Tata Group-run hospitality major Indian Hotels Company (IHCL), which operates the Taj brand of hotels, on Tuesday announced its entry into the homestay market with a new brand Ama Trails & Stays.
The largest hotel chain claimed that this is the first branded product in the homestay market in the country. The new brand will have two sub-brands -Ama Plantation Trails and Ama Fine Homestays.
The company has signed a management contract for nine heritage bungalows with group firm Tata Coffee in Coorg and Chikmagalur in Karnataka and is adding two of its own bungalows mid-next year under the Ama umbrella."Today we announce another business. This is a direct derivation of a drive from our group chairman on scaling, synergising and simplifying. Among our group companies we have a lot of guest houses. The first one we started with Ama Plantation Trail today," IHCL managing director and chief
executive Puneet Chhatwal told reporters here.
Bookings will open from March 1 for Plantation Trail.
"It is something which is interesting to watch out for in the next 18-19 months. Initially we will start with the group. Once it becomes an established player it will also attract a lot of non-group bungalows and guest houses...We are confident that we will be able to scale this product to 100 units before the end of 2020," he said.
IHCL operates 178 hotels, including 30 under-development, in over 80 locations, across 12 countries spanning four continents.
The company, which has brands like Taj (premium luxury), Vivanta (premium) and SeleQtions (launching from April in the mid0-range) and Ginger (budget) among others, has scaled up its inventory with the signing of 20 new hotels this fiscal year, adding around 3,000 rooms across London, Dubai, Makkah, New Delhi and Kathmandu.
"Next year will not only be the year of signings but will be a year of signings and openings. We will open a minimum of one hotel every month in the next financial year," Chhatwal said.
On the five-year business strategy 'Aspiration 2022' under which it aims to become the most iconic and profitable company, Chhatwal said it is on course to achieve it.
He said the company aims to increase its operating margin from 17 percent in FY18 to 25 percent in FY23, adding "of the incremental 8 percentages points margin additions that is targetted we are already achieved 2.3 percentage points."
He also said the company will also monetise by selling non-core assets."Over the years we've created a lot of land-banks, a lot of villas. Now we are trying to sell some of them. We recently sold our property Oriental Hotels in Visakhapatnam for Rs 120 crore. We also sold one in Trivandrum and hopefully we wll sell three-four apartments in Mumbai next month,"
The company is also trying to reduce its debt and the management aims to improve its net debt to equity to 1.99 in the next 18 months from 2.33 as of December 2018.
The 115-year old company has many individual brands like Chambers that have the potential to become businesses in themselves over the next 5-10 years."There is a huge potential in these brands to treat them as standalone businesses. That will come in our second phase of Aspiration 2022. At the moment we are putting this all on the drawing board to create value for our brands," he said.