"There may be rate hikes when the market picks up. But there will be a price war as the room inventory now is greater. The room rate for hotels in this segment will be around Rs.5,500, Mukherjee said."
Chennai, June 27 - With signs of buoyancy in business visible and new competition emerging, a clutch of star hotels here are going in for makeovers.
The market is picking up. The manufacturing sector is looking at Tamil Nadu. Normally April to August are the lean season and hotels are using this period to refurbish so as to be ready when the season booms, Arindam Mukherjee, director-food and beverage, The Raintree Hotel, St.Mary's Road, told IANS.
The seven-year-old, 105-room hotel, owned by Ceebros Hotels Pvt Ltd, is currently under renovation, which is expected to be over in couple of months.
We have completed renovation of 45 rooms. The new changes will be in the bed, bathroom fittings, room lightings and there will be a new mini-bar, Mukherjee said.
According to him, the hotel's all-day dining restaurant Rainbow with 64 covers is also under renovation.
We are yet to decide whether to have a new name for Rainbow and change the menu card, Mukherjee added.
Recently the hotel's Above Sea Level seafood restaurant relaunched its new menu, adding more starters, soups and grilled dishes.
Joining the renovation club is the 236-room Courtyard by Marriott.
The hotel is set for upgradation and renovation. A lot of new technologies and equipment are in the market, apart from new hotels. Work on room upgradation has already begun, general manager Prakash Jayadevan told IANS.
He said two rooms will first be renovated by August/September. After the review of the two sample rooms, the other rooms in the hotel would be redone.
All the rooms in the hotel would sport new gadgets and new look. Much of the expenditure will be on equipment that will not be visible to the guests like the chiller plant, the electrical systems and the like, Jayadevan said.
According to him, changes are also being planned on the restaurant side.
We would like to have a pan-Asian restaurant. There is good demand here for different Asian cuisines. We would suggest to our corporate office to have one in the property, he said.
According to him, there is a likelihood of MoMo Cafe - a round-the-clock restaurant across Courtyard by Marriott properties in India.
The other common restaurant brand is the RedZen specialising in Asian cuisine.
Meanwhile, business is slowly picking up with the lifitng of the roadblocks due to the Metro-rail construction, which is nearing completion near the hotel, Jayadevan said.
The business at the restaurants took a great hit due to traffic diversions and also with the advent of new hotels. The room occupancy now is around 67 percent, down from the 80 percent ratio before the beginning of the metro-rail work, he said.
To attract customers, the hotel has started flameless cooking classes for children on Sundays with brunch as part of the class fee.
The children can learn to make a lot of items starting from simple sandwiches. It will be fun and they will also know about different vegetables, processing of ingredients and others, Sridhar Sigatapu, executive chef at Courtyard by Marriott, told IANS.
The other hotel that is carrying out renovation work is the GRT Grand, but its officials were unavailable for comment.
On the other hand, the 159-year-old Taj group's Vivanta Connemara Chennai is planning to refurbish its rooms in phases this fiscal, a senior official told IANS.
The market is good now and there is buoyancy, he added.
However, there were conflicting views on the hardening of the room rates post-renovation.
The opportunity is that the rates may climb up for other hotels as around 50 of our rooms would not be available in the market for two years, Jayadevan of Courtyard by Marriott said.
But Raintree's Mukherjee differed slightly.
There may be rate hikes when the market picks up. But there will be a price war as the room inventory now is greater. The room rate for hotels in this segment will be around Rs.5,500, Mukherjee said.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at email@example.com)
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