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Hotel Industry Urges Govt Support For Growth
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India's hotel sector wants the Union government to create better conditions for hospitality growth by ensuring cheaper credit and easier acquisition of land for projects.
Speaking at the BW Hotelier magazine’s launch in New Delhi on Monday, top industry experts said although the current government has made developing tourism a key priority, hoteliers continue to encounter many of the problems that hobbled business growth in the past.
The first issue of BW Hotelier, the Indian joint venture between top industry publication Hotelier International and BW|Businessworld Group, was unveiled by Minister of State for Culture and Tourism Mahesh Sharma.
The first edition is themed on hotel renovations and features articles by some of the country’s leading hoteliers.
Sarah Andrews, editor-in-chief of Hotelier International, wrote in her editorial: "BW Hotelier is a sophisticated business-to-business magazine published bimonthly and distributed within the hotel industry. We are a 'best practices' magazine that subtly answers the question, ‘What are the best hotels doing, and how could we do it too?'"
Leading hospitality industry executives participated in the launch event and panel discussions at The Leela Palace Hotel, Chanakyapuri. Ministry of Tourism Secretary Lalit K. Panwar and BW Businessworld Group Chairman Annurag Batra were present.
Mandeep S. Lamba, India managing director of the Hotels & Hospitality Group at Jones Lang LaSalle, said hotel investors have to pay high interest on loans and their repayment period is short, making hotel development a costly affair.
Giving hotels the "infrastructure" industry status would help investors secure capital at lower costs and longer repayment terms, Lamba said, speaking during the "Vision 2020: Mapping Out the Road Ahead" panel discussion, which was moderated by BW Hotelier executive editor Bikramjit Ray.
Lamba said although the hotel sector has grown rapidly over the decades, some of the old challenges in getting project clearances and lack of subsidies remain.
India has more than 100,000 hotel rooms in different segments and this number is expected to grow by 50 per in the next five to six years as new projects get completed.
K.B. Kachru, South Asia chairman at Carlson Rezidor Group, asked for more transport links and flights to tourist destination to increase hotel occupancy rates.
Highlighting the issue of connectivity, Farhat Jamal, India area manager and general manager at Shangri-La - Eros Hotel, New Delhi, said even Agra, home to the world famous monument Taj Mahal, does not have direct international flights.
"It defies logic," he said, adding that the government should identify a select few most popular destinations to boost tourist arrivals rather than try to promote too many places to international visitors.
Zia Sheikh, CEO of Swedish chain Svenska Hotels in India, however, wants hotel developers not to expect too much from the government and instead find their own ways to grow.
The second panel discussion, moderated by Sourish Bhattacharyya, consulting editor of BW Hotelier, focused on “Old Challenges, New Solutions” for the hotel sector.
Kartik Sharma of Piccadilly Hotels, Oberoi Group president Kapil Chopra, HVS International Asia Pacific chairman Manav Thadani, and Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) former president Saeed Shervani took part in it.
India has set a target to achieve one per cent share in global tourism arrivals in 2015 compared with its share of 0.64 per cent in 2013.
The country recorded 7.46 million foreign tourist arrivals in 2014, an increase of 7.1 per cent over the previous year. Earnings from tourism in 2014 were $19.66 billion, growing 6.6 over 2013.
The Minister of State for Culture and Tourism promised the Narendra Modi government will boost security of foreign tourists and make them feel more welcome.
Sharma sought the tourism industry’s help in areas such as cleanliness and safety, saying visitors must go back to with a good image of India. He said it creates a bad impression when tourists encounter dirt, garbage or street beggars in the country.
With a 6.8 per cent contribution to the GDP, tourism plays has an important role to play in the economy, the minister said.