With more global hospitality players shifting their attention to Asia’s growing economies as growth slows in more mature markets, the US-based Starwood Hotel and Resorts is focusing its radar on the still ‘under-developed’ hotel sector in India.
The company, with revenues of $5.6 billion (R30,589 crore) is looking at introducing its luxury brand St Regis in India over the next three years. Also in the pipeline are plans to add 100 more hotels by 2015.
Of its 1,200 hotels worldwide, Starwood currently has 30 St Regis luxury hotels. The company is looking at introducing the brand to India with at least five hotels in the pipeline.
“We are incredibly enthusiastic about India but it will take a while to grow. It has the potential to be our third largest market after the US and China,” said Vasant Prabhu, vice chairman and CFO, Starwood Hotel and Resorts Worldwide, who is touring India.
“Many of our brands are well established here. While our first luxury brand W will open in Goa soon, we are in conversation with various partners for St Regis. The first two markets where St Regis could come are Delhi and Mumbai. St Regis will set a new standard of luxury in India and we are looking at opening at least five St Regis here.”
“India is still the most under saturated hospitality market in the world mostly because infrastructure is a problem. Our time horizons are very long. The key point is to develop infrastructure so that consumers can move around with ease,” he said.
At the moment Asia Pacific contributes about 28% to the firm’s revenues. Prabhu did not give away India’s contribution but said that it is ‘sizeable’.
“It’s already a big business. The new numbers are quite sizeable and we are seeing some great openings this year.”
Starwood has been following the asset-light strategy where it has been selling its owned hotel properties. Presently, of its 150 properties, 40 are still to be sold. “We’ll be selling all these hotels as we are targetting an asset-light strategy,” said Prabhu.
Starwood has nine brands of catering to the luxury, premium and leisure segment, including Le Meridien, Westin, St Regis, Sheraton, Four Points and more.