India and China are more often at odds than they are shaking hands in business deals. But when it comes to the glam-slam world of luxury hotels, the Indian Hotels Company’s growth target right now is the affluent Chinese, and Chinese tourism companies are happy to have them. The $1.2 billion hotel company managed by the Tata Group out of Mumbai has four new hotels going up in China this year, more than in any other country. It partnered with Yunnan Tourism Company in 2012 to jump start IHC’s entrance into a market the travel pros can’t seem to get enough of.
“For a hotelier today, the luxury target is the Chinese,” says Raymond Bickson, CEO of IHC. It’s a comment everyone in luxury retail and travel has heard at every industry conference since 2005. “In the eighties it was all about the Japanese luxury traveler. In the nineties it was the Russians. And now, China is the market everyone wants to either be in, or bring to them.”
IHC decided it was best to establish a footprint in China like the rest of the multinational majors — Starwood, Hilton and Marriot. Tata’s IHC has a flare for prime real estate. In China, they’re taking over a property near the Temple of Heaven (UNESCO World Heritage Site) in Tiantan Park located in south Beijing. Taj will also manage a 300 room luxury resort in Hainan Island in China’s southeast, a place the government has decided to make one part southern California, one part Orlando.
IHC, known as Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, has 36 hotels in the pipeline. It’s been on an aggressive growth trajectory for years, building one new hotel every 9 weeks over the past 36 months.
“Our goal is to have a group turnover of $2 billion with 40 percent of our revenue coming from international operations by 2017”, CEO Bickson says.