Sudeep Jain, VP of Development for Southwest Asia at InterContinental Hotels Group
Having been absent for many years, why is now the right time for InterContinental to return to Colombo?
The InterContinental brand has a strong legacy in Sri Lanka after being here for many years, and we have always been open to the right opportunity to come back. Returning to Colombo is also well in line with our current strategy to create InterContinental’s presence in key cities across the region. Among the many factors we considered, finding the right partner was a critical one. We are confident that our local partner Pearl Grand Tower Hotel (Private) Limited is an excellent fit, and with this partnership falling into place, we have been able to make this move successfully.
What is your estimation about the tourism industry and its growth in Sri Lanka?
Thing are looking very positive indeed for the Sri Lankan tourism industry. An increase in international flights and Sri Lankan migrants returning to their home country are all positive indicators of growth and strength. We are aware that Sri Lanka’s tourism goal to cross the 2 million mark in tourist arrivals has been achieved already in the last year, with numbers steadily climbing this year. It’s also encouraging to note that traffic from India has grown further. We believe the stars are aligned for tourism in Sri Lanka, and we are very excited to be here at this time.
Where do you see the InterContinental Colombo fitting within the current landscape of city hotels, including some international names?
InterContinental will certainly be one of the largest hotels in Colombo, spread over 480,000 sq. ft and located in a prime spot with magnificent ocean views. We are also expected to be the tallest hotel in Colombo, at 42 stories high with 307 rooms, including 47 suites. A distinctive feature of this hotel will be the largest banquet/meeting room in the city, stretching to over 1000 sq.ft, with the capacity to accommodate 400 people at any given time. We will also have a modern business centre for business travellers and corporate clients.
“All our rooms and suites at InterContinental Colombo will be designed for sensory pleasure, equipped with modern amenities and views of the Indian Ocean”
How does InterContinental differentiate itself from other hotel chains?
We belong to IHG, the third-largest hotel chain in the world. That means we are a part of a network that includes over 5,400 hotels globally and retains a loyal customer base of over 100 million. InterContinental Hotels & Resorts are present in 180 locations. We not only specialize in luxury but have in fact been pioneers in this category. Now, all this translates to superior international know-how, making us experts in luxury travel and accommodation.
How are you approaching staffing locally?
The rule of thumb in staffing an international hotel is to hire locally as much as possible, as this allows a smoother and more culturally balanced experience. However, being a part of a large global chain, we do have access to personnel from all over the world. We are only concerned about finding the right talent and will give first preference to local hires. As a group, we have a rich culture and encourage diversity. In India, IHG has ranked 9th among the country’s best companies to work for in 2018 and we hope we will see similar success in Sri Lanka.
Who is your target demographic?
We plan to target business and leisure travellers, not isolating one group over the other. In terms of what we can offer, we are geared for both experiences with luxury as the common theme. We will, however, have a modern business centre for business and corporate clients. While we welcome guests from all over the world, considering trends in Sri Lankan tourism, we will focus on Indian markets and Southwest Asia as our priorities.
How will the InterContinental experience be unique for guests?
What we offer is incomparable luxury, which is a way of life at InterContinental. Our guests will receive an experience that comes from years of insight and expertise in crafting a luxurious experience. All our rooms and suites at InterContinental Colombo will be designed for sensory pleasure, equipped with modern amenities and views of the Indian Ocean. We aim to please gastronomically as well, and will offer six dining options including an all-day dining restaurant and three speciality restaurants. The hotel will also include a gymnasium, an outdoor pool and a spa. Our guests will also have access to one of the largest loyalty programmes in the world, with a multitude of local and international benefits.