x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Hotels enjoy a new golden age in India

Luxury hotels are creating jobs and luring tourists from outside of the subcontinent.

Luxury hotels, such as the Marriott in Pune, are drawing tourists from across the world to India.
Luxury hotels, such as the Marriott in Pune, are drawing tourists from across the world to India.

Ajmal Salim, a chef, is happy to be back in his home country of India after spending the past few years in the UAE. Like many Indians, the 34-year-old has had to spend years advancing his career by living and working abroad, with previous roles including working at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai and most recently at the Shangri-La hotel in Abu Dhabi.

So he jumped at the opportunity to return to the subcontinent, joining the newly opened luxury Pune Marriott Hotel and Convention Centre a month ago as its executive pastry chef. Pune is the seventh-largest city in India, best known for its strong education system and its role as a technology hub.

"There are more opportunities in India now, for everybody, for all professional chefs," says Mr Salim.

More high-quality hotels are opening in India to meet increasing demand as the country's economy expands. India's economy accelerated to growth of 8.8 per cent in the second quarter of this year.

The Marriott property in Pune has created almost 700 jobs. With Marriott planning to have 100 hotels in India in the next five years, these are just a fraction of the jobs in the hospitality industry the company is planning to create. Through its expansion, Marriott plans to add 8,000 jobs in India over the next three years.

"India is a great, growing economy and as that economy grows its need for hotel rooms grows," says Arne Sorenson, the president and chief operating officer of Marriott International. "We estimate that there are only about 140,000 hotel rooms in the entire nation of India today. That is smaller than the city of Las Vegas."

Marriott plans to launch hotels in India under seven of its brands, including JW Marriott and Courtyard as well under its moderate-tier brand Fairfield. Its first Ritz-Carlton is set to open in the next 12 to 18 months in Bangalore.

Other hotel companies planning significant expansion in India include Hyatt, with a Hyatt Regency hotel opening in Pune last month.

"We're already seeing that great Indian [employees] of ours quickly are graduating into management ranks and increasingly they are taking leadership positions not only in our hotels in India, but in a number of our hotels outside India as well," says Mr Sorenson. "It's a great labour force."