Think business hotels, and the image that crops up in one’s mind is of properties that promise high-speed wi-fi connections, proximity to key commercial districts and a cropped lunch menu for the visiting professionals who are constantly on the go.
However, do business hotels have to limit themselves to these services? Apparently not. The new tribe of business hotels goes beyond functionality to offer personalisation with a wee bit of warmth and character. After all, just because you are on a work trip does not mean everything around has to be serious.
Here is a look at some of the business hotels in the country that have gone the extra mile to ensure that they have something different to offer.
DIFFERENT SHADES OF GREEN
ITC Hotels is among the greenest hotel chains globally to receive the maximum number of LEED Platinum Certification for its properties, as per US Green Building Council (USGBC). One of these properties is ITC Maratha, Mumbai, which has been investing in planet-positive sustainability practices, including carbon-neutral meetings.
Its green banquet aims to reduce the carbon footprint of corporate events, with offerings like organic and locally produced food and zero-mile Sunya Aqua filtered bottled water. Its meeting rooms are optimised to use natural light and meet electrical demand through wind and solar energy. The hotel claims to have near-zero waste generation by reducing, reusing and recycling the solid waste generated.
Atul Bhalla, area manager of west and east, ITC Hotels India, and general manager of ITC Maratha, says, “We calculate the overall carbon footprint from meetings and events, then take a carbon offset credit on it. We take the annual reading and purchase the credits for the same.”
The hotel regularly monitors how its events divisions reduce emissions to ensure that all aspects of an event, including its location, food services, transportation and the provision of materials are approached with sustainability in mind.
The emphasis on locally sourced, in-season food produce, in addition to facilitating a strong bond with local farmers, reduces the hotel’s carbon footprint.
Its “Alert Meets” enables guests to make informed choices from a signature hearty and healthy menu that focuses on gourmet preparations based on seasonal produce. “One Bite Wonder” presents bite-sized culinary offerings to avoid food wastage.
ITC Maratha has also implemented alternatives for plastic, like using glass bottles, replacing plastic cocktail stirrers and straws with wooden ones and paper substitutes and using biodegradable packing boxes. The hotel consciously promotes cultivation of native plants, which cover more than 25% of the building area. “All occupied spaces provided at least 30% more fresh air than the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers standards mandate,” Bhalla adds.
MAKING SPACE FOR PETS
Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach
Travelling for work does not have to mean leaving behind your pets. That is the premise that Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach works on. It rolls out the red carpet for canine companions accompanying its guests, pampering them with a pet-friendly menu, walks on the beach, grooming sessions and some playtime with other furry friends in the hotel.
According to Vishal Gupta, general manager of Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach, allowing pets can vastly increase a hotel’s prospective customer base, thus reaching the previously untapped market segment. Since pet owners frequently choose hotels that accommodate their pets’ requirements, this inclusivity creates additional revenue streams and strengthens customer loyalty and satisfaction.
“Additionally, the hotel’s reputation as a pet-friendly place can improve its image, distinguishing it from the competitors, and attract guests looking for a comfortable, welcoming space for both themselves and their fur babies,” he says.
The hotel made several strategic alterations to offer pet-friendly accommodations in a business hotel setting. The crew was thoroughly trained to accommodate visitors who brought pets, which involved comprehensive training sessions to equip the staff with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively handle guests travelling with pets. They were trained to address any worries that the other visitors may have owing to the presence of pets, and give pet owners the required instructions and recommendations.
The challenge of accommodating pets is compounded by the potential for noise disruptions, allergies or fears among other guests who may not be accustomed to or comfortable with animals. Here, the hotel staff’s ability to maintain calm kicks in.
Swiftly turning around and cleaning pet-friendly areas can be difficult. Hence, it has outlined strict cleaning procedures for pet accommodations and has clear rules for safe pet ownership on hotel property to minimise the possibility of damage to rooms from untrained or unsupervised pets.
The Westin Hyderabad HITEC City
The newly opened Westin Hyderabad Hitec City is the first all-women-powered hotel of its kind in South Asia under Marriott International’s portfolio. While running an all-women hotel can be a fulfilling endeavour, it also requires careful planning, commitment and ongoing effort, with a strong emphasis on culture and training to ensure its success in the long run.
An enormous task is finding a dedicated team of women who align with the hotel’s values and culture. This is always an uphill task since the hospitality industry suffers from a massive manpower crunch. However, Amitabh Rai, cluster general manager for Marriott International’s Hyderabad market, is unfazed. He maintains that a few aspects that form the core of Marriott’s business help it ease the challenges on the way. “We have ensured a strong Marriott culture, which puts people first, by training and fostering a positive and inclusive work environment that supports the well-being and growth of our employees,” he says.
To create a supportive work environment for its women employees, the hotel focuses on better work-life balance, often considered a misnomer in the hospitality industry. Shuttle services are provided for women working on late evening or night shifts to ensure they reach home safely. The Westin Hyderabad Hitec City also provides housing for its associates and executives, along with nutritious meals at the staff cafeteria. A doctor visits the hotel daily to address any health concerns the employees might have.
“As our journey progresses, our endeavour to run an all-women hotel emerges as a beacon of inspiration, destined to leave an indelible mark in the industry. Rooted in the principles of gender inclusivity and empowerment, it embodies a transformative vision. We will stay true to our spirit and continue as an all-women-powered hotel in the future,” Rai avers.
SUSTAINABILITY AT ITS CORE
The Fern—an Ecotel Hotel, Jaipur
From the first Fern ecotel hotel in Jaipur in 2009 to the latest, The Fern Shelter Resort, Palghar, located on National Highway 48 between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, The Fern, a chain of hotels by Concept Hospitality, has taken small steps that sum up to an impressive total in the sustainability game. The Fern—an Ecotel Hotel, Jaipur, takes pride in being an environmentally sensitive hotel, staying true to the core values of the Group. The hotel has also won awards for sustainable and eco-friendly practices.
Since its launch in 2009, The Fern, which now has around 100 hotels in its portfolio, has adopted a multifaceted approach to neutralise carbon emissions and remains steadfast to environmental sensitivity. It has adhered to a five-pronged approach that encompasses solid waste management, water conservation, energy efficiency, community involvement and employee education. All employees in the group undergo environmental training for actions they can take in their daily lives to be more eco-conscious.
Suhail Kannampilly, managing director of Concept Hospitality, recalls how, before the pandemic, the hotel’s staffers visited homes in their immediate vicinity to fix leaky taps, saving over 3 lakh litres of water. “Today, we have extensively deployed solar roofs in many of our hotels, generating over 1.5 megawatts of power from renewable sources,” he adds.
From being amongst the first hotel companies to replace plastic water bottles in rooms with in-house refillable glass bottles to preparing food from fresh homegrown vegetables instead of relying on frozen fare, it has ensured that sustainability enhances the guest experience.
These eco-friendly measures have a price, but Kannampilly believes it is well worth it. “I firmly believe that where there is a will, there is a way. Transitioning to glass bottles came for a price, but it is an investment that will undoubtedly yield many benefits,” he points out.
The hotel chain has put in place performance-based metrics to assess the effectiveness of its sustainability measures and identify areas for improvement. This helps quantify its green efforts to ensure their effectiveness and continuous improvement.
All the managers include these metrics in their key result areas. Every hotel has a green team consisting of members from various departments, who oversee the implementation of sustainability measures and have the authority as a team to address energy wastage issues. Kannampilly adds that the brand is also developing technology to benchmark and foster competition among its hotels to achieve the highest energy efficiency.
The brand leaders closely listen to guest feedback regarding the company’s sustainable practices, use their insights to refine its initiatives and align them with their expectations. “Regular internal audits and third-party certifications objectively evaluate our sustainability achievements,” says Kannampilly.
MEETINGS IN THE WILD
Pride Biznotel Sasan Gir
This business hotel in Gir is cheek by jowl with the Gir National Park, renowned for the Asiatic lion—it is 240 metres from Sinh Sadan Gir Forest reception, to be precise, and 200 metres from the lion safari’s flagging off point.
Given that it is a stone’s throw from the wildlife in the reservation park, business travellers can work on their PowerPoint presentations while enjoying the flora and fauna abounding in the area. The hotel has already proven popular for corporate breaks, brainstorming and team-building activities in a relaxed environment. The hotel facilitates safari tours with expert guides for those who want to see the Asiatic lion up close. And, those travelling with young children can entrust their kids to the in-house babysitting service while they go off to explore the wildlife.