Raymond Bickson, MD & CEO, Indian Hotels Company Limited, has thirty years experience in hospitality. In January 2003, Mr. Bickson moved to India and joined the Board as Executive Director & Chief Operating Officer of Taj Luxury Hotels, overseeing the operations of all luxury properties and playing a key role in the global expansion and development of future hotels. He assumed the role as Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer of The Indian Hotels Company Limited in July 2003. Bickson brings extensive international hotel experience to the Taj Group in operations and management. He most recently served fifteen years as the Vice President & General Manager of The Mark in New York for The Rafael Group Hoteliers Monaco and with the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group. His career includes a variety of management assignments for over ten years with Regent International Hotels in New York, Chicago, Dallas, Puerto Rico, Melbourne and Shanghai, as well as training at some of the world's most renowned hotels as the Hotel Plaza Athenee Paris, Le Montreux Palace Switzerland and the Kahala Hilton Hawaii.
The Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL) and its subsidiaries are collectively known as Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces and is recognised as one of Asia's largest and finest hotel company. Incorporated by the founder of the Tata Group, Mr. Jamsetji N. Tata, the company opened its first property, The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, Bombay in 1903. The Taj, a symbol of Indian hospitality, completed its centenary year in 2003. Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces comprises 93 hotels in 55 locations across India with an additional 16 international hotels in the Maldives, Malaysia, Australia, UK, USA, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Africa and the Middle East.
Yash Ved of IIFL gives you highlights from a media interaction where Raymond Bickson says “We are planning 16 new hotels and 2000 rooms for FY13.”
What is your outlook on the hotel sector?
The sector continues to face pressure on demand due to the current economic environment, which in turn had kept the room rates subdued below desired levels in what is essentially an offseason period.
The sector usually earns about 60-65% of profit in the last two quarters.
The company is set to open Vivanta by Taj hotels at Gurgaon and Coorg in the near future as also its first prototype Gateway Hotel at Kolkata later in this year.
What are your plans for FY13?
Currently, we have about 114 hotels and 13,799 rooms.
Going forward, we are planning to expand by 16 new hotels and 2000 rooms in FY13.
When are you planning an IPO for Ginger brand?
We are planning to enter capital market in about 3-4 years for Ginger Group brand.
How do you see the downturn affecting the company’s Indian and international properties?
For our international hotels, while the economic environment continues to be unpredictable , we do expect improvement, which will translate into growth in ARRs and occupancies.
What are key target markets for overseas expansion?
We have strong presence in North American market and also in UK, Australia, Maldives and soon will open in Marrakech.
We are planning to expand business in China. We are looking at six hotels in China and our first property-Taj Hotel of Heaven in Beijing is slated to open early next year.
We have signed an MoU for a Joint Venture with Yunnan Tourism Company Ltd to engage in development, construction, operation and management of two hotels in Kunming Expo garden.
What are your expectations for the coming quarters?
Although ARRs have been under pressure largely due to the current economic situation, we are witnessing revival in occupancies at the Vivanta and Gateway brand.
What is the impact in average room rates?
ARR has been under pressure. However, occupancy rates have grown significantly in Vivanta by Taj, the Gateway Hotels and few luxury properties.