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Userís Guide To Mumbaiís Budget Hotels

Alan DíMello gives you the lowdown on what you can expect this season from Mumbaiís budget accommodation


Days Inn

The ‘mid-market’ classification implies hotels in the three-star range and below. It is the 123 hotels of this category spread out across the city where many of the approximately 50,000 daily visitors to the city will turn to. Though Mumbai is a price sensitive market, of late the hotelier, keeping his personal feelings aside, has become more attuned to the needs of the customer. All thanks to the depression in the hospitality industry.

Hotel Shalimar

Price
Following last year’s series of negative turns, hotel prices have not only remained the same, they have come down by a handsome 45-plus per cent. This means that a Rs 1,000 room is yours for Rs 550. The 45-plus per cent price dip however is an off-season phenomenon. As the 2002 winter season (November to February) promises to be better than the year before, managers are not offering such high cuts. The key to understanding the pricing strategy of the hotel is to understand its tariff or the printed rate. Hotels in the mid-market category usually work on a 40-50 per cent profit margin. Printed tariff is a hark back to the glory days when the take was high. Today, it is more appropriate to call it an ambitious rate, left there by the hopefuls. Unlike Western countries, Indian hotels never reduce their printed tariff, which implies that for a rate suited to your slender pockets, bargains or price negotiations are a must. Be prepared to settle for a mere 20 per cent discount if you are a Free Individual Traveller (FIT) or in a group of around three.

Corporates however have it easier. In light of their poor intakes for the past year, Mumbai’s mid-market hotels are willing to make rate adjustments of up to 35 per cent, depending on volumes of course. However, for this category, it is recommended to wait and watch, specifically, wait for the off-season and watch if the discounts increase.

Location
The price of your hotel room is very dependent on the location of your hotel. The city is spread out lengthwise - approximately 65 kms - and has the Arabian Sea as its Western border. The thumb rule is that mid-market hotels are the most expensive in south Mumbai, the traditional business district. This region contains the Marine Lines to Colaba areas. Then by the law of opposites, the northern reaches of Borivali and Thane are the cheapest.

Suburban hotels of Dadar, Bandra and Andheri that are sandwiched between the two extremities would occupy the middle bracket.

There are however a few exceptions to that rule. The emergence of Bandra-Kurla as the latest corporate zone has automatically pushed rooms rates up there. Likewise for regions around the city’s two airports, Andheri and Vile Parle.

Services And Rooms
Once location and the price category are fixed, services offered are the next thing to look out for. In Mumbai’s mid-market category, services range from just a notch above the basic to ‘luxurious’, again depending on location and price. There are exceptions to the rule. Hotels in high traffic areas like airports, the two business hubs and some suburbs are said to have the best rooms of the category.

Executive Enclave

A Rs 750 room anywhere in the city would get you 175 square feet with ‘basic’ amenities such as a clean, bug-free bed and an attached bathroom. Both twin beds and double beds exist, though twins are more common. All hotels have just a handful of suites which are either a larger room or the same-size room with an attached smaller one. Connecting rooms or walk-through rooms are more an exception than the norm. An extra folding bed per night should add Rs 250 to the bill.

Bathtubs are unheard of in the mid-market category. Bathrooms are kept basic, efficient and practical. Given the rising cost of electricity and water shortages of the city, hot and cold water cannot be guaranteed. However the more up-market mid-market hotels, especially those that see good foreign traffic, boast of a 24-hour hot water supply. Soaps and towels are provided. Air-conditioning, while being a must during Mumbai’s 12 sweltering months, is optional. Cost for this facility should be worked up at between 25-35 per cent. Televisions and telephones come included in the price of every room.

Food is generally a bone of contention at hotels of this category since it is comparatively expensive and without much variety. Most hotels have an in-house restaurant and room-service is standard. However the latter facility is not always round-the-clock.

Value Added Services
This is the exciting aspect of Mumbai’s mid-market hotel accommodation today. More ‘progressive’ hotels are realising that they are battling for a very small if not reduced pie, thanks to competition and the erstwhile Taliban. As a result, services once available at add-on prices are now cheaper if not included in the room price. These include services like laundry, business centres, local transport, air-conditioning and food. Food is the biggest gain by business travellers today. The American ‘Bed-N-Breakfast’ module has almost become standard. A decent sized Continental (eggs, cereal, bread, butter, jam, honey, juice and tea or coffee) or an Indian breakfast is what is usually on offer. To do one better, some hotels now offer the Modified American Plan (MAP) (two of three meals) and even the American Plan (AP) (all meals) as part of a value added room package.

Other value add-ons include gymnasium facilities (where available) and internet facilities.