Is the Hospitality Scenario in Kolkata Changing for the Better?

With fresh investments coming in, the hospitality sector in the Eastern metropolis of Kolkata has started looking up in the last couple of years. The overall outlook of hospitality scenario in Kolkata at present, and in the future, appears to be bright and hopeful.

Kolkata’s Hospitality Landscape: Then and Now

 Not long back, the city’s hospitality landscape was dominated by small hotel groups and Kolkata-based local brands. The Park Hotel, established in 1967, Hotel Hindustan International (HHI), set up in 1969, and the good old Oberoi Grand were the major players until Taj Group made an entry with Taj Bengal in 1989. After Taj, Kolkata was devoid of any new activity for around 12 years before ITC ventured with ITC Sonar Bangla in 2002.

Today, Kolkata boasts of many domestic as well as international hotel brands like Hyatt Regency, The Pride Hotel, JW Marriott, Swissôtel, The Gateway Hotel, Novotel, and a range of luxury addresses including the new and improved, Lalit Great Eastern.

Besides the hotels, new and upcoming restaurants and food joints are giving an incredible boost to the city’s real estate sector. Global restaurant chains like TGIF, Chili’s Grill & Bar, Hoppipola, and a host of boutique cafes are jostling for space in the city to cater to a gradually increasing cohort— people with above-average spending power. This is evidently an indication of Kolkata’s expanding business activities resulting from the city’s increased spending power.

Be it the changing political face of Bengal, or better consumer spending power, the hospitality scenario in the city looks impressive and bullish with a steady escalation of nearly 35% in the number of premium price tag keys at the end of 2016.

According to Hotel & Restaurant Association of Eastern India (HRAEI), new investments in the city for upcoming 3-star, 4-star, and 5-star hotel projects are estimated at Rs.3,500-4,000 crore in the FY 16-17. “We have a total of approximately 5,500 keys in Kolkata between 2-star and 5-star facilities which is expected to touch 7,500 by the end of 2016-17 with a series of brands throwing open their gates in the city this fiscal,” stated SudeshPoddar, president of Hotel & Restaurant Association of Eastern India(HRAEI). “Since there is a lack of adequate banquet facilities, especially for more than 2,000 people, these brands would ideally target social events, banqueting and marriage facilities. The target audience of these hotels would also include business clients, IT sector and transit passengers,” Poddar added.

The upcoming big names in the hospitality sector include the likes of Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group (Radisson Blu), Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide (Westin), InterContinental Hotels Group (Holiday Inn), and JW Marriott. Marriott will add 291 keys to the present inventory while ITC, planning to launch its second property in Kolkata, is set to expand the luxury segment key count even further.

International Hotel Brand JW Marriott Opens in Kolkata

JW Marriott, a global luxury hotel brand with over 5,700 properties worldwide, launches its first premium lifestyle hotel in the city in association with real estate major Mani Group. JW Marriot, by introducing its brand in Kolkata, takes its hotel count in India to a total of eight.

Spread on an area of 3.5 acres, the 28-storey JW Marriott features 281 rooms, a large 14,000 sqft ballroom, six food and beverage outlets, an 180-seater night club, sprawling lawns, and a swimming pool. According to R Alex, general manager JW Marriott, the hotel recorded 50% occupancy in the first month itself. “Rarely in the first month we have such occupancy rates,” he said.

“The political stability in the city is one of the major reasons why east is becoming an important market. People have started showing interest in the east and Kolkata is playing host to travellers for not just the city but the entire northeast and also Dhaka, Bangladesh,” said Neeraj Govil, market vice president, South Asia, Marriott International Inc. “So the brands that are coming in if positioned correctly, the outlook is fairly optimistic.”

What’s boosting the hospitality business in the state is the pro-active approach of the current state government to uphold West Bengal in the country’s tourism map. The state has recently signed up with Ogilvy & Mather – the company that created the Gujarat Tourism Campaign – and is also inviting international carriers to open their network to Kolkata.

The government, to promote tourism, has reduced Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) by 50 per cent at Kolkata and announced zero ATF at Durgapur, which according to many industry experts will drive substantial traffic into Bengal.

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