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‘Our strategy will remain focused on development of existing land banks’

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Vijay Dewan, MD, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels speaks to Akshay Nayak about the markets the hotel chain is focussing on and how the immersive and ‘Anything But Ordinary’ experiences are an important part of the brand’s DNA

How has the hospitality industry in India been for Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels (ASPHL)?
The Indian tourism industry is one of the key drivers of growth among the services sector in India. It supports twice as many jobs as the financial sector and is the third largest foreign exchange earner for the country. The disruptions caused by demonetisation, GST and IBC implementation and the NBFC crisis are now all behind us. Sustained upcycle should begin hereon for the Indian economy. We expect double digit growth over the next three to five years in both the aviation and hotel sector.
We are a leading hospitality company with a diversified portfolio of owned and managed hotels that are strategically located across India. Presently we run three distinct hotel brands that are unified under our vision of “Leadership through Differentiation”. THE Park – is our flagship brand with established leadership in the business of luxury boutique hotels. THE Park Collection – encompasses small luxury properties located in unique travel destinations delivering personalised guest experiences. Zone by The Park – is positioned at the upper midscale level and offers contemporary global experiences for the design conscious and price conscious customers.

We are poised for sustained growth in the years ahead. Which markets are you focussing on for further development?
We launched Zone by The Park in 2014 with an aim to cater to the growing demand of ‘design- conscious, price- conscious’ Indian and international travellers in tier-II, tier-III markets. We already have made a strong presence in these markets through Zone by The Park in the last five years. We have 11 operational hotels and 12 properties already signed and at various stages of developments under this brand. We are furthering our foothold by opening up hotels in cities like Dimapur, Gopalpur, Nagaland, Amritsar, Srinagar, Tirupati, Vijaywada, Surat and Goa. Zone by The Park continues to progress as the social hotspot. Also, India is poised to be the next big destination for globally attracting MICE driven-tourism. The country’s stable government, implementation of infrastructure development measures integrated with our rich and historical culture, makes it a sought-after destination for MICE business travellers.

How are you catering to FTAs and domestic travellers looking for bespoke design and luxury and experiences?
Design element has been one of THE Park’s greatest strengths, with each hotel reflecting the city it is set in. Our property in Hyderabad draws inspiration from the settings and metal work in the Nizam’s jewellery collection which the property also reflects. Similarly, when we opened our Bengaluru property, there was a tech boom happening, so we played with a lot of colour. Chennai’s property was set where the old Gemini film studio once stood, and the design reflects that.
We are of the firm belief that location drives the art and design. This way, we want to bring a bit of the locations culture to our guests who come to stay with us. All the hotels lay a very strong emphasis on contemporary design in their private and public spaces. Style and luxury enhance everything, from the paintings, furniture and accessories to the award-winning dining and entertainment concepts. This is what sets us apart and with local culture of the city in our hotels, we have been witnessing a year-on-year surge in demand both from national and domestic travellers whether they are looking for staycations, events or premium hotel services. At THE Park, we ensure our guests are provided with immersive and ‘Anything But Ordinary’ experiences with an aim to connect with our customers.
We have also seen a rise in demand for affordable accommodations from business and leisure travellers. Our brand Zone by The Park caters to design conscious and price conscious travellers. With relaxed, un-boxy spaces, a happening bar, restaurant and buzzing nightlife, it is a place where people can make new connections, refresh and recharge themselves.
The hotel design seeks to establish a connection between the traveller and the local culture by creating a contemporary collage of the country and its’ traditions. The public areas are inspired by the traditional market bazaar – a place where people meet and engage in a friendly and informal atmosphere. The idea is to make our hotels the starting point to enjoy the city going beyond just a superior room and service experience to become a hub of social interactivity for the modern national and international travellers. We have recently renovated the room interiors of our hotels in Chennai, Bengaluru and Kolkata.

What are your expectations from the government for the hospitality industry to thrive?
The purpose of GST was one nation one tax. At a maximum, we should have two slabs of GST eight per cent and 15 per cent and an additional tax category for the negative list. Lower taxes will lead to higher compliance and higher revenue collection. Both aviation fuel and liquor should be brought under GST. There is a need to grant infrastructure status to all hotel projects upto Rs 100 cr and hotel projects should be allowed five FSI in all metros to make them more viable. Zero duty concession for import should be restored to 10 per cent of foreign exchange earnings. Infrastructure needs to substantially improve at all tourist and leisure destinations.

Roadmap ahead for Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels.
Our development pipeline includes expansion at Visakhapatnam by 100 rooms and at Navi Mumbai by 80 rooms. A new 200 room luxury hotel is planned at Pune on our existing land parcel to be ready by October 2021. Our strategy will remain focused on development of existing land banks and on strategic allocation of capital to ensure our projects give above market IRR. Under our asset high model we plan to add another 1032 rooms over the next years. Overall 1500 rooms will be added in the next three years. This should ensure our dominance in the market.

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