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16 - 30 June 2006  
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Trailblazing the boutique segment

Priya Paul
The Park Hotels

Claiming to be the first to introduce the concept of boutique hotels in India, The Park Hotels is keen on capturing the corporate traveller who looks for stylish accommodation. Priya Paul, its president, reveals the plan of action

The Park Hotels are known to successfully deploy their strengths of locations and facilities. Due to their downtown locations that provide easy access to key commercial districts, it has managed to become the hotel of choice for corporate and leisure travellers from India and abroad.

The game plan

Priya Paul, president, The Park Hotels, claims, "We were the first to introduce the concept of boutique hotels in the country. It was a challenging task but only after we had established the concept could we forward our business plans."

The term boutique hotel refers to hotels designed with the same attention to detail that one would find in a specialised store or boutique that offers customised services and products. "People check-in at our hotels because in addition to being fashionable, a boutique hotel offers them an 'experience' not a 'product'. Professional and personalised services are prominent features of these hotels that constantly surprise one with style, service and amenities," Paul explains.

The Park Hotels have been busy innovating. The group has introduced concepts like 'The Preferred', an exclusive membership to The Park Hotels and The Park Eclub which provides regular information on the various events happening in its hotels across the country. But Paul puts location, facilities and customer profile as the biggest strengths. "This is what helps the group to market its rooms to corporates. Moreover, all Apeejay hotels place a strong emphasis on contemporary design and there is style and luxury in everything from paintings, furniture and accessories," she adds.

On the horizon

The group recently inked an agreement for a 250-room Park hotel in Hyderabad indicating its commitment to push for rapid expansion in key locations. "We have a lot of experience in handlings bars and nightclubs," Paul says, adding that it has learnt from those that were successful and those that weren't. Those experiments will now provide a leg-up to another business the group wants to enter, that of standalone and chain restaurants outside the hotels.

In a bid to cater to a vast corporate customer market, the group is looking at an expansion cost of Rs 100 crore and is actively scouting for a property in Mumbai as well as second hotels in Bangalore, Delhi, Kochi and Rajasthan. Apart from this, it also has plans to launch a four-star hotel brand across the country. But Paul refuses to disclose any further information.

Also on the cards are formal restaurants as well as chains in mall outlets. While it has already launched one restaurant each in Delhi and Kolkata, the one in Mumbai will be operational only by this year end. Also under consideration is the Flury's tea-room concept.

The three-year, Rs 35-crore Terence Conran-driven renovations at The Park, Delhi will wind down next year, after a complete makeover that has given the city hotel an edgy look and feel that is different from most contemporary rooms in the capital. With a group turnover of Rs 135 crore (FY 04-05), the Park group is looking to grow through a slew of internal accruals and debts.

Paul believes…

Paul is also proud of the fact that the company was among the first to implement the Indian Supreme Court's guidelines on sexual harassment. Having achieved so much at a relatively young age, she is now keen on working towards influencing the Indian government's policy on taxation for hotel rooms, F&B and so on.

The approved luxury tax for room and F&B should be between 10 per cent and 12 per cent, be it state or central tax, she says, and the customer should not have to pay more than 12 per cent. But, in reality, luxury taxes are high in India and hoteliers feel that this is one of the major deterrents to inbound tourism.

Taxes also vary across states. "There needs to be a rationalisation of taxation in states as well as at the central level," she says adding, "I would also like to work towards creating a climate in which India is acknowledged as not just a 'monuments and sites' place, but as a viable tourism destination."

Coming back to the boutique concept, Paul believes that though relatively nascent in India at the moment, the concept will certainly see an extensive growth in the country. She says, "This is happening mainly because Indians today are looking for accommodation that is stylish. Another area of extensive growth will be in the mid-market segment, while business hotels will continue to flourish. Besides metro towns, non-metro cities and nodal towns too will see a considerable rise hotel development."

The brand
The Park Hotels, located in Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, New Delhi and Visakhapatnam, are a collection of premium boutique hotels in India managed by Apeejay Surrendra Hotels.


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