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Starwood inks pact to operate Le Meridien in Mahabaleshwar

The Economic Times:  May, 2015

Mumbai: US-based multinational hospitality chain Starwood Hotels and Resorts has signed a management contract for a five-star hotel in Mahabaleshwar to be branded as Le Meridien. The 122-room newly-built resort and spa has been developed by Pune-based real estate developer BramhaCorp at an investment of about Rs 150 crore.

"Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar is a significant addition to our portfolio and positions us strongly as a resort player," said Anuraag Bhatnagar, area general manager India at Starwood Hotels. "A popular leisure destination, Mahabaleshwar, we believe, has the opportunity to attract high-end leisure, MICE (meetings, incentives, conference and exhibitions) and wedding business from both Mumbai and Pune," he said. The resort is likely to be fully operational by next month.

"The Mahabaleshwar property is spread over 25 acres and we have invested around Rs 1-1.2 crore per room in building it," said Ajay Agrawal, director of BramhaCorp. The developer also owns other Starwood properties, including the Le Meridien, Pune, and is also building a Westin Hotel in Khandala that is expected to open in the next three years.

Agrawal said the company is also in talks with Starwood for building a property in Goa. "We are looking at a property in St Regis," he said. The resort in Mahabaleshwar will be the ninth Le Meridien branded property in India. Currently, the brand is present in Gurgaon, Delhi, Pune, Chennai, Coimbatore, Jaipur, Kochi and Bengaluru.

"The upscale segment in Mahabaleshwar is definitely underserved and people are looking for options. So the addition of a branded hotel increases the profile of the market and its visibility," said Abhijeet Umathe, associate director for hospitality and leisure at property consultancy Knight Frank India.