The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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New look, new tag: Ashok poised for takeoff

The name matters and the look counts. Recognising the need for a look-and-feel turnaround of the Airport Ashok Hotel, the Delhi-headquartered MBD Group is busy drawing up plans for a makeover of its prized property on VIP Road.

The MBD Group — with interests in publishing and processed spices businesses — has roped in architect Hafiz Contractor to redesign the Hotel MBD Airport. The Indian Tourism Development Corporation-run hotel was put on the block as part of the government’s disinvestment drive.

The seal of Contractor — the man who gave shape to Pune’s Le Meridien and Mumbai’s Hyatt Regency and Grand Maratha — is expected to do a world of good to a hotel that has long lost the star-hospitality race in town. “Despite its location, the hotel has never achieved its potential. A new look may help it effect a turnaround,” observed a city hotelier.

The initial design and layout of the new-look hotel, drawn up by Contractor, has already been cleared. Though the refurbishment plan is being kept under wraps, sources close to Contractor indicate a phased makeover plan for the hotel with a budget of Rs 40 to 50 crore. The property was bought for Rs 22 crore.

“We are still in the midst of formalising the refurbishment plans. We will go aggressive on it after the October launch of our Radisson MBD Hotel in Noida,” said Sonica Malhotra, director of the MBD Group. “We have been effecting small changes since we took over the hotel. And we can promise that Calcuttans will get to see a different design and look once the hotel is fully renovated.”

Adding to the break from the past, the 156-room hotel by the airport should shortly be re-christened Radisson Plaza, making it the second Radisson hotel in the city after Ffort Radisson at Raichak. The MBD Group has already entered into an agreement with Carlson Hospitality for the use of the Radisson tag at its Noida property and plans to ink a similar deal for Airport Ashok. “We have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with them but the final agreement is yet to be signed,” said Malhotra.

Elaborating on the nature of the contract, Sajid Mehmood, Carlson Hotels head of sales and marketing, India and Nepal, said: “They are interested in using the Radisson Plaza brand name. We will ensure that they adhere to the standards set for Carlson Hotels worldwide, by conducting regular checks.”

Though no time-frame on the project is available from the VIP Road revamp project, sources indicate that it will take somewhere between 18 to 24 months. Interior designers will be flown in from abroad, while a hunt is on for a facility planner. Once the renovation is through, the designers will work towards giving the exterior a brand new look.

According to preliminary plans, the first phase of the makeover will include refurbishment of the existing rooms, designing a new lobby, building two banquet halls and re-doing all the food and beverage restaurants. The second phase may involve expansion of rooms and the development of a commercial complex at the hotel.

Though the hotel has seen increased occupancy and 20 to 30 per cent rise in revenue after changing hands, there are no plans for capacity expansion right now. “Our clients are not very keen on adding extra rooms right now, as revenue generation is higher from banquet hall functions. However, as work progresses, we hope to add another 100 rooms,” designers connected with Contractor said.

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