Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide officially threw open the doors to its luxury brand St. Regis, Mumbai, its first hotel in India on Thursday. The 395-room St. Regis is located in the central business district (Lower Parel) in Mumbai and replaces the Palladium brand that was operating out of the same space for the past two years. The property is jointly owned by the Atul Ruia group andAvinash Bhosale group of firms. Though the Mumbai property is less than three years old it has already witnessed two major shuffles – Shangri La, the Hong Kong-based, luxury hotel chain exited the property in August 2013, less than a year after it signed on for a 20-year contract, Palladium, a brand owned by the Ruia-Bhosale combine took over thereafter.
With 39 residential suites, three business suites, including a 3,100 square feet presidential suite, the newly opened hotel plans to charge close to Rs 12,000 a night, which is nearly 40 per cent higher than the average price of a five-star deluxe room in the city. It is on par with the rents charged by the other luxury hotel in the business district, Four Seasons which opened in 2008.
St Regis will hope to steer clear of the troubles that plagued Shangri La which operated at around 50 per cent capacity with an average room rate of under Rs 9,000. Though there has never been any official explanation for the hotel’s abrupt departure, the Ruia family who are also promoters of the adjacent Phoenix Mills, indicate that there were operational differences. After the exit, the property was rebranded as Palladium Hotels but the promoters were actively seeking a new partner who would operate and manage the hotel until they managed to close the deal with Starwood.
Apart from introducing its hallmark services such as round-the-clock butler and restaurants and popular cocktails (Mumbai Mary, a version of a cocktail the hotel says it invented 80 years ago, is on the menu) Starwood does not intend to make any major changes in the property. Stephen Ho, president – Asia Pacific, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, said, “We came up with a comprehensive list of changes but ended up retaining 85-90 per cent of it.”
Starwood Hotels currently operates 47 hotels in India and 37 more are on the anvil. “Globally we have 350 hotels in the pipeline and of that 60 per cent is in Asia Pacific. India is as of today our fourth largest market and soon it will become the third largest with 37 hotels in the pipeline”, added Ho.
St.Regis in Mumbai will compete with Taj Mahal Palace Oberoi, Leela, Four Seasons among several others is amongst the last of Starwood’s brands to enter the country. “A lot of Indians are travelling abroad now and they are eager to have an international experience. Though Taj, Oberoi and Leela have been here for a long time they have not expanded beyond India. We will have many guests who have already stayed with us and are part of the membership programme”, added Ho.
According to hospitality research company HVS, occupancies in the five-star deluxe category was at its highest last year in five years. At 61.4 per cent this segment had the best occupancy rate compared to any of the other segments except for four-star category which showed the same occupancy rate. The average room rate for a five-star deluxe segment, however, was at a ten year low at Rs 8,721 as against Rs 11,200 reported in 2007-08, which, however was an all-time high for the industry.
Rating and research agency ICRA expects room occupancies to improve by 2-4 per cent across India during this year, leading to revenue per available room (RevPAR) growth of 3-5 per cent, even as supply growth curbs Average Room Rates (ARR) expansion. Room inventory in the country is expected to grow by 12 per cent as compared to 4 per cent last year.