How did you take a family business and turn it into the Park Hotels brand that it is today?
The hotel business was started by my family in 1967, with the first hotel opening in Kolkata; the Park Visakhapatnam was added in 1968, and the Park New Delhi in 1987. I took over the business in 1990 (at the age of 24) after my father’s death, at which time I saw great potential for the hotel group to fit into a niche: India was developing quickly and consumer expectations were changing, so I worked to create India’s first and only collection of contemporary luxury boutique hotels that are design-led and stylish.
Tell us about your latest/greatest opening.
While it’s hard to pick any one hotel as the ‘greatest,’the Park Hyderabad [shown] is a particularly stunning hotel. The 267-room hotel, designed by more than half a dozen famous Indian and international designers, draws inspiration from the jewelry settings and metal work from the Nizamjewellery collection (one of the most valuable jewellery collections in the world). The end result is a modern interpretation of a Nizam’s palace, the famed former rulers of Hyderabad, who were renowned for their wealth and decadence.
Why is art such an important part of your life and your hotels’design?
I was brought up to appreciate and enjoy art. Art brings things to life-it portrays culture and heritage, the soul of a place, in a very special, unique way. I’ve spent years building up my personal art collection, and many of those pieces now live within our hotels. Each hotel has a distinct character and is designed and completed with artworks that draw upon the history and hotel’s location.
How has the Indian travel and tourism market changed in the last five years?
Domestic Indian travel has vastly expanded over the past five years. India has recently been blessed with a burgeoning middle class looking to explore new parts of their vibrant country for both business and leisure. The demand for hotels that differ from the more traditional Maharaja palaces has since grown, and with Indians also travelling more internationally, the demand for affordable, well-designed, and modern hotels has grown enormously.
Is that why you are launching your mid-market brand, Zone by The Park, this year?
The concept of Zone by The Park has come about through seeing a gap in the market for design-led hotels at around the $80-100 price point in Indiaâ€™s second and third cities. Business travel within India has been steadily increasing and we want to cater for these, as well as international business and leisure travelers who need, and want, to stay connected. These hotels-the first of which is due to open this spring in Coimbatore, designed by Orange Project-are about creating a social meeting point where the bazaar-like lobby, with food and entertainment outlets leading to the restaurant and bar area, becomes the focal point of the hotel, and in many cases the town themselves. These open-plan lobbies, designed as casual, flexible free flowing spaces for reading, working, meeting, or just relaxing, encourage guests to engage and interact. Rooms are customized for today’s multi-taskers, complete will touch pad control panels, multi-media hubs, and well planned storage spaces.