Many positive developments this year in India’s travel and tourism industry

Many positive developments this year in India’s travel and tourism industry

Interview with Shantha de Silva, Head of South West Asia, IHG.

Q. How will you assess year 2015 for travel and hospitality industry? Do you think 2015 has been better compared to 2014?

This year we’ve seen a number of positive developments in the travel and tourism industry in India. These include government initiatives to support the growth of the tourism industry, such as implementation of the decision to extend visa-on-arrival to tourists from 180 countries; plans to develop new airports in smaller key cities and the building of world-class convention facilities. These developments are all welcome news to the industry. As these changes take effect, we are very optimistic about what lies ahead for the industry in years to come.

Recent media reports indicate that there was an increase of as much as 700% in tourist arrivals using e-visa facility during mid of 2015. Furthermore, demand for hotel rooms in India grew by approximately 20% this year, the highest in five years. This is said to be driven by a significant increase in business-related travel. These numbers are testament to the positive outlook that hospitality sector in India is experience.

Given an increase in leisure as well as business travel, our approach to growth in India is to strategically expand our presence through all categories in order to cater to guests across the spectrum. We are ready to achieve this through our four brands present in India: InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express

Q. How has been IHG’s performance this year? How did your presence grow in India in 2015?

2015 was an exciting year for us. We announced the signing of 286-room Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park, the first Crowne Plaza hotel in Chennai. This was followed by the opening of Holiday Inn® Chandigarh Panchkula – the tenth Holiday Inn hotel in India. To further expand our Holiday Inn portfolio in India, we announced the opening of Holiday Inn® & Suites Bengaluru – the first Holiday Inn hotel in the Silicon Valley of India. 2015 was also a milestone year for our brand InterContinental. We opened our first InterContinental Resort in India in Chennai, Mahabalipuram. The resort is located in a picturesque location overlooking the Bay of Bengal on East Coast Road, making it one of the most exclusive properties in the city. Additionally, we opened the tenth Crowne Plaza in the country – Crowne Plaza Jaipur Tonk Road.

Q. Are you satisfied with the government’s efforts to promote tourism?

This year, we’ve sensed an increase in business confidence with a number of initiatives by the government to help India grow as a preferred travel destination. It has been heartening to see an increase in the government’s recognition of the vital role hospitality plays in generating integral foreign exchange dollars and creating significant employment opportunities in India. Developments such as the expansion of India’s visa-on-arrival programme and plans for new transport infrastructure to connect tier-2 and tier-3 cities are positive indicators for the industry, which we are confident, will draw more investment interest in the market in the coming years.

Another initiative that we believe will help in enhancing India’s image as an attractive tourist destination is the ‘Swach Bharat Abhiyan’ which is actively being rolled out across the country. As one of the world’s leading hotel companies, we have extended our full hearted support towards the campaign to achieve Prime Minister Narender Modi’s vision of “Clean India” by 2019, by executing a series of hotel-led initiatives (cleaning drives and building of lavatories) this year.

Q. How do you look forward to the year ahead? What would be your plans for the next year?

Being a leading player in the industry, we’ve observed a rise in certain trends which will have an impact on how we deliver guest experiences in years ahead. We have witnessed a significant increase in the number of domestic travellers in India in the last couple of years – and we know from the in-depth research we conducted amongst Indian consumers, that they are value-conscious and expect guest experiences that are locally relevant. Industry projections also indicate that the Indian middle class is rising at an exponential rate and could more than double by 2030. This group of travellers will be looking for quality midscale hotels when they travel in India. That is why we are focusing on developing our midscale presence in the country. To cater to this growing group of travellers, we are focused on developing our midscale presence with our Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express brands, which currently comprise more than 85% of our development pipeline (by number of hotels) in India.

Another trend we’ve observed is the rise of business travel which has emerged as one of the significant segments of travel and tourism industry in India. According to figures from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), India has moved from 24th spot in the world’s business travel market ranking in 2000 to 10th today, and this is expected to rise in the years ahead. There are certainly opportunities to cater to this trend, and as a trusted name for business travellers worldwide, our answer to meeting the rise in business travel in India is our ‘Crowne Plaza’ brand.

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