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Taj group rebrands old hotels in Lanka, plans to expand

Spurred by increase in occupancy and tariff in its existing properties, the Taj group of hotels could soon begin looking for new sites to expand across Sri Lanka.

world Updated: Sep 24, 2010 17:07 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

Spurred by increase in occupancy and tariff in its existing properties, the Taj group of hotels could soon begin looking for new sites to expand across Sri Lanka.

"We know the country. The choices would be the east and west coasts and Kandy and Galle. We would be looking for sites. The government (after the war) has been open in inviting (the group to expand)," Raymond N Bickson, CEO of the India Hotels Company, which owns the hotels and resorts, said on Friday.

At present, the group has three properties in Sri Lanka: five-star hotels in Colombo and Bentota, a coastal town 60 km south of the Capital, and a four-star hotel at Seeduwa near the international airport.

In its quarter-century history here, the company has pumped in more than $ 75 million.

Bickson was in Colombo to unveil the rebranding of the two hotels at Bentota and Seeduwa to a more upscale category.

Officials said the group will invest in "significant double digits" in upgrading the two existing hotels though the amount was not yet "frozen".

Indicating that the company wanted to cash in on the post-war economic revival, Bickson said the group never thought of leaving Sri Lanka in more than two decades.

The civil war between Tamil rebels and government forces began in 1983 and ended in May, 2009.

Hawai-born Bickson said current estimates put tourist arrival at 650000 per year but the number was expected to touch the 2.5 million mark by 2016.

"There’s been a dramatic turnaround. Earlier, rooms were going for $ 50-$ 60. Now it is touching the $ 100. The occupancy is also better. We have to be in ready for the next decade. We are filled with excitement (about Sri Lanka),’’ Ajoy K Misra, senior VP, sales and marketing, said.

Bickson added that the company had pumped in more than $ 3 billion in the 47 hotels currently under construction across the world. China was an important new market the group was looking to enter where the first hotel would be inaugurated in Beijing by the end of 2011. Two more properties in Hainan island and Shanghai were also being readied.