Langham Hotels International (LHI), an international hospitality ownership and management company, is on the verge of foraying into India. LHI operates luxury as well as economy hotels in gateway cities throughout the world and owns properties in Hong Kong, London, Boston, Toronto, Melbourne and Auckland. The company is wholly owned by the publicly listed Great Eagle Holdings Limited, which was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 1972. Currently, it has a capitalisation of US$ 2.1 billion. LHI’s strategic move to enter India is part of the group’s accelerated expansion plan via an increase in its hotel portfolio in the East.
Helmut Knipp, senior vice president, development, LHI, is enthusiastic about the group’s India foray. For him, the Indian market has fantastic prospects: “The Indian hospitality industry is growing at an annual rate of over eight per cent. However, demand outstrips supply in most cities. In Langham, we have a clean, crisp, no baggage brand with an illustrious history dating back to 1865 (when it opened its flagship hotel in the heart of London). We believe we can add value to our customers with our brand.”
At present, he says, the company is only looking for management and not investments. It is entering the market with its two brands, The Langham and Langham Place. The brands have been re-positioned to more thoroughly embrace their specific customers through the delivery of a new level of distinctive, brand-explicit guest experience.
Knipp maintains, “The Langham offers enchanting hospitality – classic, timeless European luxury. Elegant and refined, it offers a tranquil pressure-free haven and exhibits a sense of familiarity.” He adds that Langham Place, the younger sibling of The Langham brand, represents “five-star stimulating hospitality. Langham Place is a paradigm shifter, igniting guests’ inspiration with an individual sense of vitality and flair. Refreshing and modern, this brand aims to reach a group of customers who are adventurous, fun-loving and young at heart. Our USP is attention to the finest detail, personalised services and a high-tech environment combined with history and tradition.”
But surely Langham will face fierce competition and many challenges, given that the Indian hospitality business has really come of age and we can boast of the highest room charges in the world. Knipp is
confident and reveals the company’s India strategy in no uncertain terms, “To identify, train and maintain a great service-oriented team at each property. Establish a reputation of excellence so that Langham or Langham Place towers and resorts will be the first choice when supply meets demand or when the next downturn hits.”
The company is as yet undecided about the number of properties it’s going to have in India. “We do not believe in playing the numbers game. We would rather have only five successful hotels in five years than 20 mediocre ones. Our India vision is to be recognised as a successful operator with a profitable business and as one of the most respected hotel names.”
Guess there’s space for more players in the hotels business in India right now, thanks to demand being higher than supply. Marriott International Inc. has already been in the country for a while with its hotel management proposition. It currently manages six properties – hotels and executive apartments – in India under its various brand names, and has already announced the development of 15 more by the end of 2010.