I attended the 2017 edition of the ILTM Conference in Cannes. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet hoteliers from all over the world and discover new ways of imagining the art of welcoming.
In France, we often take the notion of 5-star hotels and Palaces for granted. To the French ear, the term ‘Palace’ evokes an ultra-luxury hotel; perhaps a hotel with a historical narrative or a legendary service offering. Such was my surprise, therefore, to discover how other cultures define a ‘Palace’ hotel. Below you will find my interview on the subject with Chinmai Sharma, Chief Revenue Officer of TAJ Hotels, an Indian hospitality group renowned for their splendid Palace hotels.
What is your definition of a Palace?
At the TAJ, we have 8 distinct Palaces. You can’t build Palaces. These Palaces are anywhere from 100 to 400 years old. The way we define Palaces is that royal families used to live there, and in some cases, they still do. All of the Palaces have a very distinct architecture and style in which they were set. So, we don’t believe in building new Palaces and calling it a Palace. All of these will have very distinct products and services. They need to have royal lineage. They need to have history, and they need to be in good destinations that are easily accessible. We have a very strong guideline of what we call a Palace and what we don’t call a Palace.
In terms of services, the services are very personalized. We always have one individual assigned per suite. The food experience is very well-done and created over hundreds of years. If you go to any of our Palaces, the kind of food that we serve that was being served 100-400 years ago to royal families. We have preserved those menus and recipes, and we now present them to our guests. As a result, the whole experience from a guest perspective is very unique and non-replicable. You can’t see this anywhere else, and you can’t build this from scratch. You can’t build a new building and just call it a Palace. We believe that all these Palaces have to have that criteria in order for us to call them Palaces.
How do you introduce modernity in your Palaces?
These Palaces were not built as hotels, so that’s why it’s a bit of a challenge from a service perspective. We do minimal changes to the Palaces because they were historical buildings for a long time, so we can’t change the structure. We do give modern amenities, such as things like air-conditioning, a very comfortable bed, upholstery—it’s very tastefully done. The good thing is that the bones of the Palaces are very strong because they were built for royalty. In this way, the experience of the grandeur, the luxury, and the lifestyle is always there. We complement the hardware—the bedding, the air-conditioning, the upholstery—with very good service. The amount of associates that we have per Palace room is 3-4 per room. So if it’s a 60 room Palace, we will probably have 200 associates who are working to make sure that we can give exceptional service to our guests.
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Known for his international expertise on luxury hotels through his magazine, Laurent Delporte shares his vision and experiences in the world of hotels on his site DELPORTE Hospitality. He decodes the behind-the-scenes action in the sector: from food and beverage facilities, accommodations, architecture, to the quality of services. He offers interviews, advice, and articles as pragmatic resources that industry professionals and private individuals can refer to in their search for information.