By Amit Roy
BRITISH-ASIAN businessman Surinder Arora, chairman and founder of the Arora property group, has officially inaugurated his latest hotel – the Hilton Garden Inn at Heathrow.
“This is our 16th hotel,” he said.
At a celebration party on the 14th floor of the hotel, he told Eastern Eye: “This is the first and only hotel in the central area of Heathrow airport, just a short walk from Terminals 2 and 3.
“It is the tallest building inside the airport after the control tower.
Last Monday (14) was the official launch, although the hotel “has been up and running for the last two months”, Arora said.
“We built it in fewer than two years. Everyone loves it, how quiet the building is acoustically and user friendly. It’s been a huge success. Out of all our hotel openings from 1999 until now, this has been our best opening.”
His offices are on the other side of Heathrow opposite the Hilton Garden Inn. Arora also pointed out the site of the proposed third runway at Heathrow, where the Arora group is challenging the monopoly hitherto exercised by Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) over all developments inside the airport complex.
Arora, who confirmed he was “one of the largest landowners in the area”, said, “The third runway would go there – you see those green fields in the northern end of the airfield?”
Asked about prime minister Boris Johnson’s declared opposition to Heathrow’s expansion, he replied that the prime minister “is now leader of the nation and has bigger fish to fry”.
He added: “If you look at the latest aircraft coming in like the 350 Airbus, like the Dreamliner, they are using 30 to 35 per cent less fuel than the older aircraft. And they are a lot quieter.”
According to Arora, HAL’s monopoly has pushed up prices. “Schiphol in Amsterdam has six runways, yet Schiphol’s landing charges are half of Heathrow’s. Heathrow is three times more than Dublin airport.”
He drew attention to another of his hotels in the distance. “That big building is my Renaissance Hotel. As the crow flies, it is only 800 to 900 yards. What do you think I pay to the water authority to have water there? I pay £1.60 per unit. What do you think I pay here at the Hilton Garden Inn?
“This is all inside the airport, so Heathrow obviously control everything inside the airport because they control the infrastructure. So 20 per cent more, 50 per cent more, 100 per cent more? Have a guess. They are charging me six times more. Here, it is over £10 per unit.
“Slowly the outside world and the airlines are beginning to understand why Heathrow is the most expensive airport in the world. I have always said for the UK to remain ahead of Schiphol, ahead of Dubai, ahead of Paris, ahead of Madrid, we need more capacity. If we don’t do it those other airports will keep expanding. And we will keep losing out, not just to holidaymakers, but to businesses. We need connectivity.”
Arora said his new hotel was environmentally friendly. “If you are flying in and out of Terminal 2 or 3 and you have to stay a night at the airport, you don’t have to catch a taxi or a shuttle bus. Here you can just walk in from Terminal 2 or 3 to the hotel so it will reduce some traffic.”
He explained that although his family owned the hotel, it was called the Hilton Garden Inn. “Hilton are our franchise partners, like Sofitel, Marriot, Intercontinental. People can relate to that. So we use their brand, their name, and we are connected to their worldwide reservation system.”
Arora added: “As we sit in the Sky Bar, the views are the most incredible you can see at any airport location in the world. You have views of both the runways, the taxiways, the terminals – it is fantastic. It’s a 369-bedroom with two bars and a restaurant and it works amazingly well.”
He revealed his expansion plans. “The next one will be the Royal Windsor Park. There are a couple of hotels in the pipeline after that. (We are) always looking at opportunities. We will be building a Sofitel hotel at Dublin airport, the first project we are doing outside the UK. Because of Brexit and other things, this is an opportunity of doing something closer to home but not actually in the UK.”
Guests at the launch included the chairman of the Edwardian group, Jasminder Singh. His new flagship hotel, the Londoner, in Leicester Square – the 14th in his portfolio – is due to open next year. He and Arora are not only friends, but also related by marriage.
Arora, who has two daughters, Sapna and Sonia, and a son, Sanjay, said, “Sonia is married to Jasminder’s son.” He was referring to Inderneel Singh, who is managing director of the Edwardian’s May Fair Hotel (where Eastern Eye has held its ACTA ceremony for the past three years).