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Indian Americans eye India as biz destination

Enthused by India's booming economy and upturn in tourist arrivals, a majority of NRI hotel owners see good business prospects in local hospitality industry.

india Updated: Jan 12, 2004 14:44 IST

Enthused by India's booming economy and an upturn in tourist arrivals, a majority of Indian American hotel owners see good business prospects in the local hospitality industry.

The US-based hoteliers of Indian origin are also eyeing India as a base for a vast pool of English-speaking and skilled human resources to serve in the American hospitality sector.

"All of us very well understand that there is a huge pent up demand for quality hotels in India," said Hitesh Bhakta, chairman of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA).

The association is the fastest-growing hospitality organisation and one of the most powerful Asian American advocacy groups in the US. Founded in 1989, AAHOA has grown from 100 to 8,000 members now.

Together, AAHOA members own more than 20,000 hotels across the US with one million rooms, representing nearly 37 percent of all hotel properties. The market value of hotels owned by AAHOA members totals nearly $40 billion.

"Our members are really bullish about starting business in India. Opportunities are growing in the Indian hotel industry as travel within the country is increasing," Bhakta told IANS in an interview.

Bhakta is in India as the head of a 30-member Indian American hoteliers delegation, one of the largest team of US hotel owners to visit Asia's third largest economy so far.

The delegation is here to participate in the three-day Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas (Indian Diaspora Day) that ended Sunday and to explore business opportunities across the country.

According to Bhakta, the Indian American hoteliers are keen to set up "mid-tier motels" along the world-class national highways that are being constructed in India to link the four corners of the country.

The national highway development project, one of the world's largest road projects, entails widening and strengthening two-lane roads to four or six lanes at an estimated cost of $14 billion.

"Once these highways are built, the demand for lodging along the route will increase manifold. The highways will stimulate the construction of hotels and restaurants at strategic access points along the route," said Bhakta.

"Our AAHOA members are uniquely placed to cater to the demand for accommodation along the highways. This could be a potential area of business for Indian American hoteliers in India."

California-based Bhakta, who practices law as a real estate and business litigation attorney, said the US hoteliers were also looking at India as a vast market for sourcing trained professionals for the American hospitality industry.

"Export of skilled hospitality industry manpower from India to the US could become the next best thing after the migration of a large number of technology professionals," he said.

"The US hotel industry needs hundred of thousands of qualified professionals and India is very well placed to cater to the market demands there."

Bhakta said AAHOA would act as an intermediary to help Indian hotel industry training institutes and colleges to tie up with their US counterparts for exchange of information and training facilities.

"The affiliation with leading US universities will help Indian institutes to evaluate their programmes and find out the areas they lack in churning out world-class professionals for hospitality industry," he said.

He predicted that more foreign visitors were likely to come to India in the years ahead because tourists were selecting India for vacation while business people flew to the country for commercial ventures.

"There is a need to keep these two trends on a roll with promotional campaigns that stimulate travel, as well as with policies and programmes that encourage the construction of hotel properties in different parts of the country."

First Published: Jan 12, 2004 14:44 IST