‘Hospitality industry will be back once inbound travel returns’
Paritosh Ladhani, Executive Director, Taj Hotel & Convention Centre Agra, feels the city is still missing out on MICE travel but compensating it with weddings
At less than a kilometre from one of the seven wonders in the world, the Taj Mahal in Agra, stands the Taj Hotel & Convention Centre. With a refreshing rooftop infinity pool offering magical views of the monument of love, the property is located on 4.5 acres, offering 40,000 sq ft of banquet space with four different venues within the hotel including one of the largest banquet halls in Agra. These event spaces and meeting venues have been designed to do justice to annual sales meets as well as the big fat Indian weddings.
Appreciating the fact that well-travelled guests don’t just look a comfortable stay, they expect the food to be and every service to be impeccable is Paritosh Ladhani, Executive Director, Taj Hotel & Convention Centre Agra (Taj Agra). The necessary offshoots to the leisure hotel industry like spa and restaurants have to be world class, the holding pillars of Taj Agra.
As the city is one of the cornerstones of the Golden Triangle and a leading tourist destination with a fair amount of corporate travel, the property is progressing in terms of revenue but Ladhani informs the revival is driven by two verticals of their business ie weddings and weekend travel. “We are still missing out on conferences and inbound travel. These were our cash cows. We will finish at par with our revenues of 2019 but only in the wedding months. I have apprehensions about maintaining the same tide during the non-wedding season,” says Ladhani. He puts in that the hotels with no banquet facilities are still suffering. “Those who have and are able to organise weddings are able to offset the losses on account of no inbound travel and MICE by earnings from marriages. The industry will be back once inbound travel returns. It would take full resumption of international travel and conferences to completely revive and grow,” adds Ladhani.
Currently and in the medium term, his strategy has been to become a one-stop-solution for all social functions. “We plan to augment the banqueting capacity and create more venues. We are planning to upgrade our property so that we become the first choice as a premier wedding hotel in north India,” shares Ladhani, who also serves as the Managing Partner of The Ladhani Group. The upgrades include Jiva Spa being up and running by first quarter 2022 along with an increase in the number of premier suites and rooms to give an exclusive experience to the HNI travellers. “As Agra needs to be the first choice for a dream wedding, given it to be the City of Love, we plan to create a product that will be the first choice over cities like Jaipur and Udaipur. We plan to achieve it by second quarter of 2022year. This is the only way we would revive and grow,” he says.
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE TAJ GROUP
Being strategic and operational partners with the Taj Group, Ladhani appreciates the brand’s large pool of talented employees which helps them to build a repository of both young and experienced minds in the industry. He believes that Taj has one of the most beautiful properties in the world, adding, “With Puneet Chhatwal at the helm, they are moving from strength to strength. Since our association with the brand, it has always been a learning curve for us. They have posted the best of their talent at important positions in our hotel.” Taj Agra also follows the latest world-class standards and protocols set by the brand. “We are fortunate to have an association with them because we need to be continuously abreast of the latest health protocols in post-Covid world,” adds Ladhani.
As hotel investments can be tricky, there are factors when a person decides to put his money into a hotel business as the return of investment requires patience and time. Ladhani believes that investing in a five-star hotel is like investing in real estate without the advantage of small ticket size to choose from. Quoting Ray Kroc, he says, “The hotel investment is only about location, location and location. We had a great piece of land next to the Taj Mahal and we decided to invest. There was a paucity of good five-star business hotels then with grand convention facilities. We ideated right and the investment paid off.”
Ladhani avers that hotel investment is always substantial with a long-term approach wherein the investor has to be financially well-backed up with robust fundamentals. “While we were inclined to make a world-class property to suit both leisure and MICE travellers, we exercised caution so that we don’t overleverage ourselves in gusto,” he says adding they built this four-and-a-half lakh sq ft hotel in two phases over seven years.
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