Samir MC, Managing Director, Fortune Hotels, highlights the brand’s notable advancements in the hospitality industry and its core area of focus. The Fortune Hotels consistently expands into new and unexplored markets, positioning itself for rapid growth in both business, leisure, and pilgrim segments.
– Prativa V Bhalla
Q. Can you highlight the key strategies that have contributed to the remarkable growth of Fortune Hotels in recent years?
Our strategy has always revolved around the customer – keeping the guest at the centre; we have focussed on providing unique experiences, whether it is through our prime locations, diverse culinary offerings, or cultural immersion. Our varied food and beverage outlets and the proud ITC lineage behind us further enhance the culinary experiences we provide our guests, leaving them asking for more. Events, too, are our strength. We take pride in offering one-stop event solutions to our customers, helping them pull off successful corporate, social, and weddings.
We have been the first branded hotel in many locations, bringing a fresh demographic to those areas because we understand where the customer is moving.
We have a unique ability to open hotels in tier II and III towns where other branded chains hesitate to enter. This can be attributed to our deep understanding of the Indian customer and the demographic of India and the operational excellence at the centre. The Fortune brand has evolved from being primarily business-focused to embracing the leisure and pilgrim sectors, demonstrating our adaptability to evolving guest needs, so much so that we have a healthy mix of 50: 50 business and leisure hotels in our portfolio.
Q. Your perceived primary challenges and the latest trends emerging in the hospitality industry.
Post-pandemic, the hospitality industry is witnessing an impetus growth of hotels across all segments in India. Both domestic and international chains are making inroads into unexplored/ new markets in the country. There is a growing need for trained/ skilled hospitality resources, and this remains to be the industry’s key challenge today. In the current landscape, employee hiring and retention pose a substantial threat. Recognising these issues, there is an expanding wave of initiatives aimed at upskilling and helping employees learn and grow with the changing demand patterns. Organisations are also looking for alternate sources of talent to fill in multi-faceted job roles at the entry-level. At Fortune Hotels, we are committed to increasing our hiring efforts by 8-10 c per cent compared to the previous year, during which we hired about 2,500 employees across our chain.
Q. How has 2023 been for Fortune Hotels? Any notable properties experiencing high rates/occupancy, or any locations yet to pick up on occupancy and visibility?
This year, much like the last, has been remarkably fortunate for us. We experienced consistent growth in various aspects, including rising occupancy rates, increased demand, and a notable expansion of our property portfolio. The Fortune brand is on an upward trajectory.
Our hill properties, in particular, hold a unique charm that resonates in our performance records. The Hills of Fortune have consistently attracted guests throughout the year. The allure of these properties, coupled with our unmatched services and the beauty of nature, has proven exceedingly popular among our guests. Though inbound leisure travel is yet to pick up in the country, the domestic demand has compensated for its absence. While the hills suffered a tiny setback due to unprecedented rains for a short period this year, Q3 of this FY looks very promising, with Indians looking to holiday in the backdrop of the festive period.
Besides, the leisure properties, hotels in secondary and tertiary locations have also shown great promise. In H1 of this year, we have launched hotels in five unique markets – Kalimpong, Khajjiar, two hotels in Amritsar, and Hoshiarpur. All of which have shown early shoots of growth. While positioning ourselves in unexplored locations requires patience for tourism to gain momentum, the results have been rewarding.
Q. What is your take on sustainability? Is it a part of the Fortune agenda?
It is no secret that sustainability is the key to a better future for all. Organisations worldwide and demographics are actively working towards adopting planet-safe practices and becoming more responsible. Like all our conscious branded hotels, we too have taken small steps towards environmental protection, such as cutting down on the single-use plastics in our hotels, controlling energy emissions by optimising the use of air conditioners in our rooms, light sensors in the corridor and the relevant public areas, etc. Fortune Hotels is a wholly owned subsidiary of ITC Limited, known for its stalwart practices towards sustainability. Coming from the ITC lineage, we absolutely stand by it.
Q. Please share insights into your expansion strategy and target markets for future growth. What is your vision for the Fortune chain of hotels for 2024-25?
Fortune Hotels is rapidly expanding its presence in PAN India with a focus on entering untapped markets, smart cities, leisure, and pilgrim locations, as well as potential business districts. Today, we stand at 62 signed alliances across 52 cities, under 4800 rooms.
14 of our project hotels are under development in 12 new locations, with an almost 50:50 mix of business and leisure hotels. Our primary focus remains delivering value to our stakeholders, and we aim to serve delight to our customers, a happy, safe workplace culture to our employees, and owner satisfaction by driving operational excellence growth for the hotel. Relationships, thus, form the core of all our activities.
Our focus on growth into newer locations, tier I and tier II cities, including attractive leisure and pilgrim locations, continues as we steadily increase our footprint across India.