Global Hotel Alliance celebrates 20 years, sets sights on expansion in India

UAE-headquartered Global Hotel Alliance (GHA), the world’s largest alliance of independent hotel brands, which this year marks its 20th anniversary, highlighted the Indian market’s unbridled tourism potential recently.

GHA’s stellar performance in India is indicative of the industry’s sharp upward trajectory, with revenue generated by its 13 Indian hotels across three brands (Leela, Araiya and Oaks) hitting a record USD68 million revenues in 2023, up from a previous pre-pandemic (2019) high of USD65 million, while the number of GHA DISCOVERY members residing in India also reached new heights, topping more than half a million (540,000), up 21% on 2022. Indian members also spent more at GHA hotels in India and around the world than ever before, generating a record USD60 million in hotel revenues, up 46% year-on-year and surpassing the 2019 total of USD41 million.

Domestic travel in India accounted for half of travel revenue in 2023 (51%), while international travel picked up strongly and surpassed the 2019 ratio, with the US, UK and Australia the top source markets for inbound travel. Meanwhile, preferredoutbound destinations for India’s GHA DISCOVERY members were Singapore, Thailand and the UAE respectively.

“With India one of the world’s fastest-growing domestic and international travel markets, as reflected in our 2023 results, the first Skift India Summit presented a timely opportunity for GHA and our long-term partner of 17 years, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts, to highlight the untold potential for expansion, from elevating GHA DISCOVERY membership among residents to boosting awareness of our growing India portfolio – this year increasing to 14 hotels across four brands – to our 26 million global loyalty members,”said GHA CEO Chris Hartley.

“Our research, delving into the travel preferences and behaviours of our members, reveals some insightful inbound and outbound travel patternsand shines a spotlight on opportunities to educate GHA DISCOVERY members in India about the unique benefits of our loyalty programme, including ways in which they can earn and redeem our rewards currency, DISCOVERY Dollars (D$). With D$1 equal to US$1, we are effectively puttingcash into travellers’ pockets, encouraging them to spend at our hotels in India and with other global brands.”

Aside from the revenue gains registered for the Indian market in 2023, GHA research also found:

With soon to be 14 hotels in major destinations across the country, The Leela is the most recognisable brand for GHA DISCOVERYmembers in India.
Indian members are planning on average four leisure trips, three staycations and five business trips in 2024, with the top threedestinations being Europe, Thailand and Maldives.
50% of members in India have the desire to explore new destinations in 2024, prioritising foodie and adventure travel.
Their top sources of leisure travel inspiration come from friends and family recommendations, online or social ads, and travel magazines.

“These Indian market trends, coupled with growing appetite to visit India from GHA DISCOVERY’s 26-million-strong global membership, present immense opportunities for our portfolio of hotels, which not only offer luxury accommodation, but the destination experiences that today’s travellers seek, from adventure, to cuisine, to nature,” said Anuraag Bhatnagar, Chief Executive Officer, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts.

India’s hotel sector is booming, poised to contribute USD1.5 trillion to the country’s economy by 2047, up from USD65 billion in 2022, according to Hotel Association of India forecasts. GHA plans to expand its hotel portfolio in India and is in discussions with several hotel brands to provide a broader range of destinations and segments for GHA DISCOVERY members. One new addition coming later this year is Anantara Hotels & Resortsopening its first property in North India later this year, the Anantara Jaipur Hotel.

This year marks GHA’s 20th anniversary, and over the years, the alliance has grown exponentially to now represent a collection of 40 brands with more than 800 hotels in 100 countries. The 26 million members of its GHA DISCOVERY loyalty programme, first launched in 2010, generated USD2.3 billion in revenue and 10 million room nights in 2023. Recent milestones include the reimagination of GHA DISCOVERY, including the launch of DISCOVERY Dollars (D$), in 2021; NH Hotel Group joining the alliance in 2022, enhancing the GHA offering with 350 properties in 30 countries across three brands; the 2023 launch of Green Collection, empowering members to make conscious travel choices. GHA has diversified its loyalty offering with two new partnerships too, joining forces with ultra-luxury cruise line Regent Seven Seas Cruises in 2023 to reward cruisers with D$ and status, and vacation rental platform Plum Guide in March this year, rewarding members who book one of 38,000 remarkable vacation homes.

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