Smell the oranges (and the coffee!)

Steena Joy Posted online: Tuesday, Mar 11, 2014 at 0000 hrs
Mumbai : Owned and managed by the Ramapuram family of Kerala, Orange County Resorts and Hotels is based on the ‘Spirit of the land’ philosophy that showcases the nature and culture of the regions where it is operational. The first Orange County Resort that opened at Coorg in 1994 was built on the theme of coffee, spice and plantation life to reflect the true spirit of Coorg, and is situated amidst 300 acres of coffee and spice plantations. It is flanked on one side by the Dubare Reserve Forest and the river Cauvery on the other.

Link to the land

Reminiscing on the days of old, Cherian Ramapuram, director, Orange County Resorts and Hotels says, “The Orange County – Coorg resort was built on the plantation owned by our family from 1926. In the 90s, Coorg was not known outside Karnataka. The location was extremely beautiful, packed with history and culture. Orange trees are usually inter-planted along with shade trees for cultivating coffee. So like coffee, Coorg produced the best oranges in the country, till a virus attacked them about 18 years ago. The huge, sweet, loose jacket oranges turned into small tight skinned sour ones. The resort was christened when the oranges were good.”

The brand opened its second resort at Kabini in 2007. Inspired by the local ‘Kadukuruba Hadis’, the architecture of this tribal themed resort was crafted to transport its guests into a tribal setting from which they can enjoy the spectacle of Asia’s largest biosphere.

Cherian Ramapuram adds, “With location and luxury coming together in such a happy union, Orange County Resorts offers guests a true ‘Spirit of the land’ experience. Plantation stays are unique because they are a combination of an exclusive lifestyle, while touching the soul of the land. It also gives one an opportunity to see how the precious commodities that they buy or use in the day-to-day life are cultivated. We give the guest a very unique experience of living like a 'Planter' for the stay. They get to go for a signature tour of the plantation, plantation trail, nature walk, etc., which are unique to this part of Coorg.”

The resort's main target is the discerning traveller. Cherain Ramapuram feels that the guest profile shows a continuous evolution. Today’s guest is more educated tastes become more refined as they travel around the world. While there is no specific special interest groups in this segment, the discerning traveller looks for experiences like this. He says, “We do not promote stays or even holidays. We promote Exclusive Local Experiences.”

Community is core

Orange County's Kabini property has been selected by National Geographic Traveller among the top 25 Eco Lodges in the world. The company takes guest feedback and suggestions very seriously. “This is evident from the feedback that you can see on sites like Tripadvisor. All these comes wrapped in highest standards of responsibility in tourism,” says the proud hotelier.

His brother Thomas Ramapuram, joint director, Orange County Resorts and Hotels elucidates on the sustainable hospitality measures the company has initiated. “The concept of responsible tourism comes naturally to Orange County Resorts. It is, after all, an extension of the vision and philosophy of the House of Ramapuram whose values are broad, contemporary and inclusive.”

The government has now made CSR mandatory part of a company's revenues. But Orange County has long supported community development. “Over 60 per cent of our staff at both resorts are from the surrounding local areas. We constantly strive to engage with local village heads in community development programmes. We also conduct Structured Community Development Programmes on an annual basis like for example, scholarships, toilets in villages, road work, etc,” says Thomas Ramapuram.

He adds, “We believe that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. So we have formally adopted the local school at Coorg in Karadigod Village. We are also in the process of adopting the school in Kabini (H.D.Kote Village), however we have not received a formal government approval for the same. Through adoption we have implemented various initiatives like computer facilities, better play grounds, hiring quality teachers etc. This is an ongoing continuous process and our vision is to develop these schools into world class institutions of learning.”

The brand has also adopted technological innovations to make the guest experience a seamless one. “Our indigenously developed central reservation systems compares with the best in the industry. It allows for easy storage, access and transmission of information. Our systems allow us to have an intimate knowledge of each of our guests even before they step into our properties.”

It is rare to find a two resort brand in the world today that has 60 per cent of their clients booking directly with us (as opposed to booking through a OTAs or a tour operator). We are able to achieve this through our powerful database management systems and processes.”

Being a traditional brand with a strong focus on ethics, values and other old fashioned ideas, has not stopped the brand from embracing technology and leveraging its tremendous power to deliver a superior guest experience. “Technological innovation is a core value at Orange County Resorts,” reiterates Thomas Ramapuram.

As for the brand's foray outside Karanataka, Cherian Ramapuram says that it has not been easy to build and run resorts in the state itself. “While we have not yet looked seriously outside, we are keeping our eyes open for opportunities. We have two more locations where we have land in Karnataka. We are looking out for options outside the state and the country too,” he optimistically sums up.