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Friday, 22 March, 2019, 16 : 44 PM [IST]

‘We have amazing line up of speakers at HICSA this year’

Premier hospitality investment conference for South Asia region, HICSA, is all set to have its 15th annual essay on April 3 and 4, at Grand Hyatt Mumbai, at the aegis of Hotelivate. Manav Thadani, Founder Chairman, Hotelivate in an interview to TravelBiz Monitor spoke on the hotel industry market scenario in the country leading to the conference and how it will be reflecting on the content of the deliberations this year.

With all the hotel market surveys and reports pointing to consistent upward growth in terms of occupancies, ADRs, RevPARs, GOPs, etc. in the last three years, what is the sense that HICSA as an annual hotel investment forum planning to disseminate to prospective investors this year?
The last year or so has shown a very consistent upward movement in performance across the hotel space in India. The first quarter of 2019 has been particularly very strong. There is optimism in the air as the future supply pipeline continues to be weak and therefore existing hotel currently operating or those opening shortly will benefit from the strong growth curve. There is however a general sense that while the top lines have improved the same has not necessarily flown through to the bottom line. Operating Expenses are up and that is a concern for many of the owners.

Although RevPARs for hotels have seen over 15% growth over the last two years, which is said to be a record after a pretty long bad patch, the revenue growth is yet to translate in the same proportion in the GOP. How do you analyse this issue and how can it be corrected?
I may not be able to qualify that cumulatively RevPAR’s have grown by 15% across the board. They have grown but for different companies at different pace. Expenses however seem to continue to outpace this growth and owners are most concerned around this. We at HICSA are organising on the side lines a closed-door owners’ only session and will try and come up with solutions and suggestions for the brands.

What is the sense of the overall health of the industry in India now in terms of NPAs, stressed assets, etc.?
Things are slightly better. Some like the Leela group which was perhaps the most visible NPA in the market is now back on track with a strong investor like Brookfield. There are certainly less and less value for money deals out there.

If hotel consultants are to be believed, there was sharp decline in Hotel Transactions in the last financial year. What is the reason for that and what kind of activity that you foresee in transactions in the coming year?
I disagree with these hotel consultants -- If you want to get technical then the fiscal year 2018-19 that just concluded saw what I would term as the biggest transaction of them all. The Brookfield acquisition of Leela Group is the biggest acquisition in the hotel space in size ever seen before in the Indian market.

The new UDAN scheme of regional connectivity of the government would be opening new opportunities for investment of hotel developers in Tier II and III markets in India. What kind of preparedness on the part of the brand managers you suggest to exploit that emerging opportunity?
We believe the UDAN scheme has been very successful in India and clearly the reach and connectivity for Indian traveller has improved tremendously for these unconnected cities in the past. In the past 12 months – we as Hotelivate have done feasibilities in many of these new towns for brands and have successfully tied up operators across the spectrum. The Taj group and Radisson have been particular strong in groing in Tier I and II markets. Not to be left behind and leading this growth story from the front has been OYO and the likes of the same.

What are you trying new in this year’s annual HICSA to make it more interesting and relevant to the changing times? What is the speakers’ line up this year?
We have an amazing line up on day 1 with Sebastian Bazin, Chairman & CEO of Accor, Ratan Tata, Chairman, Tata Trusts, Aditya Ghosh, CEO -South Asia for OYO and Bejul Somaia, Partner, Light Speed India as our speakers. Also, on day 1 we are awarding the life time achievement award to Raymond Bickson, ex-MD & CEO of Taj Group of Hotels.

We are trying out some new sessions called the C-Suite Pit Stop, which is a new format to introduce the leaders’ panel. Then we have the IDEA factory or the Design Con Fab that we are focusing on for architects and designers on day 2. The Thursday event will see group discussions, panel discussions and key note presentations in the form of master classes throughout the day.
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