India to get its first Raffles

Accor has recently announced the advent of its new brand, Raffles in India in Jaipur and Udaipur.  Jean-Michel Cassé, COO – India and South Asia, Accor, elaborates on the brand and how India might see some more Accor brands in the coming years.

Anupriya Bishnoi

With a stronger focus on luxury and premium brands, Accor is all set to bring its Raffles brand to India in Jaipur and Udaipur. The first property will open in Udaipur by mid-2020 with 101 rooms and suites. The group will later venture into the Jaipur market by 2022 with 55 suites. Both hotels will deliver a palatial experience in an extraordinary setting along with the famously discreet and personalised Raffles service.

Speaking more on the brand and its suitability for the Indian market, Jean-Michel Cassé, says, “The signing of the Raffles Jaipur and Raffles Udaipur marks a historic moment for Accor in India and certainly for tourism in India. We are seeing increasing demand for luxury travel in the country and are looking forward to expanding Accor’s globally renowned portfolio of luxury brands here. The addition of the iconic Raffles brand signals a new era for our group.”

Rajasthan is unique for its rich heritage and tradition and is famous for its spectacular palaces and forts. While Jaipur forms part of the culturally rich tourist circuit known as The Golden Triangle comprising Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, Udaipur is a natural extension of this, given its proximity to Jaipur. Both cities are renowned as epicentres for the highest levels of luxury.

Cassé further shares more on Accor’s expansion plans and its properties in the pipeline. He mentions, “Today we have 51 properties in India, one in Colombo, 52 in the region, taking the room count to 9,500 with the strong presence in 22 cities. What we have in the pipeline today is 25 per cent of our current inventory which will come in the next three to five years. Hopefully, we will also see new brands in this pipeline.”

We look at the term ‘profitability’ differently because we are now a pure asset-light company. It only entails looking at the operations of hotels for us

Since Accor has a wealth of brands, each performs differently and yields different profits owing to the dynamics of the market the hotel operates in. Cassé explains, “We look at the term ‘profitability’ differently because we are now a pure asset-light company so when I am speaking of profitability, I am just looking at the operations of the hotels. The reality in India is, it takes at least two years to ramp up and be at par with the market, and once it is at par with the market, then we normally go ahead of what the market does.”

Also, with the quirks and options on offer, the arrival of Airbnb and the likes have put the hotel industry on its toe. But how does it affect the industry or if it does at all?  According to Cassé, “In our hotels, on an average, we have one customer per room who stays for one to two nights.

In Airbnb, you will notice the booking is always for more than one person, usually a family and for a longer period of stay; usually for three to five people with a stay ranging from three to five nights.

So, we are not playing in the same league, it’s a different offering. So, a customer can be an Accor guest today and stay in an Airbnb tomorrow because they both are aimed at two different kind of experiences. It’s in fact good to see the hospitality market evolving.”

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