Suresh Kumar
Suresh Kumar

Fortune Park Hotels, a 100-per cent subsidiary of ITC’s hotel group, recently introduced the My Fortune brand to its collection of 67 signed properties, offering an inventory of 5,164 rooms. It is the role of Suresh Kumar, the chain’s CEO to spearhead this expansion. Jyoti Koul Kundu finds out more.

Where do you see future growth coming from?

Tourism in India is no longer limited to foreign tourist arrivals, with domestic tourism having registered unprecedented growth over recent years due to a burgeoning upper-middle-class population, which is driving demand for quality and branded accommodation. This group has been breaking away from traditional lifestyles, and this changed mindset is creating huge demand for hotels that provide quality at affordable rates. This is coupled with accelerated infrastructure growth providing better accessibility by road, rail and air.

It is also important to note the continuous growth in business travel over the last few years, both international as well as domestic.According to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council India, India ranks eighteenth in business travel and will be among the top five during the course of this decade.

The current turmoil in the Eurozone may have some negative impact on India’s tourism industry, but the growth of domestic tourism would provide enough cushion to the industry. While some destinations may appear to be in over supply, the long-term sentiment and growth prospects of the industry are based on strong fundamentals. India is still short of rooms inventory compared to major international locations. We have every reason to believe that the Indian hospitality industry needs more rooms, thus maintaining momentum.

Is ITC’s launch of the My Fortune brand a strategic move to venture into new territories?

My Fortune has been introduced as the latest addition to the bouquet of brands under the Fortune Hotels portfolio, catering to yet another segment of hotels that are contemporary, smart, young and vibrant. It is positioned at the top of the Fortune Hotels brand pyramid. The brand represents stylish lifestyle hotels that offer a blend of traditional Indian hospitality with new-age technology, while catering to the upscale business traveler. We are confident that it will be firmly established as a successful brand with a strong identity in the times to come.

What is your opinion of the Indian hospitality and tourism sector, as compared to the global scene?

India occupies less than half a per cent of total global tourism, so this clearly indicates that there is room for improvement. The Ministry of Tourism is eyeing one per cent of that business within the Twelfth Five-year Plan. India is yet to achieve its full potential when compared with smaller countries like Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand in terms of foreign tourist arrivals.
With strong business fundamentals and improved infrastructure, India’s positioning as an attractive MICE destination to the outside world and growing numbers of foreign tourist arrivals in the leisure and business segments, I believe India would be able to achieve its target.

What are your views on non-metro properties?

Today, mini-metros, satellite towns and Tier II cities in India are witnessing huge growth. This inclusive development is taking place through superior connectivity and better infrastructure in these cities. Therefore demand there might not be the same in quality as is in primary and secondary cities but it is growing by the day, and having a presence there is becoming critical for all hotel chains to cater for changing lifestyles in these cities as well. We are mandated to come on board as operators and so do not invest in projects.

With the rapid growth of international brands in India, how do you view the government’s approach to the hospitality Industry?

The Ministry of Tourism has been quite pro-active and responsive to the demands of the industry. The recently reconstituted National Tourism Advisory Council, the formation of FAITH and setting up of the high-powered inter-ministerial coordination panel on tourism under the PMO are good examples. The Union government has constituted the Hospitality Development Promotion Board, a single window for facilitating the multiple clearances required for hotel projects. The Ministry of Tourism has been successful in ensuring a lead role for the sector as employment generator in the Twelfth Five-year Plan.

What marketing strategies you plan to implement to beat the ever increasing competition?

Creating and retaining customers is far more challenging. Having a proud lineage of ITC Hotels, an acknowledged marketing leader in the hospitality sector known for its visionary and creative marketing initiatives, Fortune Hotels gets access to the country's best established hospitality marketing programmes that include Club ITC, WelcomLink and Executive Travel Value Plan. At the same time we plan to continue creating quality hotel accommodation in a wide choice of destinations. For our customers, Fortune Hotel is a brand of contemporary modern hotels offering quality products and value led services.

Over the years, with its tagline of “Let Fortune Take You Places”, the Fortune chain has become known for its distinctive branding, which is carried through across all aspects — through its branded restaurants, smart décor, convenient service design and sub-brands aimed at different categories of guests. The chain offers full service without compromising on quality, at a very people-friendly price and we will continue this journey.

What trends do you see emerging?

The growth in business travel has driven an increasing awareness of the leisure segment. In fact, the coming years will see the focus shifting to new trends like eco-tourism, medical tourism, sports and adventure tourism, and pilgrimage tourism in the leisure space.

What are your future plans?

Over the next few years, we see ourselves consolidating our position as the top player in the First-class Full-service Business Hotel segment by continuing to work towards our vision of “unfurling a Fortune at every 180 km”, and we are targeting 90 hotels by 2015.

We are also keenly looking at suitable opportunities to penetrate further in different locations across the country by actively concentrating on metro, mini-metro, Tier I and Tier II cities.