"We will support Indian hospitality with long-term lending," Chanda Kochhar, MD & CEO, ICICI

As the HIFI 2010 came to a close today, the two aspects that stood out were that the Indian hotel market is one of the most stable in the world today and 2010 will be dominated by a return to project development.

With close to 400 delegates attending the three day conference in Mumbai (Jan 12-14), HIFI 2010 was very well attended by the seniormost management of some of the the world's biggest hotel brands, consultants and lenders.

An attribute of its January dates, HIFI is in the unique position to be on both sides of 2009's financial crisis. Last year's optimism rode on a record three years of growth. The optimism of HIFI 2010 is weathered by 2009's shakeout though firmer rooted on India's rapid rebound and growth forecasts.

"It has been a very good event and we feel the discussions reflect the learnings of last year," said Vijay Thacker, director, Horwath HTL India and the event's co-host.

A standout developement at HIFI 2010 was the move by two North American hotel companies, Choice and Carlson, to take controlling stakes of their Indian ventures. Both companies, with a decent presence in India, took over the Indian JVs in their bid to fasttrack growth here as an alternative to their floundering home markets.

Lenders too signalled their committment to long-term Indian hospitality projects. In her keynote speech, Chanda Kochhar, MD & CEO, ICICI Bank, said that declassifying hotels as commercial real estate has allowed them to infuse more capital for longer terms. "We have 15-20 year infrastructure lending experience and even though hotels are not yet on the infrastructure list, we are comfortable with terms longer than 10 years because this is required."