India's New Gems

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New hotels are making the scene in India’s top cities…even the W Mumbai will be making its debut in the summer of 2015, but more on that in a couple of years. For now we’ve got Fairmont Hotels & Resorts embarking on its own journey in this mystical subcontinent with two hotel openings—the Fairmont Jaipur, scheduled to open this year, and the Fairmont Hyderabad, which will welcome guests next year.

“India is a new and exciting market for us,” said Thomas W. Storey, president, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, in a company statement, “with great future potential, and represents another destination to showcase to our discerning guests.”

In Jaipur, considered part of the “Golden Triangle” travel circuit, along with Delhi and Agra, and offering broad avenues and plenty of gardens, the Fairmont’s property will be located not far from the Amber Fort and will feature 248 guestrooms, a 10,000-sq.-ft.Willow Stream spa, and a 5,000-sq.-ft. health club. The building’s design, the company says, will reflect the city’s rich cultural heritage gaining inspiration from the area’s Rajput architecture and grand palaces.

The Fairmont Hyderabad, meanwhile, is set to open in 2012 and will feature 350 rooms and suites, a pool, and a Willow Stream spa, as well as a variety of restaurants and bars that will reflect the flavors of the destination. Called the city of pearls, Hyderabad is home to products locally hand-crafted and traded for centuries, such as silverware, saris, bangles, and handloom-based clothing.

The Park Hotels, which pioneered the boutique hotel concept in India, is also confident about the outlook for the coming years. Indeed, the company, with a collection of luxury boutique properties throughout India, experienced a 19 percent increase in total revenue in 2010 and an 18 percent growth in room night bookings as compared to 2009 levels.

In fact, according to the company, last year’s increase in bookings was buoyed by a growing portfolio with hotels in Hyderabad, Kerala, and Chennai. The Park Hotels currently has 1,142 rooms (up from 838 rooms in 2009) and is looking to further expand in 2011 and 2012 with properties in Goa and Kochin.

The new properties—The Park Hyderabad, The Park on Vembanad Lake (Kerala) and The Park Pod (Chennai), as well as the Apsara, the company’s first luxury lake cruiser—offer up a fashionable and modern design style. The 270-room Hyderabad property, for instance, which opened early last year and is the first property in India to introduce all non-smoking guestrooms, is influenced by the area’s tradition as a design center and producer of precious stones and textiles, all of which are reflected in the accommodations, a 3D horizon pool, restaurants, lounges, entertainment venues and the Auru Spa, whose design is inspired by the sheen, transparency and whiteness of the Golconda diamond. One of the hotel’s most unique features is the stair tube that connects the nightclub to The Veranda—the heart of the hotel—through the pool.

The 10-room Park on Vembanad Lake, meanwhile, offers up lakeview accommodations, complemented by traditional Kerala cuisine and performances, and quick access, if that’s what your clients want, to the Apsara, a 2-level, 8-cabin cruiser that sails on 4-day itineraries through the lake and the backwaters, where passengers can watch the day-to-day rural life of Kerala. On board, there’s a spa deck, dining area, a saloon, and modern cabins.

in other news Look for a new Leela Palaces, Hotels, Resorts property this year in Chennai, and in the future in Jaipur, Agra, and Lake Ashtamudi, as well as, of course, the Leela Palace Kempinski New Delhi, which, as of press time, was set to have its grand opening this month and will feature the city’s largest guestrooms. Then there’s the Banyan Tree Kerala, slated to open in 2012. Starwood Hotels & Resorts, too, is making quite a mark in India, with plans to grow its existing portfolio of 30 hotels in India by 40 percent in the next two years. Starwood’s Aloft brand will more than double its footprint in India by year’s end with the opening of three more hotels, and four additional hotels will open under the Sheraton, Four Points by Sheraton and Le Meridien brands. And in case you missed the big news, The Oberoi, Mumbai opened last April after extensive restoration and renovation.