Heads of State, corporate moguls and high-profile businessmen from across the world call the Taj Palace Hotel home when they visit New Delhi. BTN talks to General Manager, Taljinder Singh, of the World Travel Award winning hotel.
BTN: What does it mean to be named “Asia’s leading meetings and conference Hotel” at the World Travel Awards?
TS: Essentially it is validation of our focussed effort towards making this the most preferred conferencing and meeting facility. This has been achieved by personalisation and high degree of attention to detail to this aspect of our business.
BTN: What commercial benefits has this title brought to the property?
TS: The benefit is tangible as well as intangible. Obviously the award has helped us secure business. The indirect spin off has been the credibility that this award has given us, thereby assisting us in making a stronger business pitch. It has also added to the brand equity of Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi.
BTN: How have your occupancy levels been for 2011 and how are forward bookings?
TS: Percentage of occupancy for the year is 66 percent as our second/third quarter was weak. The future business is on the upswing, as many international conferences are again being planned a couple of years in advance, which is a normal trend with global economic conditions being more stable. In effect, it is a positive sign.
BTN: What differentiates the Taj Palace from its competitors? What types of facilities do you offer for the MICE market?
TS: Taj Palace Hotel is the largest conference centre in India in the Luxury hotel. One or two larger conference centres do exist, but none have the unique advantage of being a part of the Luxury Hotel or having a brand as strong as the Taj brand associated with it. We are also located in the epicentre of the Delhi - NCR region, with close proximity to transport hubs. This is not an advantage that most large conference centres enjoy. Taj Palace Hotel offers a great deal of customisation and flexibility for conferencing and individual attention to each participant. In effect, we are a 500 rooms facility but with a 200 room feel, in its style, atmosphere, personalisation and comfort.
BTN: What new products and developments can we expect to see at the property in coming months?
TS: Brand new Business Centre which is being relocated from its current location, closer to the conference centre. This will make the business and meetings aspect of the layout more compact and integrated, hence even better for convention organisers, with the latest technology. Enhancement in rooms and design is continuing in our renovation of our accommodations which, while being warm and cocooning, will be entirely suited to the needs of the business traveller and the leisure seeker alike. So we are deliberately sanctuary. Taj Palace Hotel is also surrounded by lush reserve forests, is in the heart of the Diplomatic Enclave and yet a few minutes drive from the best sites and shopping centres in New Delhi.
BTN: How are visitor figures for India and what are your predictions for travel to the destination over the next few years?
TS: Visitor figures for India have been increased and have crossed the 5 million mark. This is a small number compared to smaller nations like Thailand and Singapore, but India still holds a unique fascination for visitors and the number is now set to explode in the near future with better infrastructure, world-class sites and better connectivity.
BTN: What are the main challenges you are currently facing and how are you tackling?
TS: Challenges being faced are in the form of talent acquisition and retention and the rising input costs. Fortunately the Taj has a very strong internal system of tackling both these head on, with strong learning and development focus on the one hand and elimination and reduction of wasteful practices on the other hand. Increasing competition is a challenge too, but one which we welcome wholeheartedly.
BTN: Are there any other markets (e.g. leisure travellers, adventure travellers) that you are you looking to tap into and how will you do this?
TS: Taj Palace Hotel is uniquely positioned in terms of location to handle business travellers for conferences alongside its business travellers as individuals and leisure travellers too! Geographically, we are the nearest top end luxury hotel to the airport and to the take off point for the world famous – Palace on Wheels and Maharaja’s Express train journeys. Hence, it makes perfect sense for travellers to begin and end their vacations here.