Indian Hotels Co Freezes Expansion Plans In S-E Asia

Mumbai, May 19: | Updated: May 20 2003, 05:30am hrs
Tata Group company Indian Hotels Company Ltd (IHCL) has put its South-east Asian expansion plans on hold given the present market scenario, even as the company is said to be exploring new avenues in Southern Africa.

IHCL, which feels that the South-east Asian region holds no economic value for the group which ideally deals in the five-star deluxe market has kept options open in the event of a good bargain.

In addition to its expansion plans by way of management contracts in China and the Middle East, it has now set its sights on forming a management contract in Tunisia and is also looking at another property in Dubai as part of its Middle-East region plans. IHCL, however, might just consider Phuket as a potential area in the South-east Asian region.

IHCL COO & senior vice-president (international division) Rajiv Gujral told FE: The international division is keen on expanding both through management contracts as well as through strategic investors. It is looking at strategic investors to further its expansion plans as the return point of view is well protected.

As of now, there is no economic value as such in the South-east Asian region. As a result of which, nothing has materialised from that region, Mr Gujral added.

While Mr Gujral refused to comment on the companys plans to tap adventure tourism in Southern Africa, industry sources said that IHCL is exploring the possibility of setting up wildlife lodges in Zambia.

IHCL recently entered into a tripartite joint venture with Conservation Corporation Africa (CC Africa) and Chaudhury Group of Nepal that is aimed at focussing on wildlife tourism and hospitality business.

On the South-east Asian region, Mr Gujral said that the region is not really a bargaining market as widely thought in the industry.

The group is only interested in dealing in the five-star deluxe market. Therefore, I feel that there is no real economic value in the South-eastern Asian market now, he added.

The group is exploring the possibilities of setting up a resort or a city hotel in Phuket if a good bargain offer comes up. We are exploring the area as of now though nothing is on the charts, Mr Gujral said.

He maintained that they are looking for a strategic investor for the properties that they are exploring in China, namely Beijing and Shanghai.

Meanwhile, the group is re-emphasising itself in a big way in the international market and has recently put in place the Taj Exotica Resort & Spa which is situated on Emboodhu Finolhu Island, one of Maldives only clear sand lagoons.

Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces have spent $11 million in building this resort and the property integrates with the islands natural foliage.