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Our focus on tier II cities is a key driver of our expansion strategy: Sunjae Sharma, VP operations – India, Hyatt

American hospitality giant Hyatt has been present in India for over 30 years in India now. Sunjae Sharma, VP operations – India, Hyatt, converses with Akshay Nayak to highlight how the company is recognising the tier II cities in India as a potential market for its further expansion here

Which destinations are on radar for Hyatt’s expansion in India?

India is one of the top three global growth markets for Hyatt. It has high growth potential and remains a market where we can expand and are growing our brand representation. We started 2019 with the expansion of the Hyatt Centric brand by opening Hyatt Centric Candolim Goa and the addition of two Alila properties – Alila Diwa Goa and Alila Fort Bishangarh (Jaipur) as part of our global acquisition of Two Roads Hospitality. We will be launching four more new hotels in 2019. These will be Hyatt Regency Kochi Malayattoor, Hyatt Regency Dharamshala, Hyatt Regency Thrissur, and Grand Hyatt Gurgaon, and entering three new markets by the end of 2019.

Driving asset-light growth in leisure and cultural destinations with an emphasis on tier II and emerging cities in India is of key strategic importance to us. Tier II markets have shown to hold great potential as travel destinations for business as well as cultural tourists. Currently, we are present in tier II markets such as Goa, Hyderabad, Pune, Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Amritsar, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Bangalore, Raipur, Hampi, and Rameswaram.

Our expansion strategy will see the emergence of Hyatt properties in leisure and cultural destinations such as Dharamshala, Alibaug, Malayatoor, Jaipur, Udaipur, Dehradun, Vadodara, Vijaywada and Trivandrum, which are important tier II markets and which we believe provide great opportunities for the hospitality industry in India. Our Hyatt Regency and Hyatt Place brands will drive our growth in tier II cities and emerging markets. We want to be where our guests are travelling, which is why we are also expanding our Grand Hyatt footprint to include Gurgaon, Alibaug and Jaipur and other new markets.

With the Hyatt Centric Brand recently paving its way in India, which new brands under Hyatt are likely expected here?

Hyatt currently has eight premier brands offering over 7000 rooms across 30 hotels in 19 destinations in India. In 2018, we introduced the Hyatt Centric brand in India with the launch of Hyatt Centric MG Road Bangalore. We expanded the brand further with the launch of Hyatt Centric Candolim Goa in January. Both our Hyatt Centric properties in India are extremely popular with our guests. Our Hyatt Centric properties are always located in the center of the action, bringing the best of the outside in, and serving as the perfect launch pad for exploring all the hidden gems and hot spots a destination has to offer.

With the global acquisition of Two Roads Hospitality, we are looking at strengthening our lifestyle and wellbeing offerings in India, with new avenues to introduce and further expand five new brands – Alila, Destination, Joie de Vivre, Thompson, and tommie – in India. Our focus is on high-quality, differentiated brands and experiences that command a premium and drive frequency with consumers. We look forward to introducing new brands in the Indian market over time.

What are the headwinds and tailwinds faced by Hyatt in India?

When Hyatt started India operations in 1983 with Hyatt Regency Delhi, the presence of global hospitality brands was negligible and domestic brands dominated the Indian market. Over the last 35 years, we’ve had a distinct and differential strategy from other players in the market and have grown with specific intent. From the very beginning in India, we have maintained an asset-light strategy for growth. Our growth in the market is fuelled by management contracts. It’s only recently that we have begun to adopt a selective franchising model with some of our most credible third-party operators.

As is evident, Hyatt’s expansion rate in India has grown over the years at a steady pace, driven by our strategy and the fast-developing positive economic scenario in the country. As an industry, the pace of development and infrastructure is very favourable and provides a much-needed impetus to the overall hospitality development ecosystem.

With Hyatt acquiring Two Roads Hospitality, what will be the operation format of the two Alila properties in India?

Both Hyatt and Two Roads believe in genuine care and delivering distinctive experiences to discerning travellers, and that is where our synergies lie. As part of this acquisition, two Alila properties in Goa and Jaipur have now become a part of our India portfolio. These will be a part of our World of Hyatt program, which is great for World Of Hyatt members as they now get to enjoy the benefits of this program at both properties.

What would be the way ahead for Hyatt in India?

This year is actually very exciting for all of us at Hyatt – we are furthering our commitment to expanding in smaller destinations. Our focus on tier II cities is a key driver of our expansion strategy. These are smaller, yet popular towns which have grown in significance as far as domestic travel is concerned. With Hyatt Regency Dharamshala Resort (89 keys), Hyatt Regency Kochi Malayattoor (100 keys) and Hyatt Regency Jaipur Mansarovar (250 keys) we are adding close to 1000 more keys to our existing bouquet of hotels in 2019.

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