Experiential, responsible, and ethical tourism is in. It is a growing segment and is increasingly influencing hotels to evolve their product to align with the changing times. To say that Neemrana Hotels has pioneered the concept in India, with a note-worthy financial success, would not be an overstatement.
We catch up with Sonavi Kaicker, CEO of Neemrana Hotels to understand what is driving business for the hotel company. She also shares her thoughts on heritage conversation, suggesting that the government’s ‘Adopt a Heritage’ scheme is a step in the right direction. Excerpts from an exclusive interaction:
How would you sum up 2018? What were some big trends and takeaways for you in terms of business?
The year 2018 has been a year of growth for Neemrana Hotels. On the business front, there has been an increase in revenue as more people have escaped cities, preferring unique destinations rather than destinations which remind them of their city. Travellers now travel to see the ‘difference’ from their urban jungle, and thus the Neemrana heritage options are more in demand. 2018 has also seen a growth in conference and destination wedding business sectors for Neemrana Hotels. The magnificent Tijara Fort-Palace property with terraced gardens and the flagship Neemrana Fort-Palace which has two amazing lifts for elderly guests continue to host weddings throughout the year. At all hotels, the Neemrana team has also consciously catered to the requirements of young travellers, families with infants and elders, and in delighting guests with regional cuisine and in-house produce, wherever possible.
We continue to promote and preserve the diverse cultural heritage of India through music and dance performances by artists from across the country – who are handpicked by our team, based on their talent and their dedication to their art form. This trend will continue in 2019 and beyond.
What next? What are your plans for 2019 and beyond? Is there any imminent expansion on the cards?
Our projects are large, involving the responsible touch of heritage. We choose our projects carefully as these have to be feasible throughout the year. We are currently focusing on increasing the occupancy at existing hotels and improving the services and facilities offered to enhance guest delight. But at our flagship property Neemrana Fort-Palace, our non- resident wing will soon offer visitors very different food from what the whole Delhi-Jaipur highway offers.
Making heritage sustainable has been one of the pioneering ideas behind Neemrana’s success. The government had launched ‘Adopt a Heritage’ Scheme some time ago. There was opposition from some quarters against the move. What is your take on this and how do you think it would impact conservation of heritage in India in the longer run?
This is a great scheme and should be seen as a welcome idea. One shouldn’t just spend time criticising the government. When governments couldn’t preserve every heritage structure, they were criticised. Now they are taking positive steps and again people criticise them! Neemrana has not just adopted some 30 properties over all these years but also nurtured them to continue to survive from the funds they generate. This viability cycle is now called Neemranification! It won’t require government subsidies to be sustained in the future. Also, the local stakeholders and their progeny will be the greatest beneficiaries as pride in their design will lead to lesser urban migration and more.
How is the wedding segment going for you? It seems that the season of the ‘Big Fat Indian Wedding’ is back, after a brief lull post the demonetization setback?
Yes, it is! But sometimes we have to make sure that our stunning properties don’t just become fabulous Shadi ghars!Our team specialises in varying the experience with changing venues and decor to suit different nationalities,seasons, ceremonies, palettes, and budgets! Intimate pre-wedding celebrations have also been an emerging trend that will gain momentum in the times ahead.