Indian Hotels Company Ltd (IHCL), which owns a chain of luxury hotels and resorts, is laying the foundation for its maiden entry into China.
The city-based company will inaugurate a 110-room hotel, the Taj Palace Temple of Heaven, in the heart of Beijing, the capital of China, by the end of next year.
IHCL has signed a contract with Cuiting Hotspring Hotel Management Company, an arm of Zhong Qi International Investment Company, to manage the property and run it under its own luxury brand. The hotel, used to serve members of the Chinese government before being closed down and put under renovation by its owners, will retain its authentic and traditional style, according to IHCL officials.
The hotel is in close proximity to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Temple of Heaven, constructed between 1406 and 1420 and used by the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Referred as “a form of boutique hotel” by IHCL, the property will be opened with 64 rooms in the first phase. IHCL will add 46 rooms in the second phase.
Raymond Bickson, managing director and chief executive of IHCL, said, “We haven’t invested in the Beijing property. It’s a management contract, so there is no equity from Taj in any way, but it puts our flag in that country. It’s not a big hotel, but it’s right near the Temple of Heaven.”
Although the company operates more than half a dozen hotels outside India, which run under the Taj brand, it is giving special importance to the Chinese property, with its executives flying to China every month to assist development work.
IHCL is not restricting itself to this property alone in China. It has already begun work on a luxurious 500-key resort, having 40 villas and spread over 60 acres, in the Hainan province. Often referred as to Hawaii of the East, Hainan is China’s premier resort destination. Both hotels are being developed by the Zhong Qi Group.
With leisure travel contributing to more than half the tourists arrivals, China is the single most important overseas market for Taj for an adequate brand exposure. Apart from the Pierre in New York and the Taj Boston, the Taj Palace Temple of Heaven will promote the Taj brand among international travellers, believe experts.
Although the domestic market will remain key in the long term, IHCL is looking to spread its wings in the international market to cater to the 6.5 million tourists who fly to international destinations.