Focusing heavily on the expansion of its upscale Dream hospitality brand, Indian-American hotelier Sant Chatwal-led Hampshire Hotels Management has set a target of opening 20 new luxury hotels across Asia, including three in India, at an estimated investment of $2.5 billion. The investment will be shared by Hampshire Hotels Management and the Singapore-based Castlewood Group, a leading commercial real-estate development company, depending on the requirement of each property.
“It’s going to be a long-term strategic partnership with the Castlewood Group. With our Dream brand, we already have quite a few hotels and resorts. We were just looking for a strong partner who understands the market in Asia,” said Chatwal in an interview with FE in New Delhi on Wednesday.
The first property under the JV will come up at Phuket in Thailand on January 26 next year. The Indian cities that the partnership is looking at are Goa, Mumbai and Jaipur. “In Jaipur, we already own the land. We are just waiting for a few necessary clearances. This one should come up in about three years. In all, we are setting a target of three to five years for the completion of the three projects in India,” said Chatwal.
Apart from Thailand and India, the partnership is also looking at setting up properties in Indonesia.
Commenting on the expansion plans in India, Chatwal said: “We are particularly looking at Goa because the beaches there are similar to Phuket, which are highly developed. Also, in Goa, business is not seasonal, it’s all year round.”
He said the company’s strategy will be to bring in the lifestyle luxury segment in India, which is an uncharted territory so far.
“The market is changing, it’s tilting towards lifestyle luxury and our brands such as Dream perfectly fit into that. There aren’t too many lifestyle luxury hotels in India and there is a huge demand-supply gap there,” said Chatwal, adding that revenue from food and beverages will be a significant contributor to the company’s bottomlines, besides room charges.
Apart from Dream Hotels, Hampshire oversees development and expansion of luxury and lifestyle brands like Augustus Hotels & Resorts, Time Hotels, Unscripted Hotels and Night Hotels, under its Debut Hotels brand.
Joining Chatwal on his trip to India, Christopher N Comer, CEO of Castlewood Group, said: “We see India as a huge market for ourselves. Also, we are keen on the resort-based market because it’s niche and easier. Whereas in big cities like Bangkok, Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, the margins have to be compromised because they already have some big players there.”
Commenting on their clientele, Comer said they are targeting the recession-proof lot, people who are not affected by any economic downturns. “We are also looking at the young and the hip crowd, who likes to have the best of everything – from nightclubs to beaches and good food,” added Chatwal.
Bullish on the Indian hospitality industry, Chatwal said: “Contrary to belief that only NRIs would constitute our clientele, I would say, don’t underestimate the Indian audience in India. They have more money to spend in India, but they are just looking a good product. I’m not saying there aren’t good products in India, but our offerings will be very unique.”