Advent of unique hotels

Written by Rituparna Chatterjee | Mumbai | Updated: Nov 26 2013, 21:22pm hrs
Travel MumbaiUnique hotels offer a differential experience and are slowly gaining popularity in India
Hotels that are built around a unique concept or theme with a distinctive architecture have been popular in many countries around the world. From the ICEHOTEL in Sweden to the futuristic Silken Puerta America Madrid hotel in Spain, these properties have been attracting travellers interested in staying in an unusual ambience, often with a subtle theme of fantasy. However, the concept of unique hotels is at a nascent stage in India, but is slowly picking up and catering to a niche segment of Indian travellers. Indians who are travelling for the first time want to put themselves up in internationally branded hotels. But those who travel frequently want to enjoy a different experience in the country and abroad. This new experience is offered by unique hotels, states, Upal Sarkar, operations manager, Floatel An Eco-Friendly Hotel in Kolkata. Floatel is believed to be the only floating hotel in India

Another reason for Indian travellers to opt for unique hotels in India is their exposure to the same across international locations. Lot of Indians are now travelling abroad so they have either seen or stayed at such unique properties there or have information about them. This trend is catching up in India. Investors in India are slowly trying to get into this segment and are realising the importance of having such unique properties, opines Mathew Joseph, director - marketing, Le Green Hotels & Resorts. Le Green Hotels & resorts has 22 properties across different locations in India, out of which Hampi Boulders Resort is constructed out of boulders.

The construction of uniquely designed eco-properties in India has been mainly influenced by the offerings of the location. Kerala is seen to host a number of eco-friendly properties because of its diverse greenery, awareness of sustainability and support from government and media. However, there are exceptions. For instance, Guhantara, an eco-friendly resort of Rashi Eco Tourism, claimed to be Indias first man-made underground cave resort in Bengaluru, was constructed underground because of less availability of land. The area was only three acres so if I had constructed anything on the land then I would have been left with less surface area. Hence I went for a cave style underground resort, explains S N Ramesh, managing director, Rashi Eco Tourism.

A niche product

These unique hotels in India have been attracting a niche segment of international and national travellers rather than the average Indian crowd. Our target clientele encompasses everyone who wants to experience Indian mythology like organisations in the art, media, fashion and entertainment industry nationally and internationally, national and international corporate travellers and international leisure tourists looking to experience Indian history, states Rahul Bajaj, director, Le Sutra Hospitality. Le Sutra is believed to be Indias first art hotel in Mumbai.

Floatel also has its set of clientele which mainly consist of foreigners, while Hampi Boulders Resort has been attracting a lot of FITs. The eco-properties of Rashi Eco Tourism have been catering to its select group of clientele which consists of the MICE segment, locals and foreigners. Likewise, The Corinthians Resort & Club Pune, which is a combination of a club and a resort, and boasts of Moroccan architecture and a micro-brewery, has its own clientele list which mainly comprise of FITs and the wedding segment. Our target clientele is mainly the weekend spenders, people who travel to Lonavla, Mahabaleshwar, Alibaug. This being a destination wedding property, we have the wedding segment coming in and we also cater to corporates, states Noorbasha Shaikh, resident manager, The Corinthians Resort & Club Pune.

Growth despite challenges

Despite the growing demand among Indian travellers for unique hotels in India, very few investors are reluctant to invest in such properties. Hotel owners today are more concerned about economies of scale rather than economies of scope. They are looking at more rooms, better RevPAR and negotiable rates sold in lieu of higher number of room nights, rues Bajaj. Adding to this Joseph states, Reasons why not many unique properties are coming up is because of high maintenance cost, higher initial investment than a regular hotel and an average Indian crowd's reluctance to stay at an isolated place.

Though the growth is slow, it is expected to increase with time. There is a lot of curiosity among international travellers about India, and they are looking at experiencing local flavours. The market is slowly maturing and hotels with unique concepts are operating and are also coming up in various corners of India. There is scope of growth in this segment, predicts Sarkar.