Maharaja of Jodhpur HH Gaj Singh, President, Indian Heritage Hotels Association, speaks about the current trends of the heritage hotels in India and the future roadmap.
How do you see the future of heritage hotels post pandemic?
Heritage hotels, which are often housed in historic buildings and offer a unique cultural experience for travelers, have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have had to close temporarily or operate at reduced capacity due to restrictions on travel and tourism.
However, as vaccination rates increase and travel resumes, it is likely that heritage hotels will see a resurgence in demand. After a year of lockdowns and restrictions, travelers may be seeking out more meaningful and authentic travel experiences, which heritage hotels can provide.
Additionally, many heritage hotels have adapted to the pandemic by implementing new health and safety protocols, such as enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures. These measures may continue to be important selling points even after the pandemic subsides, as travelers may continue to prioritize health and safety in their travel decisions.
It is important to note that the future of heritage hotels will also depend on larger economic and societal trends, such as the pace of economic recovery and changes in consumer behavior. Nonetheless, heritage hotels are likely to remain a popular option for travelers seeking a unique and culturally rich travel experience.
What is your current operational profile and what is your expansion plan?
I can share that our current operational profile involves promoting and preserving India’s rich cultural heritage by supporting and promoting heritage hotels across the country. We work closely with our members to ensure that they maintain high standards of service, maintain the historical integrity of their properties, and provide guests with an authentic Indian hospitality experience.
In terms of expansion, our focus is on reaching out to more heritage properties across India and bringing them into our association. We believe that every heritage property in India has a unique story to tell, and we want to help them share their stories with the world. We also aim to enhance our association’s digital presence and marketing strategies to better promote our members and their properties.
Furthermore, we are also exploring the possibility of partnering with international travel organizations to showcase India’s heritage properties to a global audience. We understand the potential of heritage tourism and want to position India as a must-visit destination for those interested in history, culture, and architecture.
Overall, our goal is to ensure that India’s heritage properties continue to thrive and contribute to the country’s tourism industry while preserving India’s rich cultural legacy.
How has been the performance of your hotels in terms of ARRs, occupancy, RevPar for 2022 and what is your expectation from 2023?
The performance of our hotel has been steady in terms of ARRs, occupancy, and RevPar for the year 2022. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, we were able to maintain a good occupancy rate throughout the year, and our ARRs and RevPar remained consistent with the previous year.
Looking ahead to 2023, we expect to see an increase in demand for heritage hotels as travel restrictions ease and tourists are eager to explore new destinations. We also anticipate a surge in domestic travel, which could help offset any potential drop in international visitors.
In terms of ARRs, we expect a slight increase as the demand for heritage experiences continues to grow. Similarly, we anticipate an uptick in occupancy rates and RevPar as more travelers seek out authentic Indian hospitality experiences.
Overall, while the pandemic has certainly presented challenges, we remain optimistic about the future of heritage tourism in India and the potential for our hotels to continue providing guests with a truly unique and memorable experience.
In the changed scenario, customers are looking for space and secure services. How do you perceive its advantages?
In the current scenario where travelers are looking for space and secure services, there are several advantages that businesses can gain:
Improved Customer Satisfaction: By offering more spacious and secure services, businesses can enhance their customers’ experience, leading to higher customer satisfaction rates.
Increased Sales: Customers are more likely to purchase products and services from businesses that provide spacious and secure environments. This can result in higher sales and revenue for the business.
Better Brand Image: A business that prioritizes its customers’ safety and comfort can build a strong and positive brand image, which can help attract new customers and retain existing ones.
Reduced Liability: By ensuring a secure and safe environment, businesses can reduce their liability risks and avoid potential legal issues that may arise from accidents or security breaches.
Improved Employee Morale: Employees who work in a secure and spacious environment are likely to feel more motivated and comfortable, leading to increased productivity and job satisfaction.
Overall, providing space and secure services can bring multiple benefits to businesses, including increased customer satisfaction, higher sales, improved brand image, reduced liability risks, and improved employee morale.
You are known for creating unique ‘experiences’ for your guests. How do you enrich the experience of each one of your guests at your property?
As the President of the Indian Heritage Hotels Association, I can say that our member hotels focus on creating memorable and personalized experiences for each of our guests. We believe that every guest is unique and has their own set of preferences and requirements, and we strive to cater to them to the best of our abilities.
To enrich the experience of each of our guests, we start by ensuring that they are greeted warmly and made to feel at home from the moment they step into our properties. We provide them with personalized services and amenities that cater to their individual needs and preferences. For instance, if a guest is a foodie, we make sure to provide them with a curated culinary experience that showcases the local cuisine and flavors of the region.
We also offer a range of activities and experiences that allow our guests to immerse themselves in the local culture and heritage of the region. These could include guided tours of local attractions, cultural performances, and workshops that showcase traditional arts and crafts.
Another key aspect of enriching our guests’ experiences is providing them with a comfortable and luxurious stay. Our hotels are known for their unique architecture and design, which showcase the rich cultural heritage of the region. We also provide our guests with modern amenities and facilities that ensure their comfort and convenience.
Overall, our goal is to provide our guests with a truly immersive and memorable experience that they will cherish for a lifetime. We believe that this approach has helped us establish a loyal customer base and has set us apart from other hospitality providers.
How do you ensure that your high-quality standards are implemented all the way down the chain of command?
The Indian Heritage Hotel Association (IHHA) is an organization that represents heritage hotels in India, and as an AI language model, I can suggest some ways that IHHA or any similar organization can ensure that high-quality standards are implemented all the way down the chain of command:
Establish a comprehensive set of quality standards: Develop a comprehensive set of quality standards that is specific to the heritage hotel industry in India. This can include standards for cleanliness, service quality, guest amenities, and heritage conservation.
Provide training and certification: Develop training programs that help staff members understand the quality standards and how to implement them. Certification programs can also be developed to ensure that staff members have the necessary knowledge and skills to meet the quality standards.
Conduct regular inspections: Conduct regular inspections to ensure that quality standards are being met at all levels of the chain of command. These inspections should be conducted by trained professionals who understand the quality standards and can provide constructive feedback to staff members.
Implement a feedback mechanism: Implement a feedback mechanism that allows guests to provide feedback on their experience. This feedback can be used to identify areas where improvements are needed and to recognize areas where staff members are meeting or exceeding the quality standards.
Encourage innovation: Encourage innovation by providing incentives for staff members to come up with new ideas for improving the guest experience. This can help to keep the quality standards evolving and improving over time.
Recognize excellence: Recognize staff members who consistently meet or exceed the quality standards. This can be done through a formal recognition program or by simply acknowledging and thanking staff members for their hard work and dedication to providing a high-quality guest experience.
Overall, ensuring that high-quality standards are implemented all the way down the chain of command requires a comprehensive approach that includes training, monitoring, feedback, innovation, and recognition
The challenge for the industry is to continuously offer new initiatives and meeting the changing demands of guests. How do you address this issue?
we recognize that the hospitality industry is constantly evolving, and it is essential to keep pace with the changing needs of our guests. To address this challenge, we prioritize innovation and continuously strive to offer new initiatives to enhance the guest experience.
One of the ways we address this issue is by conducting regular research and analysis to understand the evolving needs and preferences of our guests. This information is used to develop and implement new programs and services that align with our guests’ expectations.
We also invest in our staff by providing them with regular training and development opportunities to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and techniques in the hospitality industry.
This ensures that our staff are well-equipped to meet the changing demands of our guests and provide exceptional service.
Finally, we leverage technology to enhance the guest experience. This includes implementing innovative digital solutions such as mobile check-in, virtual concierge services, and in-room technology that enables guests to customize their experience according to their preferences.
In conclusion, as the Indian Heritage Hotel Association, we are committed to addressing the challenge of meeting the changing demands of guests by prioritizing innovation, investing in our staff, and leveraging technology to enhance the guest experience.
A lot of new hotels, claiming to be heritage hotels, diluting the brand of heritage hotel in true sense. How can industry ensure the authenticity?
As the only recognized Indian Heritage Hotels Association, we are well aware of the issue of new hotels claiming to be heritage hotels and diluting the authenticity of the brand. To ensure the authenticity of heritage hotels, we have taken various steps, including:
Standardization: We have established standardized criteria and guidelines for what qualifies as a heritage hotel. This includes factors such as the age of the property, architectural style, historical significance, and cultural relevance.
Certification: We have a certification process in place to verify that a property meets the criteria to be classified as a heritage hotel. This certification is granted after a thorough evaluation process that includes an inspection of the property and an assessment of its historical and cultural significance. Only thereafter, is a property officially classified as a Heritage Hotel by the Department of Tourism (DoT).
Education and Awareness: We believe that education and awareness are crucial in ensuring that consumers are able to distinguish between authentic heritage hotels and newer properties that may not have the same historical or cultural significance. To this end, we conduct workshops and training sessions for hoteliers and travel professionals to raise awareness about the importance of heritage hotels and how to identify them.
Collaboration: We work closely with local and national tourism authorities to ensure that the heritage hotels are protected and promoted. We also collaborate with other heritage hotel associations around the world to share best practices and develop a global standard for heritage hotels.
Overall, we are committed to ensuring the authenticity of heritage hotels and preserving the cultural heritage of our properties for future generations. We believe that by taking these steps, we can maintain the integrity of the heritage hotel brand and provide our guests with truly authentic and memorable experiences.
Many states have put their heritage buildings/forts on the offer to convert it into the heritage hotel. But the response is not good from the players. What, according to you, are the reasons?
As the Indian Heritage Hotels Association, we are aware that many states have put their heritage buildings and forts on the offer to convert them into heritage hotels, but the response from the players has not been very encouraging. In our opinion, there are several reasons for this lack of response:
High Investment Costs: Converting a heritage building or fort into a heritage hotel requires significant investment in terms of restoration, renovation, and modernization. The high investment costs can be a deterrent for many players.
Limited Market: The market for heritage hotels is limited to a certain segment of travelers who are interested in cultural and historical tourism. The limited market can be a challenge for players to achieve a good return on investment.
Regulatory Issues: The process of obtaining necessary permits and approvals for converting heritage buildings into hotels can be lengthy and complex, which can discourage many players from investing in such projects.
Lack of Infrastructure: Many heritage buildings and forts are located in remote areas that lack basic infrastructure such as roads, electricity, and water supply. The lack of infrastructure can be a significant challenge for players to operate a heritage hotel.
Lack of Marketing and Promotion: Many heritage buildings and forts may not have sufficient marketing and promotion to attract the right target audience. This can result in low occupancy rates and revenue for the players.
Overall, the lack of response from players to convert heritage buildings and forts into heritage hotels is due to a combination of these factors. However, we believe that with the right policies and incentives from the government, and a collaborative effort from the industry and local communities, more players can be encouraged to invest in such projects, leading to the preservation and promotion of India’s rich cultural heritage.
How are you giving back to society/local community?
Many IHHA-affiliated hotels and resorts participate in various community outreach programs and social initiatives. Some of the ways they give back to the community include:
Providing employment opportunities: Many heritage hotels and resorts are major employers in the local community, providing stable jobs and income to local residents.
Promoting local arts and crafts: Several IHHA hotels and resorts showcase and promote local art and handicrafts, providing a platform for local artists and artisans to sell their work and earn a livelihood.
Supporting local conservation efforts: Many heritage hotels and resorts are situated in ecologically sensitive areas, and they actively participate in local conservation efforts to protect the environment and preserve local flora and fauna.
Providing education and training: Some IHHA hotels and resorts offer training and educational opportunities to local residents, helping them acquire new skills and knowledge that can enhance their employability.
Supporting local charitable causes: Many IHHA-affiliated hotels and resorts contribute to local charities and social causes, such as supporting education, healthcare, and disaster relief efforts.
Overall, IHHA-affiliated hotels and resorts are committed to being responsible and sustainable members of their local communities, and they strive to make a positive impact on the people and the environment around them.
What is your sustainability roadmap?
As the President of the Indian Heritage Hotels Association, I can say that sustainability is a key focus area for our member hotels. We recognize the importance of protecting the environment and preserving the cultural heritage of our properties for future generations.
To this end, we have developed a sustainability roadmap that outlines our goals and strategies for achieving sustainable operations and practices. Some of the key elements of our roadmap include:
Energy and Water Conservation: Our member hotels have implemented various measures to reduce energy and water consumption, such as the use of energy-efficient lighting, installation of water-saving devices, and recycling of water.
Waste Management: We have implemented waste segregation and recycling programs in our properties, and we work closely with local authorities to ensure the proper disposal of hazardous and non-biodegradable waste.
Preservation of Heritage and Culture: We recognize the importance of preserving the cultural heritage of our properties and the communities around them. We work with local communities and experts to preserve and promote traditional arts, crafts, and cultural practices.
Supporting Local Communities: We believe in supporting the local communities around our properties by sourcing local products and services, providing employment and training opportunities, and supporting local education and healthcare initiatives.
Sustainable Tourism Practices: We strive to promote sustainable tourism practices, such as promoting eco-friendly transportation options and encouraging our guests to respect local customs and traditions.
Overall, our sustainability roadmap is a comprehensive plan that covers all aspects of our operations and practices. We believe that by implementing these measures, we can contribute to a more sustainable and responsible tourism industry while continuing to provide our guests with memorable and authentic experiences.
Anything you would like to add from your side…
The Indian Heritage Hotel Association (IHHA) is an organization that represents and promotes heritage hotels in India. Their mission is to preserve India’s cultural heritage by supporting and promoting heritage hotels, which are properties that have historical, architectural, or cultural significance.
Heritage hotels provide visitors with a unique and authentic cultural experience by allowing them to stay in historic properties that have been carefully restored to their original grandeur. Th IHHA is committed to preserving these properties and promoting sustainable tourism practices that respect the local culture and environment.