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Marriott Contemplating Introducing Budget Brand Fairfield Inn & Suites to India

By Nandini Sivakumar & Hemamalini Venkatraman, The Economic Times, IndiaMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Feb. 5, 2010--CHENNAI, India -- Hospitality major Marriott Group is contemplating introducing its budget hotel brand Fairfield Inn & Suites from its global portfolio to the Indian market.

"We have offerings at the high end, but felt there was a gap in the budget segment that we could address. We are mulling over the feasibility of bringing in the Fairfield brand to the country," Marriott Hotels area vice-president (India, Malaysia, Maldives & Pakistan) Rajeev Menon told ET, adding that a decision would be taken in the next few months.

The need to review the product line triggered the idea of bringing the budget brand to the subcontinent. Marriott operates five brands in India-JW Marriott (luxury), Ritz Carlton (luxury), Courtyard by Marriott (four-star), Rennaissance (full-service hotels) and Marriott Executive Apartments (serviced apartments).

The American group has 600-odd Fairfield properties across the US and a few in Canada. It also signed a 36-hotel deal for the brand in Mexico last December. If launched in India, the brand would be pitted against other established budget offerings from international groups such as Country Inns & Suites (Carlson Hotels Worldwide) and Comfort and Quality Inn (Choice Hotels) and national chains Ginger (Taj Group) and Fortune (ITC). This category would give Marriott presence across the entire price spectrum. Apart from prospecting on Fairfield's India foray, the group is in the process of adding 13 more hotel properties, including ones in Pune, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai and Chandigarh, to its current kitty of nine. Eight of these would be operational before the year-end.

The Group's Indian operations saw a 20 percent dip in revenues in 2009 over $150 million in 2008, but the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and events) market saw a substantial pick-up during the second half of 2009. Marriott hopes to bounce back this year and expects turnover to touch $200 million, especially on the back of the inventory surge.

The slowdown did not deter it from signing up new projects. A bulk of the upcoming projects were sealed last year, during which time their inventory went up by 900 keys and their headcount by 1,500, Mr Menon said. Pointing out to its "robust project pipeline," he said Marriott would have an inventory of around 9,000 rooms in the country by 2013, up from the 2,500 that it operates now.

With MNCs setting up manufacturing facilities in city outskirts in most cases, hospitality corridors too are moving away from the central business district to the secondary and peripheral business districts, he said. For instance, major hotel projects have chosen Gurgaon and NCR over Delhi, Whitefield in Bangalore and MRC Nagar and Old Mahabalipuram Road in Chennai.


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