Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Boutique Hotels

 I am often asked what a boutique hotel is. I work for a boutique hotel brand, The Apeejay Surrendra Park hotels Ltd. That operates a collection of luxury boutique hotels by the brand name, The Park  and also manage The Zone by the Park hotels. Its a question that comes from the students or the new joinees during their induction program. Thought of putting all the information that I generally share with them on this blog and next time I need people to read up about Boutique hotels I shall refer them here. A bit of personal interest but I am sure everyone will like visiting this in case they need to tell people or guests about these hotels. Here, I am visualizing the sales or the front office teams. Also students of Hospitality will find it useful. Hope you find it informative if not interesting! 
Boutique - according to the dictionery definition
1 a : a small fashionable specialty shop or business
1 b : a small shop within a large department store
2 : a small company that offers highly specialized services (an independent investment boutique)
Boutique hotels are described as personalized, customized, unique, and individual. The most important defining features of boutique hotels are cultural, historical, authenticity; the boutique hotel is not part of a chain and that it provides interesting, unique services. Other important defining descriptors of boutique hotels include, “social spaces such as living rooms, libraries with social rooms” and “many, high-quality in‐room features””. - The Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association.
A boutique hotel is an intimate, design-led property which distinguishes itself from larger chain hotels by providing guests with ultra-personalized service and accommodation. In fact the properties are so different that even if the company owns more than hotel, they don't call themselves a chain but a collection of luxury boutique hotels. There are unique set of characteristics that define a boutique hotel.
There are two branches of Boutique Hotels: Boutique Hotels in city destinations, and Boutique Hotels in resort destinations. The Boutique Hotel in city destination is not only visited because of its convenient location, but also because of it being the city’s fashion destination. Historically, the most common locations of the Boutique Hotels were London, New York, Miami, and Los Angeles etc that easily fitted into the fashion destinations.
Technology is an important attribute of a city boutique Hotel. It could be technology used to emotionally connect the guest with the hotel, like music and light, or it could be technology for the guests’ convenience, such as computers with high-speed internet, cordless phones, DVD players, and flascreen or smart televisions.
Also, there are boutique hotels in resort destinations, which generally are located in hidden places, like islands or mountains. Unlike the ones in city destinations, technology is not strictly necessary in the resort destinations. Instead, exotic amenities as well as unique and personalized services are the core competence of the resort destinations. They commonly replace the absence of electronics with spas, yoga, meditation or painting classes and creating connection to the environment  so as to  promote their guest's comfort.

Established in 1981, both the Clarion Bedford Hotel in San Francisco and Blakes London, with its fabulous interiors conceived by celebrity designer Anouska Hempel, are recognized as two of the earliest boutique hotels in the world.
The person credited for inventing the “boutique hotel” concept is the American entrepreneur and hotelier Ian Schrager, who, together with his business partner Steve Rubell, opened the Morgans Hotel on Madison Avenue, Manhattan, New York in 1984. It was then when Steve told the media: “Hotels are like department stores. They’re trying to be all things to all people. This is different. It’s like a boutique”.
 Boutique hotels are generally known to be perfect and small chic little places which have a common characteristic of the less formal charm that they all seem to be bringing in an air of differentiation in their products and services. The "Morgans" looked fairly strange and unique, and was nothing like the 'big - boy' hotels, who had a domineering presence in the hotel industry.  Schrager  and Rubell obtained the services of popular Parisian designer Andree Putman to come up with the interiors, so that, during the beginnings, the boutique hotel had a dash of American and European flavor. The main features, however, were the independence of the design and its uniqueness.
“A hotel with a point of view ” Ian Schrager
This type of lodging facility gains its uniqueness through aesthetics, atmosphere, and a level of personalized service that just can’t be found in larger establishments. Therefore, the size is another important feature of a boutique hotel, and bigger is not necessarily better!

Architecture and design
Style, distinction, warmth and intimacy are the key words in the architecture and design of boutique hotels. Emphasing Out of the box designs  and using unique themes such as the Library hotel in New York. they are very chic.
The d├ęcor plays a major role in adding the right amount of individuality and setting a thoughtful ambiance throughout a boutique hotel. High-quality materials, designer furnishings, and quirky touches are often used to create a memorable visual experience, while bespoke amenities like a generous pillow menu, plush baths, or handmade organic toiletries contribute to an atmosphere of comfort and luxury.
Another common characteristic of these exclusive accommodations is the great attention to detail. A true boutique hotel will always take time to style its rooms individually, and to incorporate bespoke art and locally-sourced materials in the interior decoration. And also  choose the finest linens and freshest food ingredients to be used in their hotels.
They are not just design empasised and theme based hotels but also the services are unique. The  staff displays a very friendly, relaxed yet professional attitude. There is emphasis on entertainment in terms of music, drama and art that the entire atmosphere appears to be theatrical.
Target market
The main traget group for the boutique hotels guests in the age group 20 to 50 years. Belonging mostly to the  mid and upper income groups. The hotels are easily address of choice of designers, entrepreneurs, media, fashion and leisure travelers.
When it comes to staying in a hotel, one demands relaxation, convenience and luxury that can add comfort to their holiday. Hotels in India offer all of that along with hospitality that is exclusive to Indian culture.  Apart from the huge 5 star hotels there are many budget hotels in India. When talking about budget hotels and the other segment, boutique hotels are much in demand. They offer the same luxury, comfort and convenience that is experienced in high priced luxury hotels with their own style of service or products. Boutique hotels are common and popular in western countries; however, this concept has recently gained momentum in India. Boutique hotels cater to all requirements of their guests, giving them a memorable stay without really costing them a fortune. Initial boutique hotels in India were in metropolitan cities or at popular resort or spa destinations but now they are moving even to tier two or tier three cities.
Boutique hotels are in ever-growing demand by travelers seeking hospitality experiences that are unique and distinctly different. Be it for a special occasion like a honeymoon or an anniversary, or just for the fun of it, you're bound to find something very different!
The Park Hotels was the first Indian hotel brand and to come up with boutique concept in India but today there are many boutique hotels. Even some of the large hotel chains with popular luxury hotels are opening their boutique segment.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Fitness in the Hotel Industry

Hotel industry is extremely demanding. The team members are expected to be passionate about their jobs, excited about the property and the company that they represent. And truly looking out for customers’ best interests. Among the many necessary traits that an employee should have in order to ensure that the business succeeds are:

The ability to multitask
The hotel industry is fast-paced, and often requires a staff member to do several different things at a time. If a team members cannot manage these or have trouble dividing their attention, it’s likely that they’ll struggle in their roles.

Organizational skills
The hospitality professional should be able to stay organized at all times. When a person fails to do this, guests’ requests and other important issues can be missed. There should be a system in place to ensure that every team member stays organized even when the days are really  busy.

Being a team player
The industry is focused heavily on teamwork, and every employee should be a team player where everyone is open to new ideas,  also appreciate others point of views.  This dynamics works because the industry has a great focus on customer needs and their satisfaction.  No one can be a ‘Me’ person but all working as ‘We’ is the key.

Listening skills
Every team member should be not only diplomatic and tactful but also posses’ great listening skills. They should be able to read between the lines. The successful professionals are those who have mastered the art of listening, and are able to respond to guests’ questions, comments, and concerns. Handling every situation, to the guest’s satisfaction, creating wow!

Physical fitness
The team members are required to work in shifts. They are standing most of the time during their shift such as receptionists and bell boys and housekeeping attendants.  This requires them to be physically fit and mentally alert so that can respond to guests requests, complaints and compliments objectively.

The hospitality professionals should exude enthusiasm which is a must for every employee. The individuals should be passionate about their work and enjoy meeting as well as  interacting with people. They should possess and exhibit the hospitality attitude!

All these qualities and personality traits need an individual to follow some kind of fitness routine. A healthy mind in a healthy body holds true. We at The Park Hotels understand this and have taken wellness or an individual’s physical and emotional well being as a serious business. Some of the various initiatives that we have taken in this direction as a company are:

1. Stepathlon program:
We participate in the Stepathlon program. It is a mass participation event for organisations of all sizes across all industries and countries. The Stepathlon approach to achieving better physical and mental health is fun, motivating and sustainable. Deteriorating public health, increasing risk of lifestyle diseases and alarming statistics on mental illness at the workplace are the compelling reasons why they offer corporate employees the opportunity to be part of the Stepathlon 'Movement for Movement.' Stepathlon is simple and easy to implement and has been designed for maximum inclusivity.
As an organization we have about 100 team members from across the units participating in the program each year since 2012. It has helped many of our team mates achieving not just their fitness goals but also in the overall wellness and professional work hygiene.

2. Yoga sessions:
At the learning centre of The Park Hotels, the Apeejay Institute of Hospitality we have been conducting a lifestyle and wellness module that covers yoga, meditation, health, beauty and personal grooming. The Management Trainees are sensitized towards maintaining a healthy and balanced lifestyle. This is included in their on boarding experience into a successful hospitality career and wellness becomes an integral part of it! Lifestyle and Fitness module has been a part of the Management Training program since 2013. Even before International Yoga Day, 21 June came in vogue across the country.
Yoga sessions are conducted every Friday evening for all team members. It reinforces the message of wellness both physical and mental. Not to mention that we celebrate International Yoga Day with great fervor now.

3. Get Set Go Week:
All units across the Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels Ltd. celebrate week of fun and cheer across locations of The Park, Flurys, AIH and Zone. A time to celebrate our Teams and us. To say "thank you" to one another for the service, support, commitment and contributions. 
THE GSG week denotes - 
 : Getting to have fun through learning, sports, food, music, friends and other little pleasures
 : Setting Goals - Personal and Professional
 : Going forward to achieve more balance & living life to the fullest 

Fun activities are conducted ranging from creativity, team spirit, fitness, health, beauty, sports and games.
Being healthy is important as it can help a person have a stronger heart, better muscles, stronger bones, a sense of well-being and a better social and professional life. Eating right and exercising the correct amount leads to overall wellness. When the body is healthy,  the mind is alert and the individual is ready to face all challenges with a smile on the face. A healthy persons not only looks good but also feels every good from within. When one is happy, he helps create many more happy people and happy situations. 
All so needed for a hospitality professional. 

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Garden in a bathtub

Sustainability is defined as the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed. In EVS it is spoken as the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance. It happens to be the  buzzword in recent times. I was at an international summit of hospitality professionals and almost all speakers had a segment of their presentation dedicated to sustainability. It is certainly the wake-up time for each one of us, the time to pull up our socks' and gear up. Otherwise we'll only be left with a great deal of our flora and fauna extinct. We may have nothing worthwhile to give to our children. We have abused nature so much! Nature and its resources are an inheritance that need to be passed on to our future generations, we are mere guardians of this wealth We sadly haven't understood that fundamental principle yet. With advent of technology and modern living we are going miles away from our roots and we go after rampant destruction. We know the carbon footprints and all that jazz but what are we doing in reality?

I was at one of our hotels The Park New Delhi on a work assignment, been with the company for 10 years now and my job involves a bit of travelling too on training or recruitment assignments for my organisation. I also get to use the holiday plan of the company, where I can stay in any of our properties. Why I say this is, how could I have not made it to this fabulous hotel yet? Glad that it finally happened! I had gone there as a trainer but I gained much more, I bring with me some great learnings, valuable information as well as some extraordinary moments and memories to cherish. If I list them, they might go into a couple of posts, here I shall only speak about sustainability - the buzz word, as I call it.   

In fact I have appreciation for almost everyone at the hotel, I am more of a critique all thanks to my background in the rooms division. Having spent nearly 20 years does that to you I guess!
I found the hotel to have great energy. The hotel staff was very professional and living up to our brand promise Anything But ordinary. Special mention to the Housekeeping team, their Director Mrs. Vaneeta Arora, was such a great source of information and knowledge for me.

I used the heart of the house areas (back of the house areas, where guests do not go) most of the times, going from my room to the training classroom.  The areas were maintained so well, they were more like art galleries than fire exits. Beautiful picture messages and timely reminders everywhere including the staff cafeteria.I believe reinforcements  and ready reminders drive home messages much clearer and louder. This hotel was doing it, I was certainly delighted. Let me not go gaga over other things now and get straight to the point. The garden concept used by housekeeping, making use of the bathtubs was one of the best I have seen. What thought, concept and use of the need of the hour... that's sustainability!

The hotel renovated some rooms and got the bathtubs removed, again a step in the right direction. What would have happened to the discarded bathtubs? They would have reached the junk yard and remained there for ages creating waste that wouldn't decompose. Adding to the filth that already exists in such places. Instead Mrs. Arora came up with a great idea that was three pronged, one remove the bath tubs and help hotel save water, the cleaning time, cleaning agents etc. Two, not add to the pile of un decomposed junk and three; create beauty and life by using the old bath tubs as pots for planting different vegetables. 
This was happening outside the training classroom so it caught my attention. I saw the bathtubs being painted in bright lively colours one day, the next day mud and manure being added and the third day saplings planted. I literally saw a life coming into being and beauty created in junk. Isn't this also a great tribute to Swachh Bharat Mission. The beauty is, vegetables are grown in these bathtub nursery and they are used in cooking as well, straight fresh from the farm. This creates awareness and promotes growing and use of organic vegetables. The plants display small placards with their information and nutritive facts. The staff get to see some exotic vegetables and herbs and the chefs use them in their kitchens.
It always takes one ordinary idea to create stuff that's extraordinary! It was one of my ABO, Anything But Ordinary moments as we call at the Park Hotels. 

Hope you like the idea and it inspires you to think out of the box and your churn out a storm of ideas out of the tub yourself!