Dubai: India's luxury hotels chain, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts, plans to explore opportunities in the Middle East in the near future, according to the company's top executive.

The hotel group, which has a marketing alliance with Germany-based Kempinski Hotels for all its properties in India, currently has eight properties across the country, and it plans to increase those to 14 during the the next two years, according to Vivek Nair, vice-chairman and managing director.

"We are quite open to the idea of bringing the Leela hotel's brand name to the Middle East region after we finish opening 14 properties in India," he told Gulf News in a telephone interview.

Focus area: India

He added that so far the group has not considered bringing the brands to this region as there is "still a huge mismatch between demand and supply" in India's hotel sector, which remains a focus area for the group.

The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts comprise a collection of luxury hotels and resorts in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Gurgaon-Delhi NCR, Udaipur, Goa and Kovalam (Kerala).

And new hotels are expected to open soon in Chennai (this year), with plans to develop hotels in Agra, Lake Ashtamudi (Kerala) and Jaipur, Nair said.

"With the opening of our Chennai property in the next two months we will be an eight-hotel company. We will start construction of our 111-room Agra property — The Leela Palace — in March," Nair added.

Two market segments

The group's current hotels are targeted at two segments of the market. While rooms in the upscale brand,

The Leela Palace hotels, are priced at $450 (Dh1,652) per night and above, those at the Leela hotels are available for $350 and above, Nair added.

Further, with the opening of its Chennai property in March, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts' turnover will hit "Rs8.5 billion in the next financial year, ending March 31, 2013", Nair said.

The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts is owned and managed by Hotel Leelaventure Limited which was established in 1983 in Mumbai.

The company is part of The Leela Group whose portfolio includes hotel and resort properties, IT and business parks, as well as real estate development.

New brand to be unveiled

Dubai: The Leela Group will be launching a third category of hotels with a new brand name in the first half of this year, according to Vivek Nair, Vice Chairman and Managing Director, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts.

The new brand will be targeted at a different segment. "It will not be a mid-scale or economy brand, but a first class one targeted at Tier-II cities in India," Nair told Gulf News.

Also, Leela's new venture will not be in partnership with any other company, Nair added.

"It will be solely ours, with no co-branding. And we plan to target cities like Patna, Ahmedabad, Delhi and so on with this brand," he said.

Asked if the group would bring the new brand to the Middle East, Nair said: "Once we have it established in India, we could look to enter the Middle East market with it — after three years."

INDIA : 12m visitors targeted

Under the five-year plan (2012-2017) by the Indian Ministry of Tourism and Planning Commission, the target is to increase the number of tourists arriving in the country to 12 million by 2017, up from the current 6.8 million.

"There are currently 120,000 hotel rooms in India. And another 80,000 rooms are needed to be added in order to be able to achieve the 12 million tourist target," Vivek Nair said. He is also the Chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), India Initiative.