Priya Paul, Chairperson, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels, speaks about her visionary move behind reconfiguring simple hotels to boutique hotels
With an aim to further expand into various geographies, Paul believes that design is the key differentiator for hotels, which is an integral part of their brand strategy
You being a pioneer in the boutique hotel concept, how has park grown over the years? Also what are your expansion plans?
The Park is a 50 year old brand and we started developing the contemporary boutique hotels in India. We are now building large hotels. Earlier when we had redone our brand architecture, we decided to have the Park Hotel in City Centers. Those are the hotels typically in Delhi, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Chennai and these big cities. And then we developed the Park collections which are usually 20 to 40 room boutique properties located in interesting unique destinations. So, we have two properties in Goa and both are 30 rooms boutique properties. It's an adult’s only property so it has its own unique proposition. We also have two heritage properties under this brand which are open now. One in Serampore in the North of Calcutta which was actually probably India's first hotel in the 1700’s when it was operated by the Danish East India Company. This property will be converted into a six room hotel which will open in the next 2-3 months. Second property is in Chettinad which would be a 21 room palace hotel. Currently, these are going through the whole conservation and restoration. Also in the Park, we got two management properties and we are opening one in Juhu. This will be our second property in Mumbai area. We are also opening one property later this year in Indore.
What was the strategy behind introducing ‘Zone’?
We created a new brand, ‘Zone’, because we knew our strengths was in food and beverage and we felt that we needed to create something unique for the Tier II & III. We launched it a couple of years ago and we now have 11 properties open under that brand in places such as Raipur, Coimbatore, Bengaluru etc. We also have many other developments in the pipeline. We just recently opened one at new town in Kolkata. We are opening another property in Jaipur where our focus is mainly on the banqueting and wedding market outside the city and it's like a palace property.
With design being your core focus, how important is technology for you? Also do you think technology will be the key differentiator in the future?
Technology is an enabler and it’s fantastic to have technology. Whether you are a traditional or a contemporary hotel, technology is really part of the whole experience and I don't think technology can only be a differentiator for short time. Hospitality is all about the human touch. So, that's how a good hotel and not so good hotel differentiates itself. We don't differentiate regardless of what they're using in the back end but regardless of how they look.
You started developing design based hotels in the 90s when the market was not even mature, what is the shift which you have seen since then to now?
We have started looking and designed to differentiate ourselves in the 90s and that's what we continue to do and we continue to do it well. This is what our customers value the Park or the Zone as they look forward to new experiences. I think the trend of looking at design and contemporising it has been done by a lot of the larger companies and some of them looked at it very late because they realised the whole world was changing. For any hotel company to be relevant you have to look at what is the trend around and what do your customers want and if customers are all this young millennial then whether you are a traditional hotel or a brand new company you have to address your market and have to create concepts that is far ahead. So for us, in the 90s, when we reconfigured our hotels we were doing something that was maybe ahead of the market. But it's still value and something that drives us even today.