Priya Paul, Chairperson, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels Limited, talks to Sushmita Srivastav about the evolution of the hospitality industry, emerging hotel concepts for women travellers, and the future of the brand. By Sushmita Srivastav
1. You are a trailblazer in the Indian hospitality industry. In what ways has it evolved?
In terms of evolution, I feel that the tourism and hospitality industries are finally being understood. Common people as well as the government now understand the economic growth potential and employment opportunities these industries have. I also think we have a wide array of hotels and travel trends coming up in the market—be it boutique properties, luxury hotels, spirituality-driven travel, and more. There has been an increase in the number of locally-owned properties too. It’s quite exciting to see the way the ownership has matured.
2. What are the challenges that you faced in the industry?
I think challenges keep on changing with time. Even though we have attained a certain amount of simplification in taxation, there’s still a long way to go. There have been quite a few hurdles in terms of getting land at correct prices for building good quality large hotels. Also, attaining licence information for a new hotel is a complex process in the country.
3. As a well-travelled businesswoman, what are your non-negotiables when it comes to hotels?
I particularly like hotels that come with a design aesthetic. I am not really fond of chain hotels; I like places that have something interesting in terms of decor and architecture. I like them to be lively and centrally located. They must be close to tourism attractions and good neighbourhoods.
4. Women-only floors is a growing trend that aids the safety of female guests at hotels. What is THE Park Hotels’ approach in this field?
We at THE Park keep a close account of every special requirement or need of our female guests. We always give solo women travellers rooms closer to the elevators, so they never have to walk down a long corridor alone. We have restricted key-card entry for every floor. There are always female security personnel and staff available. But the most important thing that we keep in mind is sensitising our teams and staff members to make guests feel safe and comfortable.
5. What is next in the pipeline for THE Park Hotels?
We currently have 22 hotels running across three brands— THE Park Hotels, THE Park Collections, and Zone by THE Park. We have recently opened THE Park Mumbai, close to Juhu Beach. We are launching THE Park Indore later this year. We also have more openings under the other two brands this year—The Denmark Tavern will be launched as part of THE Park Collections by the end of 2020.
6. What is your favourite travel memory from childhood?
I think the best memory would be that of driving across Europe with my family. The four of us—my father, mother, sibling, and I—loved road-trip holidays over the weekends. We’d stay at small hotels in far-off places and the luxe properties in big cities. Exploring places with them is a memory I cherish the most.
7. Any passions or causes that you feel strongly about?
I am deeply involved in art and design. I am also a big foodie so I really enjoy exploring new dishes, flavours, and ingredients. And I also strongly believe in and work for women’s rights.
8. Destinations or experiences on your bucket list?
I really want to go to Peru. I certainly want to go back to Ladakh, and I am excited for my trip to Lhasa later this year. I also have a few trekking experiences lined up to look forward to in 2020.