Aman Aditya Sachdev is the India senior vice president for Rotana Hotels, the Abu Dhabi-based chain, which is aiming to open properties in India. Here he talks about the market.
q Why is Rotana keen to open hotels in India?
a India has always been very critical to us, not just because it is an important source market in terms of tourists. Thirty-five of our team members - right from front line to supervisory to senior management - come from India, so historically we have very strong ties with the country. India is close to us. It's two-and-half hours away from Dubai or Abu Dhabi. India is a very, very strong opportunity. It's highly underserved in terms of hotel rooms, especially in the international branded space. The long-term opportunity exists.
What are the challenges in the country's hotel sector?
It's not an easy market. It's highly competitive currently. All of the major players have been here for 10, 15, some of them have been here for about 25, 30 years.
Also, in the current environment, hotel development has somewhat taken a beating as a preferred asset class for developers. There were a lot of speculative developers who were there in the market, who when the economy slowed down a little bit were unable to withstand the economic pressure of continuing development.
Would you bring Indian employees from your hotels in the Middle East and North Africa to India?
Absolutely yes. There is currently quite a significant pressure on the workforce pool in India. All the major hospitality operators are digging into the same pool of employees.
At the same time, India is very, very big on the other service industries, who are tapping into the same resources.
Considering the amount of development that is happening, the demand for qualified people will be very, very high. We've got a large percentage of our colleagues who come from India who have been with us for long periods of time. A lot of them have already expressed very keen interest that they want to come back with us to the country.
How long does it take to build a hotel in India?
The development is normally quite extended in India. It takes on average about four years to complete a project here, from the time you start designing to the time that you can physically open a hotel - for a reasonable sized upscale hotel.