gateway hotel properties, spread across major cities and leisure destinations getting converted into Vivanta. Launched in 2008, The Gateway hotel has presence in major Indian cities like Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and leisure destinations like Coonor, Gir Forest and Ooty.
As per the company’s website, IHCL has 19 Vivanta hotels. Set up in 2010, Vivanta is one of Taj’s iconic hotel brands that has presence in both in cities and leisure destinations.
In a major overhaul of an earlier brand restructuring initiative started out by Rakesh Sarna, IHCL’s former managing director and chief executive, the Tata group firm said in February that it will retain Vivanta as against its plan to discontinue it. However, Chhatwal had said that the company would later decide whether to retain few of its other brands like The Gateway.
According to Mandeep S. Lamba, president (South Asia), HVS Anarock, a hospitality consultancy firm, the revised brand structure would make the brands (Taj, Vivanta, SeleQtion and Ginger) more “distinctive and provide clearer positioning."
“The reason for choosing Gateway to be discontinued is perhaps also because most of these properties could either be rebranded into Ginger or Vivanta by depending on the product and the market without losing any property," Lamba said.
IHCL is also planning to expand its food and beverage businesses. “We want to start leveraging more on the F&B side... There are certain names which we have not leveraged and take them outside," Chhatwal said.
He said IHCL would look at taking Shamiana outside of India on the lines of Bombay Brasserie, another IHCL brand, which has presence in cities such as Capetown, London and Dubai. “Shamiana is as old as our hotel brand," he said adding the other popular restaurants like House of Ming, Southern Spice and Karavalli could be expanded overseas.