The 'new economy' constantly throws up a multiplicity of entrepreneurial ventures trying to solve the problems of modern India. By telling their stories I try to catch a glimpse of the entrepreneurial evolution that India is going through. I have a weakness for the gloss of novelty and chase it in all experiences, from exploring new cities and restaurants, to changing what I read.
The St Regis Hotels on Fifth Avenue, New York, has long been the crown jewel in Starwood Hotels & Resorts’s collection of hotels. With the opening of the St Regis Mumbai last month, Starwood finally brought its flagship luxury brand to India. In an email interview with Forbes India, Jim Petrus, senior vice president and global brand leader, St Regis Hotels & Resorts, talks about the company’s India plans and its view of the market here. Edited excerpts:
Q. What were some of the main reasons for bringing the St Regis brand into India at this point?
As our global portfolio grows, so does the global nature of our guests, particularly a new generation of affluent Indian travellers, who are staying with the St Regis brand around the world. So we are thrilled to introduce the brand to India, an increasingly affluent market with a robust demand for high-end hospitality.
Q. What are some of the key drivers of growth in the sector?
Technology and globalisation are driving new trade routes, capital flows and wealth creation; and as such, we are seeing a seismic increase in luxury travel. In India, specifically, the number of high net worth individuals has doubled in the last three years. With the rise in inbound and outbound Indian travel, we have significant opportunity to grow the St Regis brand in gateway cities as well as in resort destinations.
Q. What changes and trends have you seen in consumer preferences with regard to luxury hotels in India?
Luxury travellers today, in India and all around the world, are cross-generational and multi-national, mobile and jet-setting; they are more comfortable moving across our portfolio of luxury hotels for business and leisure, but also more demanding of personalised service at every turn. Their approach to luxury is decidedly less formal, entirely more personal, and defined more by their interests and mindset than by their geography and demographic.
Q. Has the larger trend in the industry been to move from offering frills to creating holistic luxury experiences?
Luxury travellers are now turning to experience-led consumption to deliver higher levels of fulfilment. We look to deliver authentic, ingenious experiences deeply rooted in the destination, with a strong focus on bringing the destination to life through the excellence of its concierge service.
Q. Where do you see demand growing, in terms of geography?
St Regis will expand its footprint to over 50 hotels and resorts around the world in the next five years. Following the debut of the St Regis Mumbai, in 2016, St Regis will open in five destinations, including Kuala Lumpur (April), Jakarta (April), Changsha (May), Maldives (September) and Cairo (October). In fact, one hundred percent of the St Regis pipeline is in emerging markets, reflecting the demand for luxury in new places.