IHCL (Taj Hotels) ekes out a profit during the pandemic

The pandemic has had a ravaging impact on the hospitality sector over the past couple of years. With no help forthcoming from the government, the hotel industry was left to figure out a way forward for itself. Some hotels, such as Hyatt Regency Mumbai, saw a shut down (I’m not sure if they’ve reopened), and others have managed to survive.

The bad news seems to be at the end, now, hopefully, though. The Indian Hotels Company Limited, the company that owns and operates the hotel brands such as the Taj, Vivanta, SeleQtions and amã Stays & Trails, apart from select-service brand Ginger, declared their Q3 FY22 result, and that was a glimmer of hope. Let us look at what is happening at IHCL and how they made this tick.

Financial Highlights

  • Revenues up by 85% to INR 1,134 crore in Q3 FY 2021-22 vs Q3 FY 2020-21
  • EBITDA improves by 805% to INR 344 crore in Q3 FY 2021-22 vs Q3 FY 2020-21, resulting in a 30.4% EBITDA Margin for the quarter
  • Reports Profit After Tax of INR 76 crore in Q3 FY 2021-22

But all that is also the result of a pick-up in the hospitality sector said the Tata-owned hospitality chain. From the investor presentation, you can see that the Revenue per available room (RevPAR) is approximately back to Q420 levels when the pandemic started. 

IHCL says it has seen solid growth in Goa, where they can commandeer 40% more rates than pre-pandemic pricing and about 8% more rates than the rest of the industry. Who does not want to be in Goa, after all? If you’d believe me, the Taj Fort Aguada Resort is a solid property. Even in the metro cities, the rates are getting better.

Internationally, Taj is doing very well in Dubai and Maldives, which should come as no surprise for an Indian brand.

Business Development

IHCL’s business development has not slowed down during the pandemic. While IHCL used to focus on owning and operating hotels, over the past years, under the leadership of Puneet Chatwal, who has had prominent roles at Carlson Rezidor hotels and Steigenberger Hotels AG – Deutsche Hospitality, it has prominently focussed on moving towards an asset-light strategy.

As a part of this move, IHCL signed up five new hotels, including two SeleQtions hotels in Jaisalmer and Bhubaneswar and three Ginger hotels in Coimbatore, Dehradun and Goregaon. Also, there is no let-up in the opening of hotels across the IHCL brands. IHCL has opened nine new managed hotels in the nine months ending December 2021, with three unique hotels across brands opening just in October – December 2021:

    • Taj Lakefront, Bhopal
    • Vivanta Sikkim in Pakyong
    • Raajkutir, an IHCL SeleQtions hotel in Kolkata

And 17 hotels are expected to launch in 2022!

Another business on a tear is the growth in the stays and trails portfolio. I am honestly still to try out a luxury homestay option, but the amã Stays & Trails homestay portfolio grew to 72 bungalows across the country, all during the pandemic. IHCL eventually wants to offer 500 properties on the platform. For comparison, I believe Marriott has about 2000 homestays on its platform as of now.

Qmin

Hotels depend a lot on their restaurants to generate business, and they are an integral part of their revenue generation. During the pandemic, all the major hotel chains moved to deliver their food to your home. IHCL went full speed ahead and launched a new app called QMin, where you could order food via the app to be delivered to your home. Qmin is already present in 20 cities, offering over 90 IHCL restaurants across India and doing business worth INR 58 Crores. Digressing, you can get yourselves a Chicken Junglee sandwich at home if you are not flying these days from them.

QMin at Bengaluru Airport

They later expanded on the idea and added offline presence to the QMin vertical. You will now see 11 Qmin outlets in Bengaluru and two Qmin gourmet stores in New Delhi. The outlets in Bengaluru were on the back of an internal transfer of the Tata Cha cafes, which were under Tata Global Beverages earlier on.

Is Dining important?

Oy! Yes, to the IHCL enterprise, very much so. Please have a look at their numbers for the nine months ended December 2021, purely for the IHCL business (excluding flight catering, Ginger hotels, etc.). It is almost neck and neck with the room rents they generate.

The picture is the same if you look at IHCL, including TAJ SATS Air Catering and Ginger.

Bottomline

In a nutshell, IHCL, which is the Tata Group’s Hospitality operations, including the iconic Taj brand, can get back on its feet in the past quarter, which indicates some semblance is returning to the hospitality sector. Of course, we did see the return of revenge travel, airlines running to capacity, and this quarter will look different. Still, it indicates very well that Indians are ready to travel as the pandemic subsides, again!


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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. This will only get better. The synergies of Air India acquisition will mean that Tata’s will leverage significant cost savings on hotel accomodations for all the AI staff – bringing that revenue per room up by a few notches. Add-on effect will be the earnings from the F&B/Dining associated.

  2. Interesting article to read Ajay. I have an upcoming stay in Hyderabad. There are 4 hotels of IHCL which are in my budget. Which is the best as per your assessment? Taj Banjara Taj Deccan Taj Krishna or the Vivanta Begumpet.

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