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Navi Mumbai, October 06, 2013: With several scenic getaways, business hubs, mushrooming low- and mid-range hotels and easy access, Navi Mumbai has over the past few years emerged as a preferred weekend destination for the citizens of India's commercial capital. 

Besides, several well-known hospitality brands too have added the satellite city to their list, hoping to woo these 'short-distance tourists'. New and emerging destinations have become part of the current and projected hot spots for business growth, making Navi Mumbai a regional priority for hotel operators. 

"Navi Mumbai has developed tremendously in the past five years and promotes tourism in large spheres as it displays a classic example of the process of urbanization in India,"said Kuoni India MD Rajeev Wagle. 

However, it is just not Mumbaikars who find the city across Thane creek an ideal escape pad. Foreign tourists too are increasingly exploring the planned city, reflecting the changing face of its nascent tourism sector. 

The influx of tourists, growing economic activity and numerous IT parks and corporate offices have fuelled the virtual boom in Navi Mumbai's hospitality sector. The city now boasts of over 1,000 branded rooms with a 62% occupancy rate in fiscal 2013, according to international hospitality tracker HVS. An additional 600 rooms (from budget to upscale properties) would be added over the next five years, HVS said. 

The Navi Market market is increasingly shifting from unbranded hotels to branded players. Its skyline is testimony to this shift, with the likes of Starwood (Four Points), Ramada, Royal Tulip, Accor (ibis) and Royal Orchid rolling out the red carpet to guests. The early entrants in Navi Mumbai were Yogi and Tunga hotels. The first large chain to have a presence in the city was The Park. While these properties came up around 2007, the hotel business in Navi Mumbai blossomed only between 2009-10. 

"Navi Mumbai in 2007 was a virgin destination waiting for a reputed midscale property. And the Tunga group of hotels took the privilege to fill in the gap," said Tunga hotels group director Rohan Hegde. 

With several hotels sprouting up, Navi Mumbai's business dynamics are changing. The average room rate has come down to Rs 5,000 from Rs 7,000 in the past. 

"I see the next five years as a settling down time where the demand catches up with supply," said Sanjeev Shekhar, regional director-West, Sarovar Hotels. The hospitality chain currently manages one property in Navi Mumbai —Majestic Court Sarovar Portico in Mahape —and plans to add rooms in Panvel, Kharghar and MIDC areas. 

Navi Mumbai attracts tourists through the year, with some popular destinations being Rain Tree Marg, Wonder Park, Pandavkada Falls, Utsav Chowk and Bhavani Temple. While no official figures are available, travel industry experts said that the region has witnessed a double digit percentage increase in travellers. 

"Like all big and new cities it is the newness of the place that is attracting tourists," said Karan Anand, head-relationships, Cox & Kings. 

Industry experts feel the future of the tourism and hospitality sector hinges on completion of various crucial projects. For instance, the exhibition centre in Vashi, the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link and the development of the new international airport in Panvel will strengthen and make Navi Mumbai even more accessible to tourists. -- timesofindia.indiatimes.com

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