Signs Of Perfect Hotel

– Choosing between independent hotels, big chains, heritage hotels & homestays –

Travelling in India is fun but challenging. And finding the right hotel for your family is even more so. I have always been curious about the ‘right fit’ that each traveller seeks for their hotel stays. Is it the location, the luxury quotient and great food? Or is it an intimate atmosphere, efficient service, outdoor activities and places to explore? My conclusion is that, as with many other things in India, perhaps the search for the perfect family hotel also defies a logical decision-making process.

Travelling as adults is relatively straight forward. We are more flexible. Add a few kids into the equation and it is a very different story, especially when it’s a long, arduous journey.

As with so many things with today’s India, the tourism sector has seen rapid expansion over the past decade and there are now far more hotel options than previously. No longer are the only choices seriously high-end chain hotels (think the Oberois) grotty, over-priced mid-range hotels, or scruffy back-packer haunts. Added to these are ‘heritage hotels’, decent independent luxury hotels, and homestays.

But is it possible to define which of these would make an ideal hotel for families with children?

Of course, the location is pretty critical. That is the ease of getting there, as well as its location in relation to planned activities. A well-located hotel can save you many hours on India’s sometimes dreadful roads where pit stops are few and far between, thus resulting in less, “Are we there yet?” questions from the children.

Food – As Indian eating times, as well as the actual food, often differ to that of Western children, the whole issue of feeding the troops can be a major cause for heartburn for parents particularly with younger children. However, it is possible to find hotels for children that serve child-friendly food (even if from a limited menu) at a time when the kids want it. It has to be said that hotels that have specific kids menus and high chairs are harder to find.

Facilities – Lots of space to run around and be active, along with a pool is an obvious requirement for families. Proper babysitting facilities, which allow parents to enjoy their evening as much as their children enjoyed their day, are a serious bonus. A special kid’s camp or day care activities are still pretty rare.

Extra beds – This little add-on can drive up costs quite considerably, along with the annoyance factor of the extra bed(s) never being in the room when you arrive. However, there are hotels that charge a reasonable charge for extra beds and have rooms that can comfortably accommodate two extra beds. In my experience, it is worth asking and asking again how the system works in ‘that hotel’.

Safety & interconnecting rooms – With a larger family or with older children, some parents prefer to have their kids in an adjacent room, but directly accessible. However, outside of the larger chain hotels, very few independent hotels have interconnecting rooms. The tricky part here remains that of getting a hotel to commit to reserving them for you. A suite may not always be available or affordable.

Of course, this all begs the question, do such hotels exist that meet the above criteria and what type of hotel are you best considering? The independent hotels (boutique or otherwise) offer the most interesting opportunities to discover the real India. These are usually built and run by an individual or family, but are full service hotels. And these are many a time, your best options in less developed and remote destinations. However, they come with a question mark – are they as good as they say they are? Independent hotels that are well located, provide a feeling of safety, comfort and familiarity from the moment you arrive, that have extra beds in place and does not charge a fortune for them and will serve child friendly food at any given time. They do exist, and finding them can be delightful even if there are not enough of them. Developed tourist areas in Rajasthan, Kerala & Goa offer a better chance to find such hotels.

Some of them are

Flameback Lodges, Kollam – Private cottages, away from all activity and each room offers a fabulous view of the private lake. Flameback really is a home tucked away in the midst of the jungle.

Red Earth, Kabini – Soak in the serenity and the sounds of the jungle at the Red Earth Kabini. Situated close to the Kabini dam, across the Kapila River, the resort is surrounded on two sides by water. Cottages are spacious and space for the kids to run around.

Marari Beach – Far from the madding crowd, and distant from the world of trendy hotspots and beach raves, Marari’s lietmotifs are space and silence. A stretch of virgin white sandy beach with clear blue waters is amazing to play in.

As the independent family friendly hotels are relatively unknown, many travellers tend to choose the tried and tested option of larger chain hotels. Big chain hotels trump others in consistency, better trained staff and rewards. However, they do disappoint when it comes to delivering authentic experiences in India.

Notable exceptions here however would be hotels in Rajasthan. Like the:

Bungalow on the beach, Tranquebar – Built in the 17th century, the Bungalow offers a living history. It still retains the charming essence of the years gone before and of course the beaches. It offers its guests a chance to immerse themselves in the simple way of life.

Fragrant Nature, Kollam – Fragrant Nature Resort lies on the undiscovered shores of Lake Mala in southern Kerala near Kollam (Quilon). The resort’s cottages blend with the secluded beauty of the natural surroundings. The resort is also about the excellent food and the leisure and cultural activities.

Vivenda dos Palhacos, Goa – Vivenda dos PalhaƧos is a distinct home with a sprinkling of everything Goan. A modest Portuguese Mansion, built in 1929, greets visitors from the front. An older, Hindu house, made from thick rammed earth walls, is tucked behind. The aesthetically decorated rooms reflect warmth and welcome.

And how do the heritage hotels fare? They can range from the small and quirky to the majestic. Well run heritage hotels are fascinating, but probably not a great fit for families – think safety, more objects to break, narrow stairs etc. However these hotels offer a great opportunity to stay in & experience a “piece of history”. Outside of the popular Rajasthan heritage circuit, there are some lovely heritage hotels to be discovered in the south – in places like Tranquebar, Pondicherry, Fort Kochi, Madurai & Coimbatore.

Ajit Bhawan, Jodhpur – One of India’s first heritage hotels, it was built exclusively for the younger brother of the Maharaja in the serene desert of Rajasthan. Decades later, the Haveli has been opened as the perfect way to experience the legacy and get a taste of this royal luxury.

Royal Heritage Haveli, Jaipur – Built in the 18th century the Haveli opened its doors after 150 years as boutique hotel. Sprawled over 100,000 square feet, complete with rambling lawns, serene courtyards, plush interiors and stately living areas offering an escape from the mundane with exceptional hospitality perfected over generations.

Homestays, the Indian equivalent of a Bed & Breakfast have come a long way over the last few years – however the service offering varies widely. And the interpretation of a home stay can vary. Do the hosts stay in house? Or do they stay in a separate annexe or not at all? Is the food really home cooked and authentic or just general fare? The comforts and amenities vary widely as well. A coffee estate homestay can be a whole different experience to one in a city – in terms of space, service levels and facilities. Research and recommendations will play a bigger role in selecting an ideal homestay. Locating them on arrival can also be difficult as the typical Indian way of asking locals for directions may not produce results – they may not always be aware of smaller homestays. The biggest advantage with homestays, however, is when you find great hosts who are not only knowledgeable, but also are passionate about food and service. Homestays of course are also likely to be inexpensive in comparison to the others.

 

Guide To Fashionable Hotel

Boutique hotels, the term in vogue now, but what exactly it is, is it the small size or is it the facilities or the location? Well it is a combination of all these factors and many more. The concept of boutique hotel first surfaced in America in 1984, with Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager opening their Morgans Hotel in New York. It then slowly spread to other cities and countries.

There is no single accepted definition of the term, in simple and layman’s language, these properties are, “non traditional, unconventional, small, trendy, chic, life style hotels with high degree of personalisation in service and guest interaction and offering a unique experience.”

Boutique hotels perform the same functions as the regular hotels or offer the same product to its residents, guests, customers and patrons yet they are quite different from the regular hotels in many ways. These differentiations make them unique and they are able to extract equal if not higher, per room revenue.

Location plays the most important role for hotels success. Boutique hotels require a metro city, down town location for maximising returns. Resorts boutique hotels also require prime location. This fact explains the concentration of boutique hotels in New York’s Manhattan area or in central London area.

A hotel could be called as a boutique product if it has 3 to 150 rooms. However, some in the industry feel that the size of the property should not be over 100 rooms, but with the entry of large international chains in this segment, the size factor has been diluted largely. Now we see chains like the Hilton, Starwood, Kempinski, Four Seasons, Le Meridian, to name a few who offer boutique products. This is in addition to the regional chains like the Amanresorts, Oberoi, Dusit, and Banyan Tree and in India the Ista and Park group.

The success of a boutique product depends largely on the quality of experience it offers to the guests. This experience is the resultant feel of all your senses, i.e., what you see, what you hear, what you taste and what you feel. More explicitly, it must evoke the “Wow” factor right from the first point of exposure. This aspect of development of a boutique property is perhaps the most difficult one. It entails creating a mood, an environment and an ambiance, which will add uniqueness to the experience.

The designer, the executer and the operator have to work together to define every element of the product, ensuring that it adds to the exclusivity of the property and enhances the experience. While working on the experience enhancement objective, the team can not loose sight of other essential elements of the product. It has to be ensured that the final product is “chic” and “trendy” exuding a high life style.

Decor plays a very important role in creating ambiance and adds to the evolution of style of product and service. The hotel must become the preferred happening place in the city and the location for the local and visiting celebrities, a place where people want “to be seen around” and “to be seen with”, with local media eager to cover each celebrity visit. Visiting the hotel must be seen as a bonus as it offers an opportunity to be seen in the local print media.

Boutique hotels are very trendy with state of the art technology. City boutique hotels boost of high speed Wi-fi internet connectivity, dimmer switches in all areas including guest rooms, multi-plug sockets, LCD or Plasma flat screen TV with remote control, telephones with voice mail, message display and follow-me system and DVD players in rooms. The bathrooms are no less in furnishing, fittings and technology. Most bathrooms have bathtubs cum Jacuzzi as also rain shower, frost-free mirrors and multi-plug shaver socket adjustable to different voltages.

While all these technological features and gadgetry is installed, it is also ensured that every thing is user friendly and does not offend the user, the guest. There is no end to imagination, the seed for innovation and evolution. Development of boutique product is directly influenced by creative and practical imagination or visualisation by its creators.

A boutique product is not complete with out providing its guests stylish entertainment. The entertainment in these hotels includes the pleasing experience in its restaurants and bars. The atmosphere in the restaurants is created in a way that the visit is mentally and physically entertaining and pleasing. The atmosphere, food, and style tickle not only the taste buds but also stir the sight, the smell and the feel scenes. The overall result is enthralling and exotic. While this type of experience could also be enjoyed in the restaurants of a regular hotel or a stand alone restaurant, what make it so special in a boutique hotel is the fact that here it is the continuity of an experience flowing from the rest of the product. In addition to the restaurants, most of the boutique hotels have a chic lounge serving choicest of beverages with live music and a club atmosphere. The hotel becomes an entertaining fun place.

The food in boutique hotel is trendy too; most hotels have very innovative menus. The term fusion cuisine is synonymous with boutique hotels. The selection of crockery and table ware is hip with fine bone china to reflect quality. Table setting complementing the decor, interiors and the mood. Service friendly and inviting. Since boutique hotels normally have one or two restaurants only, they rely on tabletops, table setting and lighting to create different moods at different times of the day, changing the experience at the three meal times.

The soul of the property comes from its people. People – who on one hand are its residents, guests, visitors and patrons and on the other its employees and managers who play such an important role of fueling the hotel with brilliance and bringing it to life. The staffs is professional, well trained, well groomed with positive attitude towards hotel guests, able to anticipate the needs and wants of the guests and never allow these to become demands. Their attitude towards the guests is very positive, friendly and courteous.

Boutique hotels today are just 26 years old. They were born in 1984. In this short period of existence, they have made a mark in the industry and carved out their own niche. Their growth has been phenomenal, to the extent that Google lists boutique hotels under various segments based on their size, location and user groups. These include luxury boutique hotels, chic boutique hotels, designer boutique hotels, spa boutique hotels, romantic boutique hotels, beach boutique hotels and small boutique hotels. In countries like India there is yet another segment that has become extremely popular with the leisure traveller – The Heritage Boutique Hotels. These are old forts, palaces and havelis converted into boutique hotels. These hotels offer a product with colonial architecture, ultra modern and chic facilities and services and a unique and unmatched nostalgic experience of luxury at its best.

The future of boutique product is very promising as an investment and business proposition. Travelling public today knows what they want and how to get it. They are willing to pay the right price for the right product. There was a time when the marketing mantra used to be ‘sell what you have,” today however it has changed; you to “produce or make what sells”. The sooner we understand this changing demand dynamics; the better will be our chance to compete. With the opening of Armani hotel in Dubai recently, it is only a matter of time that we will be stepping into boutique hotels with life style product brands like the Cartier, The Mont Blanc, The Ferrari to name a few.

You have permission to publish this article without any change what so ever electronically, in print, in your e-book, or on your web site, free of charge, as long as the author by-lines are included.