Western hotel chains coming to India

Rohit Khare (khare@mci.net)
Mon, 9 Jun 1997 18:31:19 -0400

Western hotels coming to India
Traveling to India may be considered exotic, but staying there no
longer has to be.
Fifty years after winning independence from Great Britain, the world's
largest democracy is in the midst of yet another wave of Westernization:
the chain hotel.
"The potential is huge," says Choice Hotels' Roy Murray. international
vice president for Choice Hotels, which is rapidly deploying its
Comfort and Quality Inn brands across the country. "In places like
Bombay, Delhi and Calcutta, you can't get a hotel. They're always sold
Choice, citing a need for clean, affordable budget hotels, is rapidly
deploying its Comfort Inns and Quality Inns across India and hopes to
blanket the country with up to 70 Comfort and Quality Inns in the next
five years., tapping what it sees as a need for clean, affordable
budget hotels.
Nine have opened already, and Murray says six half a dozen more are
planned in the next year, including a Quality Inn opening in historic
Choice isn't alone. Holiday Inn has added seven hotels in India since
1994. And Hilton, whose which first opened in 1995 in New Delhi, is
building a hotel in Bombay and one in the resort town of Goa.
"You have to go where the money is and where the need is," says John
Richards, executive vice president of Four Seasons, which has is
pinning much of its overseas growth strategy on India with three hotels
under development and two more planned. in planning stages. And for
chains that have already saturated North America and many foreign
countries, India is one of the last great frontiers.
Why India? Richards says a sudden easing of restrictions on foreign
investment has finally made it profitable for firms to expand there.
for the first time.
"We've seen a dramatic change governmentally. It used to be that India
was a very difficult place for a foreign company to operate," says adds
Dan Larkin, associate general counsel at Hyatt, which recently broke
ground on a Grand Hyatt in New Delhi and plans another in Bombay.
Demand for rooms also is also growing: Business travel to India from
the West is booming due to the improved investment climate. Leisure
travel is up, too. Overall, government statistics show U.S. travel to
India rose 9% in 1996 to 220,000 after jumping nearly 50% in the past
four years.
Richards calls India one of the last great frontiers for chains that
have already saturated North America and many foreign countries.
What can travelers expect at the new chain properties? Not local
culture: The new Comfort Inns are deliberately very similar to the ones
stateside, Murray says. They can be booked through the firm's toll-free
number for around $30 a night.
There are a few differences: "It's very difficult in India to keep the
mosquitoes out of the rooms," he says., apologetically. "And you may
have a rattling air conditioner.
"But that there's air conditioning at all is quite extraordinary." he
adds. "If it does rattle a bit, one doesn't complain."
By Gene Sloan, USA TODAY