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Can the textile-to-telecom conglomerate’s attempt at scripting a new growth chapter in its journey help set new benchmarks in hospitality?

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Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) — the company belonging to Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani — is set to foray into the hospitality industry under its new arm Reliance SOU, engaging in hotels, resorts, and service apartments that will provide short-term lodging facilities. According to the details available with the registrar of companies, the company is planning to develop hotels and resorts near the Statue of Unity in the west Indian state of Gujarat’s Kevadia. In a stock exchange filing, Reliance said that it had incorporated a wholly-owned subsidiary called Reliance SOU (RSOUL) with the intention of developing commercial properties. However, it did not elaborate on whether it would manage those properties directly, an Indian daily said. Reliance Industrial Investments and Holdings Limited (RIIHL) — a wholly owned subsidiary of the listed parent RIL — had earlier bought a 73.4 percent stake in the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York for $98 million. It also acquired Stoke Park Country Club, another UK-based hotel, for $69 million. 

Individuals traveling to the U.S. on a business or tourist visa — B-1 and B-2 — can apply for new jobs and even appear in interviews, a federal agency said, but the prospective employees must ensure that they have changed their visa status before starting a new role. “Many people have asked if they can look for a new job while in B-1 or B-2 status. The answer is, yes. Searching for employment and interviewing for a position are permissible B-1 or B-2 activities,” the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said in a series of tweets. When nonimmigrant workers are laid off, they may not be aware of their options and may, in some instances, wrongly assume that they have no option but to leave the country within 60 days, USCIS noted. When a nonimmigrant worker’s employment is terminated, either voluntarily or involuntarily, they typically may take one of the several actions, if eligible, to remain in a period of authorized stay in the U.S. These include filing an application for a change of nonimmigrant status; filing an application for adjustment of status; filing an application for a “compelling circumstances” employment authorization document; or being the beneficiary of a nonfrivolous petition to change employer.

India’s ministry of tourism is set to organize the country’s first Global Tourism Investors’ Summit (GTIS) in the national capital New Delhi from May 17-19, as part of India’s G20 Presidency. The summit will feature knowledge sessions on sustainability, digitalization, technology, insights, state-specific issues and other sub-sectors of tourism. These sessions will facilitate business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-government (B2G) engagements. The objective of GTIS 2023 is to provide a common platform for interactions between global and domestic players and explore the investment opportunities in the Indian travel and hospitality sector. 

Tata Group-owned Air India will absorb all Vistara employees following the merger of the two airlines, Vistara’s chief executive officer Vinod Kannan said. “There will be opportunities for everyone in the bigger unit. All of them will be absorbed in the new combined entity,” he said. Kannan explained that Vistara has about 5,103 employees, and around 80 percent are operational staff, including pilots, cabin crew and engineers. “The operational staff will be transferred with the aircraft,” he said, adding that the support staff will find a place in Air India as the airline, in its earlier avatar, as a government-run carrier, did not hire for several departments in the past 15 years. After acquiring Air India, the Tata group plans to merge low-cost carriers AirAsia India with Air India Express and Vistara with Air India. 

The revenue of premium hotels in India is expected to surge 80 percent in fiscal 2023, and a further 15-20 percent in fiscal 2024, a Crisil Market Intelligence report said. The average room rate (ARR) of premium hotels rose by 13 percent in fiscal 2022 and is expected to jump 19-21 percent this fiscal to a decadal high of $91-121, according to Pushan Sharma, a director at Crisil Market Intelligence. The occupancy level, which was at 50 percent in fiscal 2022, will also touch a decadal high of 67-72 percent this fiscal, in sharp contrast to fiscal 2021, when ARR plunged to 20-25 percent and occupancy halved to 31 per cent following the pandemic, he added. This growth is attributed to the improving domestic demand, including revenge travel, leisure, corporate, and meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) events. 

As much as 15 percent of pilots in India are women, which is almost three times the global average of 5 percent, according to aviation watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). However, currently, there is no special programme in the government to encourage pilot training for women and backward classes including SCs/STs, it said. Additionally, there are currently 67 expat pilots working with various air operators in the country, it said. As per data received from various Indian scheduled airlines, a total of 244 pilots have been recruited in 2021, and that industry estimates suggest that the country may require 1,000 pilots per annum over the next five years. There are 35 DGCA-approved Flight Training Organizations (FTOs) in the country, operating at 53 bases, according to a release by the civil aviation ministry.

The second tourism track meeting under India’s G20 Presidency — to be held in Siliguri and Darjeeling from April 1-3 — will focus on the potential of adventure tourism. Stakeholders will discuss key aspects of green tourism, digitalization, skills, destination management, and micro, small and medium enterprises in tourism, said Arvind Singh, secretary of the tourism ministry. A side event on “Adventure Tourism as a vehicle for achieving Sustainable Development Goals” will also be held where the seven northeast Indian states will share presentations on the topic. A full-day event will be organized for domestic industry partners and state governments to deliberate on ‘Tourism in Mission Mode: Advantage Adventure Tourism.’

Travel technology firm Amadeus has introduced its Travel4Impact initiative in India — a social innovation network — to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in travel and tourism sectors develop sustainable solutions. Open to SMEs with more than two years of activity within the tourism ecosystem, the program is designed to improve the competitiveness and social and environmental impact of SMEs in the travel sector. This is done through the creation of a network to support enterprises that see digitalization, collaboration, and sustainability as key elements of their value proposition. Travel4Impact is run by Amadeus alongside IE University, an international higher education institution recognized as one of the first carbon neutral universities in Europe. 

Ride-hailing company Uber has introduced a new feature for riders in India to sync their air travel plans with the platform via email integration. The new feature helps riders pre-book their rides, while being assisted with pre-filled dates and times on their Uber app, corresponding to their flight, saving them the hassle of booking a trip at the last moment. This includes the option to “Reserve” rides up to 90 days in advance for a seamless airport transit experience. The feature is being rolled out across 13 of the busiest airports in the country. Allowing flyers to better utilize their time at airports, the Uber app now features a step-by-step wayfinding guide, assisting riders on their way from the gate all the way to the Uber pickup zones. 

Chalet Hotels Limited — which owns, develops and operates hotels in India — has invested in a leisure property, The Dukes Retreat, which is an 80-room resort in Mumbai’s Khandala, for an enterprise value of $133 million. The resort land is owned by Sonmil Industries, while the hotel structure and its business are owned by The Dukes Retreat. Upon completion of the transaction, Chalet will finalize its plans of expansion and upgradation of the property to reposition it as an upper-upscale green, lifestyle resort. Featuring 18 deluxe rooms, 54 executive rooms and eight cottages, the resort includes a restaurant, an outdoor pool, play area, spa, and a fitness center. With this acquisition, CHL will further enhance diversification in its portfolio by expanding its owned asset portfolio in the leisure segment.


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Tags: adventure tourism, air india, amadeus, chalet hotels, crisis management, darjeeling, g20, india, mandarin oriental, mice, pilots, skift india report, sustainable tourism, tourism, u.s. visa, uber, vistara

Photo credit: Reliance Industries is planning to develop hotels and resorts near the Statue of Unity.

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