chhatwal: Domestic tourism above levels seen pre-pandemic, in Q2, says IHCL MD, Puneet Chhatwal

chhatwal: Domestic tourism above levels seen pre-pandemic, in Q2, says IHCL MD, Puneet Chhatwal

The hospitality industry should do well in the second quarter of this financial year amid growing “optimism”, said Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) managing director Puneet Chhatwal.

“The business in quarter two [of this fiscal year] should be better than quarter three of the last fiscal for the sector,” Chhatwal told ET in an interview. “Domestic tourism has taken a very strong charge. Most of the leisure destinations are outperforming themselves compared to pre-Covid levels. Our hotels in Theog, Rishikesh, Goa and Rajasthan have done well. Corbett, a small and offbeat destination, is doing double the pre-Covid numbers.”

He further said, “All in all, there is optimism, especially with the increased air traffic. The occupancy levels for the industry are going up month-on-month and going forward could more or less double compared to quarter one.”

The day corporate travel comes back to 80-90% of pre-Covid levels in markets such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, the total revenue of the hospitality industry should exceed pre-Covid levels, provided the leisure business stays the same, said Chhatwal.

Talking of IHCL’s pipeline, he said the chain has added 70 new contracts to its pipeline in the past three years, out of which which 15 hotels have opened, among which some were existing properties. “We still have 55 hotels in the pipeline. As we speak, we are signing and opening more hotels,” he said.

IHCL plans to open 12 hotels in this financial year, of which four have opened. Its new hotels will open in markets such as Dubai, Bhopal, Kolkata, Navi Mumbai and Sikkim, besides the Taj Wellington Mews in Chennai. “We are still following the strategy of opening one hotel a month. We should still have a good year for signings this year too. As per the HVS Anarock report, IHCL has the most number of signings and openings in 2020,” said Chhatwal.

He said the company has a portfolio of 225 hotels, with more than 150 operational hotels in India. “Our Ginger brand has 80 hotels, out of which 55 hotels are in operation and 25 in the pipeline. The home stay brand Ama Stays & Trails now has 51 properties, of which 35 are in operations. Taj is also getting close to 100 hotels portfolio. Taj, Ama and Ginger will each reach 100 properties milestone,” he said.

Ama is not included in the number of IHCL hotels as it is a home stay brand with villas and bungalows. Chhatwal said he sees a lot of growth for brands such as SeleQtions and Vivanta as well.

“The highest number of hotels in the pipeline are under Vivanta. SeleQtions is gaining ground. I’m positive about the growth strategy for these brands,” he said. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation has extended ban for scheduled commercial international passenger services till October 31. On resumption of commercial international flights and travel, Chhatwal said the issue of international travel cannot be resolved unilaterally and has to be looked at bilaterally.

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