The Taj Airport Garden Hotel has been rebranded as ‘Gateway Hotel’, as its first international hotel in Colombo. Speaking to the Business Times at the occasion this week, Gateway Hotel group Chief Operating Officer P. K.Mohankumar said, the Airport Garden Hotel was its 21st hotel in the Taj Group chain. The rebranding had enabled them to now cater to a higher end market than before.
“Our target segment is the upscale market (mid-market). We are trying to position this as a beautiful city hotel -- a suburban business city hotel where you can stay near the lagoon, go to Colombo for business and be back by evening. With the completion of the new highway, this hotel should be only about 20 minutes from Colombo. We have found that there is now a huge demand for this type of hotels. This property is ideally located and I believe with the rebranding we can take this to a whole new level of hospitality,” he said.
Commenting on why Sri Lanka was chosen as its only international venture, Mr. Mohankumar said the Taj Group and Sri Lanka share a special relationship. Taj came to Sri Lanka about three decades ago and never left. “In fact, we expanded our presence like no one else did.” Mr. Mohankumar, who was in charge of the Taj Group here in the late 1990s, said that his confidence in the potential here never wavered. The Gateway brand was launched in September 2008. Right now, this brand has 2,000 rooms across India including Sri Lanka, and had been operating with 70 % occupancy since the first day of operations, he said.
The Indian Hotels Company (Taj Group) is looking at 50 to 60 towns with airports for its Indian expansion plans. Director Operations, Taj Hotels and Resorts Rohit Khosla said that the brand was not ruling out expansion in Sri Lanka and other overseas markets. It was open to expansion through tie-ups and through the properties’ management route. However Sri Lanka now has to pay more attention to developing its human resources which is the most important thing in a hotel. “Sri Lanka needs to have a large human resource base with quality hotel management education, skills development and language proficiency. “Sri Lanka is no longer going to be a low end destination where rates have to be compromised. Today in the new Sri Lanka we have to able to say ‘if you want to come this is the rate’. But those who come will expect international standards,” he added.
The Taj Airport Garden Hotel is located on a 38-acre property in Seeduwa, which is 10 minutes away from the airport and located right next to the largest lagoon in the country.
Commenting on the future expansion of this Katunayake hotel, Mr Mohankumar said they will be adding another 100 rooms which will be at a cost of US$ 10 million. The new wing will be operational in 2012. With this expansion and refurbishment in place the hotel aims to have a five –star rating.