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Hospitality

Published on: Jan. 22, 2022, 1:53 p.m.
Welcomgrowth!
  • The new Welcomhotel, Katra

By Suman Tarafdar

Going by the way 2021 rolled out, it wasn’t the year for new hotel openings. Yet India saw a number of major new hotels, from marquee international brands entering the country to domestic brands expanding their footprint. Arguably none saw more expansion than ITC’s Welcomhotel, which saw new Welcomhotels in Bhubaneswar, Katra, Chail, Shimla late last year and the launch of Welcomhotel Guntur earlier this month.

“ITC Hotels’ growth story is driven by an asset right strategy,” says Anil Chadha, Chief Executive, ITC Hotels. “Welcomhotel continues to be one of India’s fastest growing hospitality brands, spreading its footprint far and wide. The brand witnessed strong recovery due to vaccination drives and reopening of business with the ease of restrictions that encouraged more footfalls. Domestic tourism began to flourish with Indians making short trips and exploring the unexplored gems of India along with the prominent tourist destinations. Present in locations ranging from hills to beaches, and deserts to cities, the hotels skilfully blend together local aesthetics and modern-day comforts along with ITC Hotels' renowned culinary expertise.”

Rising up to challenges

Of course, the previous couple of years have been unprecedented for the industry, and ITC too has responded in several ways. “The ‘WeAssure’ initiative aims at enhancing the existing hygiene & cleaning protocols across all Welcomhotels addressing every facet of operations,” explains Chadha. “The promise of delightful experiences is enriched by stringent hygiene standards to enjoy unparalleled comfort with peace of mind. Both our city as well as resort destinations have picked up pace with domestic travel feeding off pent-up demand. We also expect international tourism to get back on track with increasing ease of restrictions globally.”

The pandemic surely altered the shape of the industry particularly due to the lockdowns and travel restrictions throughout thereby significantly restricting the footfalls, admits Chadha. “We worked as a team to face this unforeseen challenge to maintain stability in the business. We ensured that we use this time towards developing new properties and elevating health and hygiene protocols. ITC Hotels’ Feel Good Menu was also thoughtfully designed and packed with local flavour and immunity-boosting ingredients in dishes that are delectable and healthy. Witnessing the steady recovery, I can proudly say that we are surely blessed with the most reliable and efficient support from all our team members, associates and partners.”

All major hospitality brands saw a drop in business travel in 2020, with leisure travel emerging as the bright spot for most. “While there is no single trend that applies to all leisure destinations, we are seeing an overall upswing across the board,” says Chadha. “Occupancies across business destinations are growing steadily, driven by a mix of business travel and leisure stays.”

ITC Hotels is part of the mega conglomerate ITC Limited. ITC Hotels operates 59 hotels under ITC Hotels, Welcomhotel and Fortune Hotels brands. The group also has joint venture with Jodhana Heritage for the WelcomHeritage brand, under which there are more than 35 hotels. In ITC’s Annual Report 2020, ITC Hotels had a gross turnover of 3.94 per cent and a net turnover of 4.03 per cent as percentage of total turnover of the company, which reported a revenue of Rs74,979 crore in 2020. ITC Hotels, however, did not share the extent to which its top line revenue, occupancy and average room rates (ARR) were impacted by the Covid.

Feel welcome

Welcomhotel continues to be one of India’s fastest growing hospitality brands, spreading its footprint far and wide, stresses Chadha. “The brand witnessed strong recovery due to vaccination drives and reopening of business with the ease of restrictions that encouraged more footfalls. Citycations/staycations and workcations have been on the rise with guests checking-in to just unwind with their friends and families while fulfilling their work commitments. Petcaytions are very popular as friends and families like to holiday with their pets.”

At the heart of everything at WelcomHotel lies the thought of ‘enrichment’, says Chadha. "And it is this vision that helps enrich the lives of the guests, the community, and our hotel associates through integrated efforts and holistic initiatives. From curated journeys that enhance leisure trips, to those that help maximize the efficiency of business stays, at WelcomHotel, every effort is made to add value to the new-age traveller."

Each Welcomhotel property boasts a scenic setting unlike another and renders itself to several interpretations, from bohemian and minimal, to elegant and luxe. A unique blend of vintage architecture and endless serenity with sophisticated facilities, amid tranquil surroundings, these properties ace the décor and ambience of the cities' native beauty and vibrant lifestyle.

The touch of local integration in the Welcomhotel Experience is enhanced by the Welcomsthalika, points out Chadha. “Guests can savour an assortment of popular regional dishes curated by chefs, that come laid out on a single platter, in line with the brand’s focus on going ‘vocal for local’.”

Chadha is confident about the better times ahead for the sector. “Leisure destinations, particularly the hills and beaches are witnessing exponential growth. As is the case with destinations within driving distance of the main metros.” With the top tier ITC Narmada and ITC Colombo One also slated to open this year, the group will surely hope for a bumper boost this year.

New Mementos and Storiis

Part of the new directions for ITC Hotels is the announcement of two new brands – Mementos in the luxury segment and Storii in the premium segment are the latest addition to the ITC Hotels portfolio. “We have already signed three Memento properties and many more are in the pipeline,” reveals Anil Chadha, Chief Executive, ITC Hotels. “Brand Mementos will bring together a collection of unique hotels, across varied destinations ranging from modern marvels, hidden retreats to historic treasures. While, Storii, is a collection of handpicked properties, designated to satiate the ever-evolving needs of the discerning traveller.

“From Mementos Udaipur earlier this month to Mementos Jaipur and Mementos Shimla, we are rapidly adding to the Mementos inventory,” adds Chadha. “Brand Mementos helps us deliver unique luxury stays across different destinations through collaboration with asset owners who choose ITC Hotels for its top notch hospitality expertise.”

Both Mementos properties in Udaipur and Jaipur are poised to be top favourites in the destination wedding segment, points out Chadha. “From the sprawling ballroom, vast pre-function, multi-break out rooms, green rooms and open garden spaces of over five acres, Ekaaya, Udaipur – the first Memento property makes for the perfect destination wedding. Mementos Jaipur presents a unique venue in Shahi Bagh, inspired by the Mughal Gardens. Spread over two acres, it offers a picturesque setting for grand weddings, special celebrations and MICE events.”

From mountain locations to beach destinations and urban hubs, 22 Welcomhotels are spread across India

ANDAMANS: Port Blair

ANDHRA PRADESH: Guntur, Visakhapatnam

CHANDIGARH: Chandigarh

DELHI: Delhi

GUJARAT: Ahmedabad, Vadodara

HIMACHAL PRADESH: Chail, Shimla

JAMMU AND KASHMIR: Katra, Pahalgam

KARNATAKA: Bengaluru

MAHARASHTRA: Aurangabad

ODISHA: Bhubaneswar

PUNJAB: Amritsar

RAJASTHAN: Jodhpur, Khimsar

TAMIL NADU: Chennai (2), Coimbatore, Mamallapuram

UTTARAKHAND: Mussoorie

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