PC owners to build new hotel chain along CPEC route

LAHORE: The Hashoo Group, Pakistan’s biggest hospitality brand, is looking to launch another hotel chain called ‘Hotel Two’ across Pakistan to upgrade the group’s profile, said a high-ranking official.

The group currently owns and operates several hotel chains across Pakistan including its flagship Pearl Continental (PC). ‘Hotel One’ comes under its parent company Pakistan Services Limited while the group is also operating Marriot hotels in Pakistan.

Since the group has already covered all first-tier cities through its five-star hotel chains, the management is now focusing on second-tier cities and other far-flung areas, which have tourist attractions like the northern areas including Gilgit, Hunza and Skardu.

Its single-star chain, Hotel One, has almost 40 sites with most of them being in second-tier cities.

However for Hotel Two, the management is looking for properties along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) route as it believes that the route will bring significant business for them.

“We have bought some properties along CPEC route in Punjab and are also looking at expanding our range to other provinces,” said PC General Manager Zulfiqar Ahmed Malik in an interview with The Express Tribune.

He said despite political uncertainty and a still less-than-ideal security situation, the company would keep on investing in existing and new ventures.

“We have started businesses in those places where investors were hesitant to go initially like Gwadar, Muzaffarabad, etc. However, we continue to invest and are about to open hotels in Malam Jabba, Multan, Mirpur and Hyderabad,” he said.

The Hotel One brand would also continue to expand wherever feasible along with Hotel Two which would provide some added features and fall in the two-star category, Malik added.

Interestingly for northern areas, the management has some other plans as far as typical construction is concerned, which takes years.

“In some areas of the north, we will not go for typical construction and may bring in fabricated stuff from China and pull that together which will help us in opening the property rapidly,” Malik said.

The group has raised Rs9 billion recently through Sukuk (Islamic bonds). Malik said the money raised would be used to expand the Hashoo Group’s hotel base in all categories throughout Pakistan.

“We have raised Rs9 billion recently which will be spent on introducing the new hotel category and expansion and renovation of current sites,” he said, adding that successful fund-raising showed the trust placed by banks and financial institutions in the group’s business practices.

Talking about the overall hospitality sector of Pakistan, Malik said the law and order situation had improved significantly. “However, promoting tourism through increased infrastructure development is necessary for the industry to flourish,” he stated.

“Hospitality runs on tourism. Egypt is earning billions of dollars annually only through its pyramids. In Pakistan, we have a huge variety of tourist sites ranging from religious sites to coastal areas, adventure tourism in the Himalayas to desert safaris. It is only a matter of promoting the country’s good image around the globe by the government,” Malik said.

Talking about challenges, he said developing human resources in the sector was the biggest challenge that they were facing.

“There is no government or other private hospitality training institute in Pakistan which can help in training the staff. What we have achieved today is due to our own efforts and training,” Malik said.