U.S. to Connect Saudi, UAE to India Via Railways

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Skift Take

Let’s hope that the cross-continental connectivity project isn’t just talk. Plus, the day’s news from Air India, AHS, Lords, Sarovar, Pride Hotels, and other Indian players.

The national security advisors of India, U.S., the United Arab Emirates, and the Saudi Crown Prince met in Riyadh. They discussed ways to develop a joint infrastructure that connects Gulf and Arab countries via a railway network and also extends to India via shipping lanes. The White House issued a statement that the advisors met in Riyadh to “advance their shared vision of a more secure and prosperous Middle East region interconnected with India and the world,” American news website Axios reported. The Indian and UAE authorities did not issue separate readouts publicly. India is particularly keen to participate in the project to build a brand as an infrastructure builder in the railway sector. Boasting a strong rail network at home and buoyed by the success of creating such infrastructure in Sri Lanka, India has the confidence to do it overseas. It wants private and public sector enterprises to explore the region’s potential economic and infrastructure opportunities. Moreover, India’s connectivity with its Western neighbors could be enhanced as it can use shipping routes to reach West Asian ports such as Chabahar and Bandar-e-Abbas (Iran), Duqm (Oman), Dubai (UAE), Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) and Kuwait City. According to the Axios report, the idea for the railway project germinated at the I2U2 forum — which includes the U.S., Israel, the UAE and India — established in late 2021 to discuss strategic infrastructure projects in West Asia.

Indian hospitality company ITC Hotels has signed three boutique properties under its brand Storii in the states of Goa, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh — the 23-key Urvashi’s Retreat in Manali, 15-key Storii Moira Riviera in North Goa and Storii Prayagraj which will be refurbished to accommodate a new wing. “The new properties at Goa, Manali, and Prayagraj highlight our focus on growth and expansion in the boutique hotel space. Storii by ITC Hotels is fast becoming a preferred brand in the experiential segment, welcoming travelers seeking local experiences,” said Anil Chadha, divisional chief executive of ITC Hotels. Last week, the company’s Fortune Hotels announced the signing of an operating agreement for a hotel in the hill station of Khajjiar in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, set to open doors in the first quarter of 2024

Tata Group-owned Air India will launch direct flights between Delhi and Amsterdam from June 11, the airline said in a statement. The flight will operate with a two-class Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner four times a week — Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. AI155 will depart from Delhi at 13:10 hours before arriving in Amsterdam at 18:35 hours (local time). The return flight from Amsterdam, AI 156, will take off at 20:45 hours to arrive in Delhi at 08:10 hours (local time). After Copenhagen, Vienna and Milan, Amsterdam will be the fourth European destination the airline has connected from Delhi in the last four months. “Together with the three other European routes started in recent months, and others to come, the new launch supports our objective of establishing Delhi as a significant international hub,” said Air India CEO Campbell Wilson.  

Absolute Hotel Services, which manages more than 30 hotels in Asia, has announced a strategic move into the lease model of hotel management and operation, with the creation of a new entity called AHS Hotel Assets. “Our vision is to be proud owners of 25 properties in India within a period of 10 years, in addition to at least 25 under management contract model,” said Sameer Dharkar, managing director of Absolute Hotel Services India. AHS Hotel Assets will attain its first property with U Rivergate Karjat, a 6.5-acre 42-room property in the western state of Maharashtra. 

Film tourism in the north Indian union territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is set to take flight as its government has identified around 300 unexplored destinations for film shootings. “We are projecting 300 destinations for film shooting so that the production houses can choose any destination for their shooting. The government will facilitate them in all possible ways,” said Syed Abid Rasheed Shah, administrative secretary of J&K tourism department. Film shootings will be done with the government’s permission and regulatory requirements through a one-stop center. An online portal has also been developed to facilitate the production houses for their shooting in J&K. Last year, more than 200 films, web series, and serials were shot here. Capital city Srinagar is set to host the third G20 tourism working group meeting under India’s presidency between May 22 and 24

Mid-market Indian hospitality chain Lords Hotels and Resorts has opened two new properties in hill station Gangtok in the eastern state of Sikkim — New Orchid Lords Inn and Denzong Shangrila Lords Inn. In March, the hotel also opened Orchid Lords Eco Inn in Gangtok. The company is also set to open doors of the 36-room Riviera Lords Resort in Siliguri in the eastern state of West Bengal in October this year. In total, the brand now operates over 40 hotels across India. With a spread of four sub-brands — Lords Plaza, Lords Inn, Lords Eco Inn and Lords Resorts — the parent brand covers the entire spectrum of tourist segments.

India-based hotel chain Sarovar Hotels & Resorts has partnered with Singapore Airlines Group’s global rewards program KrisFlyer to bring a large network of its hotels into the fold of KrisFlyer’s exclusive benefits. As part of the alliance, KrisFlyer members will be able to avail of a 20 percent markdown on accommodation and food and beverage outlets across Sarovar group’s wide network of hotels in India. Members can also avail of the benefits by booking a hotel through the Singapore Airlines website or through the KrisFlyer application.

Indian hospitality brand Pride Hotels Group has announced the signing of Pride Resort Ambaji in the western state of Gujarat. “Ambaji is a popular pilgrimage destination and attracts thousands of tourists every year. The signing of our new property in the temple town is a proud milestone in our effort to provide the finest quality accommodation and hospitality services to our customers,” said Koustuv Mukherjee, associate vice president of the Gujarat region at Pride Hotels Group. The brand recently launched Pride Resort Rudraprayag in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand and had earlier launched a 75-room Pride Hotel Bhopal, its third property in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, with two others located in Indore and Jabalpur.

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