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IHHR focused on expansion of Ananda brand

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Two business models chalked out for taking the brand overseas, across India

SUDIPTA DEVMumbai

Mahesh NatarajanIHHR Hospitality is all set for expansion of its Ananda brand, in India and overseas through management contract. The destinations being looked at in India are exotic locations in Rajasthan, Goa and Kerala, while the overseas locations are nearer home – Sri Lanka, the Middle East and some select locations in South East Asia. “Strategically we are looking at expanding the Ananda brand into two business models. First is holistic destination spas, where the entire concept is focused around health and wellness – this concept we plan to take internationally to locations which already have a strong tourist network but can also attract high end travellers for wellness,” said Mahesh Natarajan, vice president – marketing, IHHR Hospitality.

For the India market IHHR has formulated a slightly different model for expansion – the Ananda luxury resort model. “The only difference between this and the destination spa model is that people visit the destination spa primarily with health goals, and while Ananda luxury resorts will still have a fantastic spa the reason to be there will not be health but as a luxury getaway,” explained Natarajan, adding that these destinations (Rajasthan, Goa, Kerala) have established networks with the potential to attract affluent travellers and high number of foreign clientele also. He acknowledged that while in all these destinations there are a plethora of brands, the concept of the Ananda luxury resort model will be unique and different.

The name Ananda for both expansion models will remain the same. Currently IHHR owns and operates all its properties – Ananda in the Himalayas, Ista in Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Amritsar and Pune. Ista in Ahmedabad will be the first management contract. “Going forward, both for Ananda and Ista we want to expand through the management contract route. We’ve consolidated with five properties and want to focus our investments on them and for expansion we want to be an asset light company,” stated Natarajan.

In the three-five years IHHR is planning for one or two prominent international destinations spas and at least a couple of high end resorts in India. “At the same time we are also looking to expand the Ista brand in mini metro locations and also some weekend getaways,” mentioned Natarajan.

For the Ananda brand IHHR is looking for developers who are like minded and understand the concept well. “IHHR’s approach towards the project build is fairly flexible. We build to the market. Each and every place where we have our properties we have been aware of the market realities. Developers appreciate this approach. There are many developers who are interested in working with a brand like Ananda,” asserted Natarajan. According to him in the Middle East a destination like Oman is ideal for an Ananda destination spa and Sri Lanka also has many pristine locations that will be perfect.

Till about four-five years back guests frequenting Ananda in the Himalayas were 75 per cent foreigners. Now while the number of overseas clients have grown, the domestic segment has also increased. The ratio of foreigners to Indians is now 55:45. “So far a lot of the Indian clients have been coming for three-four night getaways, now we are trying to take this to the next level. We are rated highly by our international guests because of our health and wellness programmes, we are now trying to educate the Indian market. Already we can see very rapid trends in that in the past year or so,” he stated.

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