For decades – ever since The Taj Mahal was spruced up again, Agra has been the top homage destination for the leisure traveller. From not just India, but around the world. However, with falling numbers of visitors to the Taj (read falling inbound numbers, pushing down ARRs, there has been a search to attract alternate visitors. An answer has emerged in the event / wedding space, the demand is only rising in the city. It helps that for a huge part of the hinterland – especially between Agra and Delhi on one side and Agra and Lucknow on the other, there aren’t top notch hotels that can host banquets and events. Agra however has no shortage of five star hotels – Amarvilas, ITC Mughal, Jaypee and others are veterans in the space. However, the last couple of years have seen a number of upscale and mid segment hotels start up, expanding the market. As Paritosh Ladhani, Joint Managing Director, Radisson Blu Agra, explains to Suman Tarafdar, the hotel is expanding to position itself as a premier destination for the emerging market by adding quite a few boundary pushing features.
How is the hospitality market in Agra shaping up?
The market in Agra is growing and it was always the destination for foreign travellers visiting the country, but since the opening up of the Yamuna Expressway and now the Lucknow Agra expressway, it is becoming a popular destination for domestic travellers also.
Given that a number of international and domestic brands have opened new hotels, how has the new inventory impacted the market? How have ARRs been over the last year?
There has been an increase in the competition and we have seen a slight dip in our ARR, but it is the adjusting phase of the market and with our product we would be creating a niche in the market for ourselves. Our product is superior than the current market and with our new rooms and convention centre coming in, we would be a league apart from the competition.
Agra has always been a leisure destination. Is that showing signs of change in terms of the customers staying over at the hotels? Agra will primarily stay a leisure destination due to the iconic Taj Mahal, but with the increased inventory and facilities over the time, it would be most certainly a choice for a lot of big social and MICE events.
Radisson Blu Agra would be adding one of the biggest pillar less banqueting space (14600 sqft) in the entire state
Which new categories eg MICE / corporate / weddings etc are growing fastest? MICE and weddings would be one of the fastest growing segments in the market, due to ease of accessibility from both the eastern and the western part of the state due to the connecting expressways.
What factors are increasing the MICE market in Agra? Agra is clearly developing as a big MICE market, the factors leading to it would be easy accessibility to the city, city has seen an increase in the inventory needed for a big MICE event, Radisson Blu Agra would be adding one of the biggest pillar less banqueting space (14600 sqft) in the entire state which would be needed for a big MICE event.
Where does Radisson Agra see the fastest opportunity for growth? We would be placing ourselves above the competition and would be stepping into the upper luxury segment in the market, which still needs to be explored and with our new rooms and food and beverage offerings we would be the first choice for travelling wanting to explore the market.
What is the room inventory of the hotel? By how much will the new wing push it up?
The current room inventory is of 142 keys which was good enough to cater to the Leisure market, while we add up another 97 keys, we would be open our reach to big MICE and social events, the luxury product would attract them to make Agra a destination for their event.
Could you please mention some of the new features that the new wing will add? Our new wing will feature 97 rooms and suites with some of them having a full view of the Taj Mahal, the rooms would be luxurious with a touch of local craftsmanship. It would also feature a coffee shop with a total area of 11000 sqft, and 6 live kitchens along with al fresco dining surrounded with water bodies and tastefully designed landscaping. On the roof top would be an infinity pool offering our guest a holistic view of the Taj Mahal, the rooftop would also feature a party area which can cater to guest who wish to book the space for a sun downer party overlooking the Taj Mahal. The new wing would also boast of a pillar less banquet of 14600 sqft with an additional pre function area of 10000 sqft.
Is there a change in the inbound / domestic customer ratio for the hotel? How much is it for your hotel?
The demographic of the guest completely change as per the season, while the winter season witnesses 80% foreign guest, the ratio reverses itself during the summer time when the inflow of inbound is less.
Any other factor that impacts the profitability of the hotel in the near term?
The business is built more for my passion for hoteliering rather than profits, yes there are ups and downs in all the businesses but with our new offerings we intend to become the first choice for the guest and hence do not see a negative impact on the business.