‘Suite' surprise: Discounts rain at 5-star hotels for summer, autumn travel

More Indians are opting to vacation at cooler international destinations this summer.
More Indians are opting to vacation at cooler international destinations this summer.

Summary

  • Indian hotel chains are offering discounts of even up to 50% to woo travellers during what’s turning out to be a slow summer holiday season at home
  • The discounts are aimed at attracting both new and existing customers, as more Indians with big monies to spend are choosing to vacation overseas

NEW DELHI : Indian hotel companies booked record profits in the just concluded financial year, riding the long tail of revenge tourism. But this summer has delivered a reality check.

Large hotel chains including Hyatt, Marriott and Taj face a double whammy as they navigate a scorching summer as well as seasonal lulls amid the ongoing general elections. This has resulted in top hotel chains offering huge discounts especially for stays between April and September.

Demand at domestic hotels typically wanes during summers as Indians opt to vacation with their families—with most schools and colleges on their annual holidays—at cooler international destinations instead. Besides, travellers have been complaining about a surge in domestic hotel rates, in some cases by 25-50% in recent years. 

It’s not uncommon for hotel chains to announce summer offers. But the ongoing season presents an additional disadvantage apart from the creeping weariness of domestic travel—a lack of high-profile international events such as the G20 or the cricket World Cup.

“This summer and autumn will be challenging," said veteran hotelier Rattan Keswani, who has previously held senior positions at both domestic and international hotel chains, including Lemon Tree Hotels and Oberoi Hotels and Resorts. “Outbound travel has started in real earnest and, as a result, internal travel is shifting towards outbound as it was in the past, prior to covid." 

Besides, “hotels in visa-free countries are sometimes available at lesser cost. So more needs to be done to protect the share of domestic leisure business", he added.

Also read: Up, up and away: the implications of India’s soaring demand for air travel

Large hotel chains including ITC, Oberoi, Radisson, Lemon Tree, and Sarovar have now slashed their prices by 15-50% for the summer and beyond, offering steep discount packages for stays between April and September.

A suite offer

These special, limited-time promotions are aimed at attracting new as well as existing customers through direct bookings, say industry experts. 

Hyatt is offering up to a 20% discount on direct booking for stays from April through September at select hotels in Goa, Kolkata, Mumbai and Bengaluru as well as in the wider Asia-Pacific region. 

Leela Hotels is offering guests a 2,000 hotel credit per room per stay, in addition to offers on select beverages and a complimentary room upgrade for the next stay. 

ITC Hotels is offering packages that would allow for up to 50% savings at about 80 of its hotels, with discounts on food, beverages and spa services, as well as double points for its members. The Oberoi is offering 15% savings at its resorts in Agra, Jaipur, Ranthambhore, New Chandigarh, Udaipur and Shimla. And Sarovar Hotels is offering a 25% discount at select hotels.

Also read: Scent of growth for Indian hotels as the good times check in

A spokesperson for Lemon Tree Hotels said the company is offering complimentary or discounted food and beverage and spa experience at its five-star brand, Aurika Hotels and Resorts, to boost revenue during the summer.

Marriott International expects to register a 5-6% growth in bookings as a result of its summer promotions in India. For its packages, it has bundled various components such as room upgrades, dining credits, spa treatments and recreational activities. 

“While staycation packages are prevalent in the industry, our focus is more on crafting packages that are not arbitrary but backed by research and insights," said Khushnooma Kapadia, the company’s vice president for marketing for South Asia. “We know now that there is a notable inclination of people to travel domestically, with an interest in emerging destinations in tier-II and III cities, too."

Cut out the middleman, chase the dealseekers

Keswani highlighted this increasing trend of leaning on data to chase “direct" demand, curating packages based on learnings and feedback from customers that could minimise paying 12-22% in commissions to online travel agencies. 

These savings can be diverted to increased spending on ads and promotions that could potentially deliver better yields, or return-on-marketing dollars. Also, for such offers, hotels prefer advertising on social media to traditional routes such as print media. 

“Indians are dealseekers and these kinds of offers help companies get a grip of customers for their loyalty programmes. Sometimes, the original offer may have a 30-minute spa treatment or a beer bucket free. But that, too, often converts into travellers trying out something new and potentially buying more because of it," said Keswani.

Rapid growth

India's count of branded hotel rooms is rapidly rising. In 2023, a record number of 14,000 new rooms were added in branded hotels, lifting the total to 183,000 rooms, according to Horwath HTL Consultants, a hospitality consulting firm. 

This growth is expected to continue, with projections estimating 250,000 hotel rooms by 2027. 

Hotel occupancy rates have also improved. In 2023, domestic hotel rooms were filled 63.6% of the time, a significant jump from the pandemic years and providing sufficient reason for hotels to spike their booking prices. 

In 2021, the occupancy rate was 43.1%, improving to 59.6% in the following year. But the occupancy rate hasn’t quite yet recovered to the pre-pandemic high of 64.5% seen in 2019.

 

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