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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | August 31, 2015

The major chains have properties in construction in major cities, with more on the way.

In the last decade, China was the main focus of expansion for many hotel chains, as they rushed to meet the growing swell of newly-minted Chinese travelers. Now, it's all eyes on India, as many global hotel companies — including Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Marriott International and Hilton Worldwide — are doubling down on growing their market share. While much of India's original hotel expansion had been primarily in the midscale segment, luxury branded hotels are now practically tripping over themselves in their rush to plant flags in key cities.

In April of this year, Marriott International opened its second property in Mumbai, the 585-room JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar, a stone's throw from Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Mumbai. Commenting on the launch, Arne Sorenson, Marriott International's president and chief executive officer, said, "India is a great, growing economy, and as that economy grows, its need for hotel rooms to grow, too." In fact, Marriott currently has 52 hotels in its India pipeline, across all of its brands, including the 238-room Ritz-Carlton Mumbai, scheduled to open in 2016

The JW Marriott Mumbai SaharMinneapolis-based Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group also has ambitious expansion plans for the country. The hotel company, which currently has 71 hotels in operation in India and another 41 under development there, recently signed three new contracts for full-service, upscale properties: the 150-room Radisson Blu Kochi Elamkulam in the city of Kochi, which is expected to open by year's end; the 119-room Radisson Gurgaon Sohna Road in Delhi, slated to open in 2018; and the 158-room Radisson Resort in Mahabaleshwar, due to open in the first quarter of 2019. "Our strategy is to strengthen our presence in state capitals, as well as emerging secondary and tertiary cities," said Raj Rana, chief executive officer, South Asia, for Carlson. He noted that the company was on track to have a portfolio of 170 properties in India by 2020.

Conrad Hotels & Resorts, the luxury brand of Hilton Worldwide that has a global portfolio of 23 properties in key gateway cities, also will be making its debut in India later this year, when the 310-room Conrad Pune opens in Maharashtra. The hotel will feature six dining outlets and 16,200 square feet of meeting and event space, including an 8,300-square-foot grand ballroom.

India is the fourth largest market for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide in terms of portfolio strength, and it is about to get even larger. The company soon will add its St. Regis and W brands in key cities. The 38-story, 386-room The St. Regis Noida, Delhi, which will feature more than 55,000 square feet of event space, will open in September 2015. It will be followed in 2017 by The St. Regis Noida, Delhi. While Starwood had announced back in 2011 that it would debut its W brand in Mumbai this year, that deal now seems to be off the table. The hotel is not listed in the company's online master list of properties opened and in development, around the world. However, it looks like W is still on track to make a showing in India in 2016, when the 105-room W Retreat & Spa Goa finally opens its doors. With the addition of two more of Starwood's brands to the Indian landscape, the company will be flying eight of its nine flags there by 2017. Surely, an Element can't be far off.