‘60% hotel owners in the US of Indian origin; we will grow rapidly here’: IHG CEO Elie Maalouf

NEW DELHI: “We can build a very big business in India because, fundamentally, it’s Indians (people of Indian origin) that have built most of the business in the US.” This, apart from India’s growing economic clout, is making British hospitality major InterContinental Hotels Group’s (IHG) — which at present has over 6,300 properties operational globally with over 4,000 in the US, its biggest market, — bet big on the country.
IHG Hotels & Resorts CEO Elie Maalouf sees no reason its presence in India will not be at par or even more than its presence in China, currently IHG’s second biggest market with over 700 operational properties and almost as many in the pipeline, in coming years. IHG has 46 hotels in India across five brands like Six Senses, InterContinental Hotels, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn Resort and Holiday Inn Express and 49 more will open in the next three years.
“Nearly 60% of hotels in the US are owned by people of Indian origin. They are the single biggest force in America’s hotel industry, and also in the Canadian hotel industry. The largest proportion of owners for us and our large competitors are people of Indian origin in North America. Most of them have limited service properties. But many of them have moved up to upscale and full service properties… “… (This) gives me great confidence that we can build a very big business in India,” Maalouf told TOI Wednesday.
IHG has been in India since 1965. The small presence since then for a company like IHG is going to change now. “We’re ready to develop now on a much stronger level. The fundamentals of India are coming together in a very attractive manner. Very strong GDP growth. The burgeoning middle class; very strong infra development; biggest aircraft orders by Indian carriers and a propensity to travel in the domestic population which is just inherent to the culture,” he said.
He gave the example of China where IHG has been pre4sent for 50 years and currently has 700 hotels and this number is slated to rise to over 1,300 in coming years going by current signings alone. “There’s no reason why India can’t be on the same trajectory. It will be one of our major markets around the world in the future. That’s just a function of time. The potential’s certainly there. Only its going to take some time,” the Lebanese origin US citizen said.
Despite Covid, the hospitality chain’s India portfolio has increased in the last 6-8 years from 15 to 46 hotels now. It has seen revenue per available room and occupancy grow by 30% and 12%, respectively, last year over 2019. IHG currently has 6,300 hotels with 9.5 lakh rooms in 100 countries, Hotels with an additional 2.5 lakh rooms are under development. Indians are big customers for all hospitality majors globally, including IHG.
“Indians are the largest diaspora in the world and growing. The outbound Indian markets growing its project is growth from 20 to 80 million over the next 10 years. And as we build our relationships with them here in India, they will become customers of us wherever they go.”
What are the two things most crucial for the India market? “Food and beverage; and events,” said the veteran of global hospitality who has over 35 years of experience in the industry.
His experience span across hotel development, branding, finance, real estate and operations management and food and beverage. Elie joined IHG as Americas CEO in February 2015. Under him, the region’s estate has grown from approximately 3,700 hotels to more than 4,350.

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