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ITC Hotels eyes foreign shores beyond Sri Lanka

HINDUMETRO/NEW DELHI : The first “clean quarter” — April to June 2022 — for the Indian hospitality industry since the outbreak of Covid in March 2020 (no new variants) has seen average room rates climb back to prepandemic levels and occupancies go even higher.
While regular international flights have resumed and travel restrictions globally are easing, domestic demand that has sustained hotels here for the last two years is getting stronger with the return of corporate travel. Riding high on this revival wave, one of India’s biggest hospitality players — ITC Hotels — is expected to double the number of properties in the medium term, through an “asset right” strategy.
“We have had a fantastic, better than expected, beginning to this fiscal. Keeping fingers firmly crossed for no more pandemic or other shocks, this has so far been the quickest recovery from a black swan event, thanks to strong pent-up demand. In the past, it took much longer for tariffs to return to, say, pre-2008 global meltdown levels,” Anil Chadha, ITC Hotels divisional chief executive

The flight to brands seen during Covid with operators of existing standalone hotels and those planning to build new ones wanting to move under the umbrella of a big chain is bringing at least a proposal daily to ITC. “As of now, ITC Hotels across segments has about 115 hotels with 10,500 rooms. In the medium term, ITC’s asset right strategy is expected to double the number of properties,” Chadha said.International travel restrictions are now easing and how is that impacting business in terms of desis heading abroad and foreigners beginning to return to India? “In pre-Covid 2019, the domestic- international guest ratio was 65:35. At the height of Covid, foreign percentage dropped to 5-6%, mainly airline crew. At the moment, foreign inbound account for 20% of all guests. That percentage will increase in coming months,” he said.
ITC’s first hotel property abroad is coming up at Colombo. But given the fluid situation in the island nation, when it opens remains to be seen. “We are scouting for more opportunities abroad for management contract properties. We are closely looking at the Middle East as there is no way that we do not have a property in Dubai (where Taj and Oberoi are present). There are more opportunities in Sri Lanka, apart from the upcoming Colombo property,” he said. “We are open to considering other opportunities abroad as well,” Chadha said.

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