We are targeting 70 properties by next year

Written by Vishakha Talreja | Updated: Jun 30 2010, 06:51am hrs
With the Indian hospitality industry showing signs of recovery, hotel majors are firming up expansion plans. FEs Vishakha Talreja spoke to Suresh Kumar, president of ITC Fortune Hotels, a wholly owned subsidiary of ITC Hotels division, about plans of the company. Excerpts:

What are ITC Fortune Hotels expansion plans

At present, we have 34 operating hotels with 2,700 rooms and the total number of signed properties, which include those under various stages of development, is pegged at 60 with more than 4,900 rooms. In next one year, we are looking at having a total of 70 properties. We are looking at expanding in Gujarat and are about to sign properties in Rajkot and Gandhinagar.

You have grown the brand with management contracts. What about owning and operating your own hotels

Yes, we are looking at owning hotels too under the Fortune brand, though not very aggressively. Work on our first owned property in Bangalore will commence within two months. We will also have a property in Coimbatore. There is no fixed target for the number of properties we are looking at owning. But the ITC Hotel Division has earmarked more that Rs 100 crore, to begin with, for building hotels under ITC Fortune brand.

Are you looking at taking Fortune brand out of the country

The outbound travel market is twice the size of inbound market. So it makes sense to have hotels overseas. If an opportunity comes up, we will take the brand out; but it is not on our immediate agenda.

At present, under the Fortune umbrella, you have four brands Select, Park, Inn and Resort. Are you looking at adding any more brands

Well, we are looking at developing 'Fortune Faith' as a brand for hotels in pilgrim cities. Though we already have hotels in pilgrimage centers for instance in Tirupati, Madurai and Jammu, we haven't started calling them by this brand yet. We also plan to roll out the 'Fortune Lodges' which will be aimed at rural rich.

Are you looking at acquiring any property

My role really is to sign management contracts. But if the ITC board decides to acquire properties and tells me, I will do it.

How do you see the market panning out, now that there are signs of recovery

The revival cycle has begun. Many projects, which were halted or the construction was slowed down owing to fund crunch, are being actively developed again. But still one is not really seeing new projects take off or aggressive expansion happening.