ITDC looks at overseas foray, hotel in Zambia likely

February 11th, 2009 - 1:51 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 11 (IANS) State-run hospitality major India Tourism Development Corp (ITDC), which runs the Ashok chain of luxury hotels, is looking for properties abroad and will finalise a location in Zambia shortly.The group has chosen the African country as its president, Rupiah Banda, had stayed at the Ashok hotel in the national capital last year and later invited its top brass to invest in his country and help develop its hospitality industry.

“The honourable president of Zambia was quiet impressed with our services when he stayed with us during a visit. He was vice-president then and told us that he would ask his officials to identify some properties which we can consider,” said ITDC marketing director Rajiv Makin.

“The president has now earmarked a few plots where we could set up our hotels. Our team will be visiting Zambia soon and hope to finalise the properties,” Makin told IANS.

Zambia has a sizeable and economically important Asian population, mostly of Indian origin.

Makin said ITDC would also look at franchising in a big way through a newly-launched initiative called Ashok Alliance to help private sector hotels leverage its 50-year experience in the hospitality business.

“We have a lot of inquiries. You will be hearing from us soon,” he said, adding that though divestment in the past had reduced the number of properties with ITDC from 36 to 16, it still wanted to manage several more properties.

The group is also expanding its presence in the fast growing duty-free business, mainly at airports, particularly in the backdrop of the major expansion and upgrade programmes being undertaken at airports across the country.

“The lease rentals, however, have to be rationalised because the private operators are asking for a huge fee and we have to remain profitable. They should look at our experience,” added Makin.

The state-run company recently won a bid for a duty free outlet at Coimbatore Airport to sell a range of products including liquor, fragrances, cosmetics, cigars, chocolates and handicraft.

The marketing director said ITDC has also introduced what it calls a pre-reservation service, which offers outbound passengers the option to book duty-free products by paying $20, the payment being adjusted against the actual purchase on return.

For this scheme, passengers have to return within one month and the ITDC duty-free outlet will keep the items ready for pickup at the arrival lounge.

This scheme was introduced after passengers complained that the range and variety of products available at the duty-free shops in the departure lounge are not matched at the outlet on arrival.

Makin said the marketing and other strategies initiated over the past year or so had begun to show results with the company registering a 5.84 percent growth in profits during the last quarter despite the economic gloom.

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