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ITC: Enduring Value

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The Interview: DipakHaksar, chief operating officer, ITC Hotels 12 Jun 2012

Air & Business Travel news magazine

India's ITC Hotels will be opening its latest hotel in Chennai later this summer. ABTN talked to the company's chief operating officer Dipak Haksar

How important will the business travel market be for your new property in Chennai?

The ITC Grand Chola will be primarily marketed at the corporate and MICE - Meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions markets when it opens in August. Those markets will represent about 70 per cent of the hotel's guests. The property will have 600 rooms including 78 serviced apartments. There will be nearly 100,000 square feet of conferencing and banqueting space which will be the largest MICE facilities in the city which doesn't currently have this kind of facility.  Chennai is an important business travel destination. The automotive industry is very important - the city is known as the "Detroit of India" - with companies such as Hyundai and BMW as well as spare parts manufacturers. IT and banking are also very prevalent - a lot of UK companies travel to Chennai, such as the big banks which have back-end services based in the city. We believe that Chennai is about to unleash its true potential as both a city and a state. We have daily flights from British Airways and Lufthansa, and a new airport is due to be unveiled in the next three to four months.

What are your expansion plans over the next few years?

We are expanding within the country in cities where we need to make our presence felt. We are also consolidating our position in various metro locations by ensuring we adequate capacities - it's very important to have adequate rooms at different price points in key cities. For example, in Bangalore we opened a second hotel three years ago and will be opening a third hotel in 2013, while in Hyderabad we have one hotel open and working on the second property which we hope will open in 2015/16. In 2014, we should be opening a second hotel in Kolkata. We are really bullish about the future - we are already among the top three luxury hotel chains in India and within five years we want to be the largest.  India is growing at a very rapid pace which is going to continue, so you have to start building hotels now to cater for that increasing demand as it takes three or four years to build a hotel.

What kind of services do you offer to corporate guests?

We have to cater to every need of the business traveller. We segment the different types of business traveller like an airline would do - economy, business and first class. We really introduced branded accommodation into the country, so they know what type of service and quality they will get. We also have loyalty programmes for all types of business travellers (platinum, gold and silver levels) offering a different range of benefits. For example, top loyalty customers get wifi for free. Another advantage is our large rooms which are a minimum of 50 square metres - twice the size of the average London room - and they can be used as workspaces. We also offer access to business lounges where you can conduct meetings. Basically we want to play a part in enabling the business traveller to be successful in their trip.

How important is the UK business travel market to your properties?

Our top three markets are the US, UK and Germany. The UK is very high for both leisure and corporate guests. A lot of British companies have invested in India - such as Vodafone, Rolls Royce, British Aerospace and the big UK banks. We have seen no slowdown in British business travellers and it is still increasing - India is a huge market for UK companies. There are lots of flights between India and the UK, including the new Virgin flights to Mumbai.

Your company slogan is ‘Responsible Luxury' - what are doing on the sustainability front within your business?

ITC is part of the ecosystem so sustainability is very important for us and we need to have a positive footprint. We offer an exceptional luxury experience to our guests but we also take care of the environment. We have tried to create the lowest possible carbon energy footprint and we benchmark our hotels to achieve this. We are already carbon positive, water positive and solid waste recycling positive. For example, we have invested heavily in wind turbines for some of our properties which provide a lot of the energy for them. Wherever we can, we are going for these turbines because it's the cleanest form of energy.

One of your signature restaurants Bukhara recently popped up for two weeks in London - what was the thinking behind this initiative?

It was the first time that we have showcased Bukhara to an international audience. We were fortunate to partner with Starwood's Luxury Collection to host the pop-up at the Sheraton Park Tower. Bukhara is based at our ITC Maurya hotel in New Delhi, which is also part of the Luxury Collection. We weren't sure how the pop-up would turn out but it has gone very well. It gave us the opportunity to demonstrate the strength of the food and beverage at our hotels. We have several award-winning restaurants across our properties and we're very proud of them.

© ITC Limited