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Incredible India


in. this issue . Vol.5 No. 06 MARCH 2012


The Award Impact

18 Travel and tourism to grow faster than global economy in 2012 20 Thailand gives a push to wellness and medical tourism 23 Kerala Tourism website wins National Tourism Award P 26-27 KERALA TRAVELLER P 8-9

Mervin Isaac

Suman Dutta Sharma





P 10-11

P 12

P 14-15

P 16-17

Bernd Schneider

Chahnaz Gayraud

Jitesh K Patta

Dr Polly Mathew Photo Courtesy (Cover): Tourism Australia



Editor & Publisher : Chief Executive Officer : Group Editor : Photo Editor : Art Editor : Senior Sub Editor : Sub Editor : Editorial Team : Director - PR (Mumbai) : GM (Marketing) : GM (Finance) : Manager (Marketing) : Marketing Coordinator : Financial Advisor : Legal Advisor : GM -Tamil Nadu :


he need to diversify tourism products and services has become all the more important today, as the international tourist arrivals are forecast to touch one billion, this year. The well-heeled travellers are increasingly looking for different experiences while holidaying and there is no better option to attract them in large numbers than offering various attractions under a single roof. If a beach destination can offer facilities for water sports, bird-watching and guided nature walks or comes with such or more facilities, no doubt, within no time the destination will figure top among the choice of a traveller’s preferred tourist spots. Diversification of tourism offerings has several benefits. It will surely facilitate more arrivals and boost the revenue flow from the travel and tourism industry. If the industry is estimated to grow slightly faster than the growth rate of global economy in 2012, even without diversifying its products and services, one can give a wild guess on what sort of effect such a move (diversification) will have on the industry’s growth rate. The industry will be able to beat the current estimates and will be in a position to eradicate poverty, assist the economic growth of a country, create employment and link cultures, more effectively and in a sustainable manner. While diversifying the products and services, it is important to lay stress on sustainability. In today’s world, the word ‘sustainability’ means a lot more than environmental friendliness. It is about integrating economics, operational practices, relationships as well as environmental considerations, to build something that lasts. The more it lasts, the more socio-economic impact it creates. The success will, however, lie in a country’s ability to integrate sustainability with high growth, while diversifying its travel and tourism offerings. For this to happen, in the first place, one should embark on diversification, while the sun shines. With more travellers likely to flock to various destinations across the globe, there is no better time to work on diversifying the tourism offerings, to provide them different experiences in a single location. That will surely instil in them a desire to travel more.


rr acrin a G. Biju Krishnan Editor & Publisher +91 9447555222

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The Award Impact


ebruary 29, 2012 has been an eventful day for the Indian travel, tourism, hospitality and their related players. On this day, the outstanding players in each segment have taken home a token of appreciation from the President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, for their exceptional contribution to propel the country’s travel and tourism industry. Now, they hold the tag of nation’s best in their segment. A big thanks to the Union Ministry of Tourism for instituting National Tourism Awards, to reward the best of best in the industry. It has, over the years, become a platform for the industry players to indulge in a healthy competition, to emerge the nation’s best in their segment, by offering the best to both domestic and international travellers. The National Tourism Awards, now given away to the best State Governments/Union Territories, classified hotels, heritage hotels, approved travel agents, tour operators and tourist transport operators, individuals and other private organisations for their outstanding performance, is thus a morale booster to the industry and its allied players. Winning the nation’s prestigious award is surely not a trivial affair. And the industry players are well aware of it. Hence, the amount of effort each player makes to better one’s products and services is often exceptional. As players make every fair move to emerge the nation’s best, by living or exceeding the expectations of the customers and sticking to sustainable and green measures, industry is in fact seeing an increase in the number of best players, irrespective of who wins the

award. It is, of course, one of the best means to churn out quality players in the industry. Realising this, the Tourism Ministry has introduced three new categories of awards, this year. The way Dubai’s hospitality players responded to the Dubai Green Tourism Award underscores the impact of recognitions of national importance have on the industry and its players. The initiative was launched in 2009, to encourage hospitality sector to adopt environment friendly practices. Only into

its second edition, a large number of players have applied for it. Don’t forget that the growing number of application should be in proportion to the growing number of players adopted sustainable tourism and international standards to promote green tourism movement in the region. And this is the same effect National Tourism Awards has on Indian travel and tourism industry and its players. The fact that the Union Ministry of Tourism presents as many as 78 awards in over

50 categories, just sums up the initiative taken by it to extract the best from the country’s travel, tourism and its allied industry and take it into new heights. In the process, it has ensured the industry’s unfailing contribution to support its efforts to overcome seasonality and promote India as a 365 days destination. In order to develop and promote nascent and upcoming niche products in the tourism industry, the ministry needs to include them in the National Tourism Awards category.

National Tourism Award Winners States Most Innovative Use of IT/Best Website/Portal: Kerala Tourism Best State: Campaign Clean India: Sikkim Best Tourism Promotion Publicity Material: Madhya Pradesh Tourism Best Tourism Film: Madhya Pradesh Tourism Best Heritage Hotel: Grand: Shivniwas Palace, Udaipur, Rajasthan Classic: Malabar House Kochi, Kerala Heritage: Neemrana Fort Palace, Alwar, Rajasthan

Best Heritage City: Hyderabad Best Heritage Walk: Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation Limited Best Rural Tourism Project: Rural Tourism Project at Srikalahasti, Andhra Pradesh Best Airport: Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, Hyderabad


Best Hotels: Five Star Deluxe: The Oberoi Rajvilas, Jaipur, Rajastan Five Star: The Gateway Hotel, Ernakulam, Kerala Four Star: Vivanta by Taj, Kumarakom, Kerala Three Star: The Gateway Hotel, Vadodara, Gujarat Two Star: Hotel Pandian, Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Best Eco Friendly Hotel: ITC Gardenia, Bengaluru Best Standalone Conventional Centre Leonia International Centre for Exhibitions & Conventions, Hyderabad Best Hotel Based Meeting Venue Hotel Le Meridian, Kochi Best Wellness Centre: Somatheeram Ayurvedic Hospital and Yoga Centre, Kovalam Hotel providing Best Facilities for the Differentlyabled Guests: ITC Maurya, New Delhi


Domestic Tour Operator 1st: Choudhary Yatra, Nahik 2nd: Panicker’s Travel (India), New Delhi 3rd: Rao Travels, New Delhi Best MICE Operator: Creative Travel, New Delhi Most Innovative Tour Operator : Ibex Expeditions Best Adventure Tour Operator: Kash Venture Travels Travel Agent/Inbound Tour Operator Category 1 1st: Kuoni Travel (India), Gurgaon 2nd: Select World Tours (India), New Delhi 3rd: Thomas Cook (India), Mumbai Category II 1st: Creative Travel, New Delhi 2nd: Abercrombie & Kent India Category III 1st: Trail Blazer Tours India, Noida 2nd: Orient Express, New Delhi 3rd: Minar Travels (India), New Delhi Category IV 1st: Top Travel & Tours, New Delhi

2nd: Travel Inn (India), New Delhi 3rd: Caper Travel Co, New Delhi Category V 1st: Kash Venture Travels, New Delhi 2nd: Vasco Travel, Noida 3rd: Amber Tours, New Delhi Category VI 1st: Shikhar Travels (India), New Delhi 2nd: Welcome Travels, New Delhi 3rd: Maxxfun Holidays, New Delhi Tourist Transport Operators Category I 1st: Mercury Car Rentals, New Delhi 2nd: Bakshi Transport Service, New Delhi 3rd: KTC (India), New Delhi Category II 1st: Heat Travels & Tours (India), Siliguri 2nd: Ex-Soldiers Tourist Taxi Service, New Delhi 3rd: Alwar Tourist Transport Service, New Delhi Category III 1st: Touraids (I) Travel Services, Agra 2nd: Shreya Travels, Nagpur



A defining moment What does National Tourism Awards say about Kerala’s hospitality sector? Anil Mathew delves into it through the lens of the winners

Mervin Isaac, GM, Malabar House Kochi receives the National Tourism Award for the best heritage classic hotel from the President Pratibha Devisingh Patil. Also seen is Union Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahay


he silent but rapid strides that the hospitality sector in Kerala has been making over the past few years, is no more a secret affair. Especially, not after taking home major awards in the hospitality sector at the National Tourism Awards. And now, this South Indian state boasts several bests in the hospitality sector. It is, today, home to the best hotel meeting venue, best heritage classic hotel, best five star hotel and the best four star hotel, in the country. The fact that Kerala has taken home major awards in the hospitality sector at National Tourism Awards, just underlines the growing dominance of God’s own country, in India’s hospitality scene. While the best hotel based meeting venue award went to Hotel Le Meridien, Kochi, Malabar House Kochi took home the best heritage classic hotel award, from the President Pratibha Devisingh Patil. It was a double delight for the Taj Group, as the 

Gateway Hotel, Ernakulam and the Vivanta by Taj, Kumarakom bagged the best five star hotel award and the best four star hotel award, respectively, at the National

Suman Dutta Sharma, GM, Gateway Hotel, Ernakulam receives the National Tourism Award for the best five star hotel from the President Pratibha Devisingh Patil. Also seen is Union Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahay

of eight years, a wonderful endorsement of our philosophy to create unique experiences. Being a member of Relais and Chateaux, the global association of the finest

‘Our Directors Joerg and Txuku’s strategies Mervin Isaac General Manager Malabar House Kochi

and vision have once again produced results. It is definitely a great achievement for the entire team. It is the fourth National Tourism Award for the Malabar House in a span of eight years, a wonderful endorsement of our philosophy to create unique experiences

‘We are extremely delighted to receive this

prestigious award. It is a testimony of the hard work and efforts put in by our team members and associates in offering superior guest satisfaction levels and high loyalty value. We will continue to live up to guest expectations through innovative service designs Tourism Awards. “Definitely, it is a great achievement for the entire team. It is the fourth National Tourism award for the Malabar House in a span

Suman Dutta Sharma General Manager, Gateway Hotel, Ernakulam

restaurant and innkeepers, has helped and motivated us to develop our own character and personality and highlight the best of Kerala’s culture and hospitality,”

says, an elated Mervin Isaac, General Manager, Malabar House Kochi. Even Suman Dutta Sharma, General Manager, the Gateway Hotel, Ernakulam, does not hide his happiness at being instrumental in taking the hotel to new heights. We ask him whether it is a proud moment for him and he responds: “Yes!!! Indeed, it is really a proud moment for me and my team at Gateway. Being awarded the nation’s highest award in tourism, it is an amazing feeling and we are truly excited to receive this award.” And he lists the factors that have helped Gateway win this prestigious award. “It is all about hard work, passion and being focussed on our esteemed guests’ requirements and exceeding their expectation. It has taken a lot of dedicated effort, commitment and passion to receive the nation’s highest honour, surpassing the best in business. We believe in our commitment - duty makes us do things well, but love makes us do them beautifully.”



Gateway Hotel, Ernakulam

Malabar House Kochi

Kerala tourism industry and its members and their dedication to the travellers and industry.” The factors that have helped these players become the country’s best in their segment, in fact sum up the character of the Kerala’s hospitality sector. Every one strives to become the best and the best of best. For instance, listen to Isaac: “We considered the people in the organisation

Gateway Hotel, Ernakulam

As Sharma rightly puts it, it is, of course, commitment and passion, a mix of duty and love that have assisted the growth of Kerala’s hospitality sector. The growth momentum has, indeed, gained ground and along with it the quality of the services and products offered. Like its tourism industry, innovation has been the success mantra for the sector and it has never made an attempt to introduce innovative concepts at the cost of the state’s rich culture and heritage. The hospitality sector has also seen to it that the Kerala tourism ministry’s efforts to attract more arrivals have been well supplemented by them, providing the best stay experience to the travellers. The result is nothing less than a large number of repeat visitors. And, it is a win-win situation for both. “Kerala was always a major trend setter in tourism business as well as a true role model for others. These awards recognise the state’s continuous and consistent innovation in tourism products and services,” maintains, Isaac. The view is seconded by Sharma: “These awards pronounce the admirable quality of the

as the most important asset. It proves that the team effort and joint dedication can lead to perfect professionalism, with a human edge and smile. We operate to high standards of performance, advocate socially and environmentally sustainable business practices. Our aim is to bring a positive benefit to the society, in which we operate, through high quality services, economic growth, environmental protection, community involvement and employment. We focus on delivering our brand promises to our guest constantly.”


The strategy of Gateway is no different. And so is the strategy of the other players in the sector. “I would attribute the success to our consistent offering of crisp, efficient and quick service. Innovation and our relentless guest centric focus have helped us offer

an enjoyable stay experience, unobtrusive service and warm, friendly hospitality, to the guests. In addition, we are committed to environment sustainability and productive profitability through effective reduction of wastage,” Sharma signs off.

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To experience the best of French ‘Art de Vivre’, it is not a must to fly all the way to France. At least, from now onwards! Sofitel, the leader in French luxury hospitality, has commenced its operations in India, offering that rare and unique experience to the Indians and both the leisure and business travellers to the country. In an interview with Anil Mathew, Bernd Schneider, General Manager, Sofitel Mumbai BKC, deliberated at length on the hotel’s offerings, its future plans and the changing face of Indian hospitality sector and reasons for the same. Edited Excerpts:

The French delight Sofitel has made a grand entry in India, with the launch of Sofitel Mumbai BKC. Why did you reserve India, for a late entry? We have been planning to open in India for a while now, but given the stringent requirements of the brand, it took a while to find the right partner for the project. With the demand for luxury travel escalating in the country, we feel, we entered the country at the right time and we do have aggressive plans for our flagship hotel Sofitel Mumbai BKC. It is the first in a line of exciting new projects. Compared to other locations in the financial capital of India, what makes BandraKurla Complex a desired destination for Sofitel? The Sofitel Mumbai BKC is located at Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), a burgeoning financial district in Mumbai. Geographically in the centre of the city, BKC has excellent access to major highways in Mumbai as well as domestic and international terminals of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport. The area is also conveniently located to explore tourist attractions in both South and North Mumbai. With the National


Stock Exchange, Consulates, corporates, major banks and the Bharat Diamond Bourse, the world’s largest diamond trading centre, the immediate area around the hotel is fast developing into a business hub for Mumbai. Going by the reviews, Sofitel is a place to be in to explore the softer side of life and simply relax and feel good. How well this attribution gel with the hotel’s mission and vision? Sofitel Mumbai BKC was designed keeping in mind the French elegance and style and the Indian culture and traditions. The hotel’s vision clearly is to deliver excellence in luxury through passion

and emotion, creating an immaculate blend of French ‘Art de Vivre’ and Indian hospitality. Our guests are free to explore the hotel in their own unique way that they would define as luxury. The hotel’s mission is to let its guests experience gracious and generous hospitality from passionate and empowered Sofitel ambassadors, who are dedicated to consistently delivering memorable moments of luxury. Our ambassadors are passionate about the brand and imbibe the French elegance and Indian tradition in everything, from greeting to gastronomy. We are committed to creating and maintaining a pre-eminent

position as a premium luxury hotel in Mumbai. The property, no doubt, blends French elegance with Indian art and culture. How important is it that a hotel reflects the art and culture of the country it operates in? Sofitel is the leader in French luxury hospitality, offering the discerning traveller a sophisticated hospitality experience and a celebration of the finer things in life. Sofitel’s brand universe abounds with French touches, deliberately evocative of luxury, but blended with authentic local nuances. This juxtaposition is reflected in a slogan that brings together one concept – ‘Life is Magnifique’. We have created and defined French touches from washroom amenities to uniforms. Our approach to personalised service is known as ‘cousu main’ and reflects our attention to detail, precision and emotion. We are now set to offer the fine French elegance in Mumbai. Mumbai usually attracts a large number of business and leisure travellers. What unique offerings do you have for them, which will in turn catapult Sofitel Mumbai


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW into a preferred destination among such travellers? A glistening beacon of sophistication and grandeur, Sofitel Mumbai BKC exudes modern luxe, offering unrivalled facilities as well as a premium address. Perfect for business travellers, the hotel offers its own executive facilities like Club Millésime, a business lounge located on the top floor. It provides the much needed privacy and exclusivity to corporate guests. Then, there is a full service business centre that is ideal for business needs, while travelling. Sofitel’s unique ‘InspiredMeetings’ service is available to perfect any event, from intimate gatherings to conferences and weddings. And our trademark fitness label ‘So FIT, works around the busy traveller’s hectic schedule. Sofitel Mumbai BKC endeavours to be a destination for leisure travelers as well, with a host of leisure options to choose from. L’OH Pool & Bar, the hotel’s swimming pool that comes with a bar, makes is a perfect retreat in the heart of Mumbai. ‘So SPA’, our trademark spa concept, features six treatment rooms. Of these, one is exclusive couple’s spa area, with a private Jacuzzi and more. Travellers can also relax and rejuvenate with a range of treatments with products from Gemology and Cinq Mondes, two famous French brands that are entering the Indian market for the first time. We also offer multiple dining options and one can choose from its six restaurants and bars. For travellers who would like to spend their time shopping, there is Linking Road located 15 minutes away from the hotel, where one can enjoy eclectic street shopping. According to you, what all things make a hotel, a

deciding factor for hosting large MICE events. Sofitel Mumbai BKC has a clear advantage of being located in the heart of the business district in Mumbai. Many corporates, due to expensive office spaces in South Mumbai, are now shifting their offices to this burgeoning business district. The central location and the flow of corporate offices will help leverage our efforts to expand our MICE business at Sofitel Mumbai BKC. Will you be entering into other parts of the country, soon? If yes, would you please take us through your action plan? The first step was to launch the brand and I am pleased to share that the launch has been successfully completed. Establishing the Sofitel brand and creating awareness on the French elegance, style, quality, gastronomy, art and culture that the brand is recognised for, will be our next goal. We are looking forward to opening the next two Sofitel hotels in Mulund, a northern suburb in Mumbai. One will be Sofitel luxury hotel brand, while the other one will be launched under the label Another deciding factor How do you see India as ‘So Sofitel’, a contemporary is a hotel’s architecture and an emerging meetings, lifestyle brand that will cater design, where some guests incentives, conferences and the fashion conscious guests. would like to escape. In events (MICE) destination? How a fertile ground is India order to be a destination for How do you plan to tap for hospitality players? What guests, for those who enjoy this segment, based from makes it more attractive, for architecture and design, Mumbai? players like you? Sofitel Mumbai BKC has been In 2007, Incredible India In India, demand conceived with a very strong took the first positive steps in supersedes supply, for a five focus on design and style. marketing India as a MICE star luxury hotel. The demand Unlike a decade ago, destination and the results for premium luxury hotels is nowadays a hotel comes with have been very encouraging. multiple restaurants and From then on, MICE segment far beyond the actual supply at present. As the country bars, state-of-the-art designer has grown exponentially in fitness and health facilities, the country and it has helped sees increasing number of inbound leisure and corporate and spas. What has brought the hotels to capitalise on the travellers, the demand-supply about this shift in product tourist inflows. Large events gap for premium luxury offerings and services and create a huge demand for how far has it assisted the hotel rooms in close proximity hotel rooms is likely to widen further. It provides ample growth of hospitality sector? to the conference location space and opportunity for Today’s discerning and it helps hotels to be in travellers are well-travelled, business. Location is a critical players like us. destination in itself? Going by such a rule, can one classify Sofitel Mumbai BKC, a destination in itself for the travellers? In order for a hotel to be a destination for guests, it is very important to make a strong emotional connect with them. To start with, food is of paramount importance in making a connection with the guests and a deciding factor on whether one would be a repeat guest or not. We have put a lot of thought and strategy behind the delectable international and local cuisines offered at our restaurants.


knowledgeable and above all, well researched about the hotels and the cities they are travelling to. As a result, they have become more demanding and one clearly knows what one’s requirements are. This shift in the mindset of travellers has necessitated hospitality players to come up with premium products, wide offerings and additional services, in order to be a complete destination for travellers. Looking ahead, booming economy, higher salaries coupled with higher demands for excellent service will only improve the product offerings of hospitality players.



Here is a woman, who likes this quote of Bill Bryson: “To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” And it defines Chahnaz Gayraud, General Manager, Holiday Inn Resort Calangute, North Goa. She firmly believes that hospitality is a vocation and asks the young gals, who cherish a job in the sector, to be ready to work hard, to make it to the top! Read more… What attracted you to the hospitality sector? Please take us through the early days of your career.

Chahnaz Gayraud General Manager, Holiday Inn Resort Calangute, North Goa


I was born and raised in Morocco. During my childhood, I was fortunate enough to experience magnificent countryside, luxury villas and elegant hotels, where I tasted all kinds of gastronomies. This world fascinated me and naturally brought me to hospitality. I am happy that my parents gave me such a

wonderful experience at such a tender age. I did my high school in Switzerland, where I got my Baccalaureate and I discovered a famous hotel school (Centre International de Glion) a few miles away, where I obtained my Bachelor in hospitality management. My career started with Sofitel Scribe in downtown Paris, where I learnt how to run an entire department. Because of my charisma, I was soon appointed Chef Concierge and was part of opening Sofitel Michelet. I left Sofitel and the room division after six years, to join Hotel ST James & Albany, as a Breakfast Manager. I soon climbed up the ladder in the food and beverage department and served Renaissance Hotel and Castiglione Hotel as Food and Beverage Manager, in the course of time. After 14 years in France, I left to Arizona in US on a student visa, to master English. After the education, I joined JW Marriott Camelback Inn in Scottsdale Arizona on contract and I was asked to reorganise the famous Chaparral Restaurant. During my contract I had the exceptional privilege to attain the AAA Four Diamond Award, for two consecutive years. But, I could not renew the contract after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, as things took a bad turn.

I got the opportunity to come to India for the first time, while I was with Costa Allegra, where I was in charge of five restaurants, three bars, two lounges, one discotheque, one cyber coffee, a convention centre and theatre, and housekeeping department. Thus I came to Bengaluru in April 2004, to join the Royal Orchid Hotels on contract, as General Manager. In 2005, I was the only foreign woman GM, managing a five star property in India. I led a team of 380 people and went through the process of building an IPO. Once the contract ended, I flew to Dubai and worked there for a couple of years. Here, I had an opportunity to manage and open one big business hotel and three boutique hotels. But I couldn’t forget the Incredible India. Luckily, because of my reputation, a hotel owner contacted me to manage his properties in South Goa. I didn’t think twice and came back right away. I have been living and working in Goa, since 2008. As a woman, what were the challenges you had to face in building up a successful career in this fast growing sector? The challenge was to impose myself in a man’s world, especially in the Food and Beverage Department, where I spent almost two decades in the 80’s and 90’s. Page 15



Becoming a General Manager at an age of 26 or a VP – Operations at 30, is a rare feet in the hospitality sector. And Jitesh K Patta, General Manager, Parkland Exotica, Delhi has achieved such a pedestal. After entering the hospitality sector to fulfil his father’s dream, he has not looked back. It was a successful journey and he is glad that he adhered to his father’s game plan. And we know only an outstanding individual with perseverance and dedication can climb the ladder of success so fast. Through 10 Questions, he shares with us several things about hospitality sector and his career, family, hobbies and favourite destination. to his action plan and I went on to become one of the youngest GMs at an age of 26 and the youngest VP– Operations, at 30. In earlier days, we had quality manpower, though we lacked in quantity. Now, hotel management institutes have mushroomed in the country and it has addressed the issue of quantity, but we lack in quality manpower. It is an area of concern for the industry. In your career, have you ever worked abroad? What, according to you, are the advantages of working overseas? I had a couple of opportunities in the past, to work abroad. However, I have not taken up any overseas assignment, due to my strong bonds with family. Working abroad has a lot of perks like tax free salary, free education for children with accommodation, car with a My dream was to become driver, maid and above all an Army Officer, as I grew local expenses will be met by up in a disciplined army the company. background. Though I cleared What plans do you have for National Defence Academy the company? (NDA) and Combined Defence Parkland Exotica, Delhi, is Services (CDS) exams, my a banquet centric hotel, where father had some great plans 70 per cent of the revenue for me. He planned my career is generated from banquets. in such a manner, I do not Hence, my priority is to regret later. My father used to always develop new ideas and say, after hotel management implement them, for the Food pursue MBA and you will and Beverage department reach your destiny. I adhered in a way to facilitate overall You have been in the hospitality sector for the past several years. Could you tell us about your early days? What made you enter this fascinating field?

Jitesh K Patta General Manager, Parkland Exotica, Delhi


development of the product which will inturn lead to optimum realisation of revenue. We aim to turn Parkland Exotica into a number one destination for banqueting and conferencing in Delhi, by virtue of product development, competitive pricing and creating a brand value in the market. How do you see the role of a hotel in developing a destination? What all things can hospitality sector do in this regard? Gone are the days when destination was the focus for hotel developers! Nowadays, a nice hotel that caters to the entire family or business group is a destination in itself or a destination point. Hence, unlike in the past, we are seeing emergence of new destinations. In this regard, in India we have a classic example in Coorg. It wasn’t a preferred destination for the travellers and the picture has changed now, as hospitality players have made it their hub. Hospitality is the epicentre and other developments will revolve around it. From jobs to towns, everything is possible, if hospitality sector grows in a particular state or city. For instance, it was the growth of hospitality sector that has helped Kerala and Goa, find a place on the global tourism map.


Q&A Would you please share with us the proudest and some of the unforgettable moments in your professional life? There is this incident in my life, which remains fresh in my mind for reasons more than one. I was working for an international company in Goa and suddenly the entire staff went on strike, at a time all our rooms were fully occupied, with customers availing all recreational activities like Kids Zone, Pool, Billiards and Card room, besides seven course meal for lunch and dinner. Everything, from operating the back of the house, like housekeeping and engineering, to dish making and dish washing, and from laying beds to laundry, fell on a team of 24 head of departments and executives and the tasks were minutely executed in a way that the in-house guests never had a feeling of strike. After nine days, the staff eventually called off the strike and during the period we had the best of the revenue and guest appreciation. It was accomplished because of a Page 12

When you look back, do you recall the ones, who have exerted an influence in your professional life? If yes, tell us as to how have they changed your career for better? Hospitality is a vocation, I did not need influence. You have worked in different parts of the world and served the hospitality sector, in different capacities. How has been the journey so far and if you don’t mind share with us the proudest moments you like to cherish. I am proud of my career’s achievement in general and not about a moment. Everywhere, I had challenges and rewards. My memory is full of amazing stories.

high level of motivation and team spirit. Where would you like to see yourself, say, 10 years from now? I like to see myself as a Principal of a catering college, sharing the experiences with the generation next and making them competitive enough, as per the international standards. How do you see the growth prospects of Indian hospitality sector? According to the world travel and tourism council, growth in the hospitality industry is pegged at 15 per cent, per year. With 2,00,000 rooms, both luxury and budget, needed in the country, the segment is poised for a stupendous growth. While the high influx of foreign tourists has ensured huge footfalls for the sector over the years, internal tourism too has, of late, begun offering great potential. With travellers flocking to domestic destinations, hospitality players are offering the best of services, at affordable prices. Also, with the $24

billion software services sector pushing the Indian economy skywards, more and more IT professionals are flocking to Indian metro cities, signalling a boom time for the hotel and hospitality segment. The Indian hospitality industry is projected to grow at a rate of 8.8 per cent till 2016, catapulting the country into the second fastest growing tourism market in the world. Initiatives like massive investment in hotel infrastructure and open sky policies by the government will surely propel the hospitality sector. Hotel and hospitality sectors are among the biggest employment generators in the country. To boost the growth, the government should confer infrastructure status to the hotel sector and rationalise several taxation issues. Also, permits and licenses required for the hotel operations need to be rationalised, by offering a ‘single window’ clearance mechanism. Would you paint a picture of your family?

I owe the credit of being a General Manager to my wife Alka Patta, as she is the one who made me understand that to move up the organisational chart, you need to shift jobs after a regular period of time. Had I not taken decisions on job change as directed by her, I would have been an F&B Manager for long. I have a beautiful daughter Arjita and a smart son Arjun Patta. No matter how late I reach home at night, they will be awake, waiting for me. My family has always been with me through thick and thin and have always motivated me to be the best. They do deserve a special note of thanks. Please tell us about your hobbies and other interests? When I am free, I spend time with my family on long drives, playing XBOX 360 and TV surfing. Which is your favourite destination? Why? Our family destination is Goa, as it is a wonderful place. The moment you land at the airport you can have the soothing smell of Goa in the air which says ‘Siesta and Fiesta’.

How different is Indian hospitality sector? What did you like more about it? What I like about the Indian hospitality is its warmth, a reflection of the culture based on family values, the respect granted to guests and the people offering the best of what they have. Would you please cut a clear picture of the task cut out for you, as the General Manager of the Holiday Inn Resort Calangute North Goa? My main task is to open the Holiday Inn Resort Calangute North Goa by the end of 2012. The Hotel is in its early stage of construction. What all plans do you have for the Holiday Inn? My plan is to make Holiday Inn Resort Calangute North Goa one of the best

hotels that the guests love in the region. Where do you like to see yourself, say, 10 years from now? I would like to continue opening beautiful hotels around India. What does ‘success’ mean to you? Hospitality is my way of life and I love what I am doing, that is my definition of success. What do you like to tell the young girls, who aspire to build a career in the hospitality sector? Be ready to work hard, with a good spirit and a lot of flexibility, to make it to the Top! Which is your favourite destination in India? Why do you like it so much?

I am unconditionally in love with Goa, because it is a small state with a variety of sceneries. How supportive has been your family in building a career in the hospitality sector? My parents offered me to study in ‘Glion Institute of Higher Education’ in Switzerland, among the top three hospitality management schools in the world. That is full support. If not a hospitality professional, what would have you been? Ranger in a National Park or a Veterinan in the country site!




Dr Polly Mathew, Chairman and Managing Director, Somatheeram Ayurvedic Health Resort, Kovalam, is in an upbeat mood. And he has every reason to be a happy person. He dared to venture into wellness tourism in India, with the country’s first ayurvedic resort and has emerged successful, fighting odds. Now, his baby has won the National Tourism Award for the second consecutive time and is the country’s best wellness centre. In an interview to Asian Traveller, he shared what the award means to him and his company, his initial struggle and where his venture stands now. Edited Excerpts:

A wellness visionary At the National Tourism Awards you have emerged successful, bagging the best wellness centre award. How does it feel like owning the best wellness centre in India? This is the second time Somatheeram Ayurvedic Health Resort wins the National Tourism Award. We look at it as a token of appreciation from the Government of India, for the efforts we are taking to promote ayurveda and the Indian tourism (destination) among the international travel fraternity. It gives us motivation and the energy to do more and more creative actions to draw more travellers to the country. Don’t you think the recognition has brought in more responsibilities? How do you plan to take your product forward and retain the top ranking? After getting consecutive National Tourism Awards, yes, we do realise that we have given more


responsibilities, especially in the ayurvedic tourism field. When we started our initiative in 1989 as the first ayurvedic resort in India, we struggled a lot to give our clients the much needed comfort, security, authentic treatments and above all a nice experience that will lure them back to this wonderful land year again. Now, we have established our brand in the industry and today, at Somatheeram Ayurvedic Health Resort, we enjoy a good volume of repeat clients from all over the world. This is the best reward we have for what we are doing. What was in your mind, when you launched Somatheeram Ayurvedic Hospital and Yoga Centre, Kovalam? When I was in Germany with my family, all my friends and neighbours were asking about India and Sri Lanka for their vacation as well as ayurvedic treatments. As I have lived in Germany, I

was well aware of what their needs were and how they could be satisfied. Also, I always had a great passion to my land. This made me to think about Somatheeram, where the sun, sea and sandy beaches merge with the soul. Immediately, I started working on Somatheeram. It all happened in 1985. What makes this venture of yours a desired destination among wellness tourists? At Somatheeram Ayurvedic Health Resort, we give our clients a best chance to experience the genuine

ayurvedic treatments, while enjoying the sandy beaches. The entire set-up is more like an ayurvedic hospital, in a resort ambience. The doctors and other staff will ensure to give each and every client a personalised service wherever possible. As such, the clients will get a more personal feel to the land and our hospitality. This makes them to plan again and again a visit to Somatheeram Ayurvedic Health Resort, to relax their body, mind and soul. How far has Somatheeram Ayurvedic Hospital and Yoga


FACE TO FACE Centre boosted the growth of Kovalam, as a tourist hot spot? When we started our initiative, Kovalam was the only tourist destination in all over Kerala. We were aware of the various attractions available here and we developed a scheme of promotion through which we could promote not just Somatheeram Ayurvedic Health Resort, but the Kerala destination (tourism) as a whole, by projecting its hill stations, sanctuaries, sandy beaches, etc. Do you owe its success to somebody or something? First of all, I owe its success to my family and to all my staff at Somatheeram. Also, we know the guests have a major role in the success, especially repeat guests. I take this wonderful opportunity

to express my thankfulness to all who contribute their best in bringing success to the company. How far has wellness centric tourism gained ground in India? How do you see the road ahead? The wellness centric tourism has gained a good ground in India, especially because of its cost effectiveness, accurate and precise analysis methods


and the expertise available in the country. If we can concentrate on to give our visitors an authentic and a much personalised service, and definitely the results, we can have a bright future in the wellness as well as medical centric tourism field. Do wellness players like you get enough support from the state and central governments? If not, what else you need from

them to propel the wellness tourism segment? We do get support from various officials, whenever we approach them for support. However, we feel that we should have clear policies to boost the segment. How do you see Kerala as a hot destination in India, for wellness tourism products and services? We know Kerala has established itself as a prominent destination among leisure travellers, thanks to its natural beauty, cultural assets and rigorous marketing efforts by the state’s tourism department. The flow of wellness and medical tourists were limited till the recent past, however, with the growing awareness on health and wellness tourism, Kerala, with world-class facilities and infrastructure, now gets its fair share of the lime light.



Travel and tourism to grow faster than global economy in 2012


ravel and tourism into account, was $6.3 trillion industry’s direct in GDP, 255 million jobs, $743 contribution to the billion in investment and global economy will surpass $1.2 trillion in exports. Its $2 trillion in gross domestic contribution represented nine product (GDP) and 100 per cent of the world’s total million jobs in 2012, reveals a GDP and one in every 12 jobs, recent research by the World across the globe. Travel and Tourism Council “In 2012, when (WTTC), an international international travellers are organisation of travel industry expected to surpass one executives that billion for the first promotes travel and time, the industry will tourism worldwide. have two other major As per the research milestones in its kitty report, the global - a direct contribution of travel and tourism $2 trillion to the world industry will economy and 100 million grow by 2.8 per jobs. It is clear that the cent in the current David Scowsill, travel and tourism President and CEO, WTTC year, marginally industry is going to be faster than the global rate of a significant driver of global economic growth, which is growth and employment, for pegged at 2.5 per cent. the next decade. The industry When the wider economic is responsible for creating impacts of the industry are jobs, pulling people out of taken into account, travel poverty and broadening and tourism is forecast to horizons. It is one of the contribute about $6.5 trillion world’s great industries,” to the global economy and smiles, David Scowsill, generate 260 million jobs, in President and CEO, WTTC. the current year. In 2011, the At 6.7 per cent, South and industry’s total economic North-East Asia will be the contribution, taking its direct, fastest growing regions in indirect and induced impacts 2012, while after an extremely

challenging 2011, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and North Africa will show signs of recovery in 2012. Countries such as India and China will see increase in domestic tourism spend and a sharp

upturn in capital investment, thanks to the rising incomes. In the Middle East, Qatar will grow fastest at 13.2 per cent, while other destinations will perform much better than the previous year.

India sees increased tourist flow


ndian tourism industry is on the growth orbit even in 2012, though the growth momentum is yet to gather force. In February, the country has registered a 6.6 per cent growth in foreign tourist arrivals to 6.77 lakh, from 6.34 lakh during the corresponding period, last year. With this increase in arrivals, in the first two months of the current year, India has attracted around


13.59 lakh foreign travellers, up 7.9 per cent, from 12.59 lakh arrivals in the same period, previous year. The growth in arrivals has in turn pushed up its foreign exchange earnings during the period under discussion.

(Picture used for representational purpose only)

The country earned around Rs 8502 crore in foreign exchange last month, compared to Rs 7653 crore in February 2011. During JanuaryFebruary 2012, it has earned Rs 17125 crore in foreign exchange, up 27.5 per cent, from Rs 13430 crore, in the comparable period, last year. In February, India has also seen around 23 per cent growth in the issuance

of visa on arrival. As per the available information, the country has issued around 1259 visa on arrival, compared to 1026 visa on arrival in February 2011. In the first two months of 2012, the country has issued a total of 2618 visa on arrival, up from 1816 visa on arrival during the same period, prior year. The scheme has facilitated more arrivals to the country. ASIAN TRAVELLER | MARCH 2012


WTD celebrations to be held in Spain


ighlighting the need to bring the tourism industry and energy stakeholders closer together to spur the former’s contribution to sustainability, this year’s official World Tourism Day (WTD) celebrations will be held in the town of Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, Spain, under the theme ‘Tourism and Sustainable Energy: Powering Sustainable Development’. One third of the island of Gran Canaria, including the town of Maspalomas, where the celebrations will take place, is a Biosphere Reserve of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). “Tourism is at the forefront of many of the latest and most

innovative sustainable energy Spain is among the top initiatives. One only has to five countries investing think of the investments being in renewable energy poured into renewable energy worldwide and 20 per cent sources for aviation, or the of the energy consumed energy technology solutions in the country comes from implemented in hotels around renewable sources. “Holding the world, to know that this year’s celebrations in sustainable energy Spain is particularly is a major priority fitting, given its for the sector. The reputation as one message at the heart of the world’s top of WTD 2012 is that tourism destinations these initiatives and and a global leader in commitments are renewable energy,” not only helping Taleb Rifai, Secretary-General, adds, Rifai. UNWTO to protect the Official WTD environment, but celebrations will they are also creating economic include a high-level think opportunities and jobs for tank on this year’s theme, millions, whether in tourism, where public and private energy or other sectors,” tourism stakeholders will says, Taleb Rifai, Secretaryjoin leaders from the energy General, UNWTO. sector to further the use of

sustainable energy in the tourism industry. Spanish Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism, José Manuel Soria and the President of Acciona Energy, Carmen Becerril are expected to attend the celebrations. WTD is celebrated annually on September 27, with a purpose to foster awareness among the international community of the importance of tourism and its social, cultural, political and economic value. The event seeks to address global challenges outlined in the UN Millennium Development Goals and highlight the contribution the tourism industry can make in reaching these goals.

Karnataka Tourism pulls crowd at ITB Berlin


t ITB Berlin 2012, the world’s leading travel trade event, Karnataka Tourism stall, which featured Yakshagana artists to lend some cultural element to the event, has drawn the attention of the visitors and other exhibitors alike and was rated among the top 16 stalls. “Our stall was rated one of the top 16 stalls for pulling the crowd in large numbers and we hope our active participation

will strike a chord among discerning travellers,” says an official with Karnataka Tourism.


Led by G Latha Krishna Rao IAS, Principal Secretary – Tourism, Karnataka, the delegation that represented

this South Indian state is learnt to have marketed destination Karnataka successfully at the world’s leading tourism fair that usually attracts around 170,000 visitors and over 10,000 exhibitors from 180 countries. The Karnataka Tourism delegation comprised K Viswanatha Reddy IAS, Director - Tourism and Anur Reddy IFS, Managing Director, Jungle Lodges and Resorts.



Thailand gives a push to wellness and medical tourism


ealising the potential of and the growing demand for wellness and medical tourism products and services, both the private sector and the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) are working to turn Thailand into a world-class health provider, by 2014. The country had earlier launched a campaign, ‘Thailand - Spa Capital of Asia’, to give a boost to its image as a wellness and medical tourism destination. “Around 1.4 million visitors flock to Thailand every year, just for medical or spa treatments. By 2014, we expect earnings to the tune of $8 billion from medical treatments, $2.23 billion from wellness services and $1.3 billion from sale of products and supplies,” says, an official with the TAT. Over the last two decades, Thailand has emerged as a force to reckon with in Asia’s wellness and medical tourism scene, largely due to

the presence of sophisticated spas such as Spa Cenvaree from Centara Hotels and Resorts, Deravana Spa from Dusit International, Niranlada Medi-Spa from Chiva-Som and Six Senses Spa, and international hospitals like Bumrungrad International Hospital, in the region. Strict recruitment policy that emphasises on hiring of certificated practitioners and upgradation of services, products and hygienic standards on regular basis have helped the country’s wellness segment to find a

place in the good books of wellness travellers. “Thailand is already a leading spa market, with over 1,200 spas of international standards. Thai Spa Associations in cooperation with the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Commerce have introduced a classification system and classified spas into Platinum, Gold and Silver based on the set standards. It assures that all the supply chain and personnel working in such classified spas offer a high-quality product. We

estimate that there are over 400 luxury or high-end spas in the country,” informs, Apichai Jearadisak, Advisor for the Federation of Thai Spa Associations. On the medical side, Thailand has more than 30 international accredited hospitals in Bangkok and various tourist destinations such as Pattaya, Phuket, Samui, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai and Hat Yai, providing high quality services at reasonable rates.

Oman works on new tourism offerings


n order to turn Oman more attractive to the travellers, its tourism ministry has taken a number of initiatives, including introduction of fly and cruise packages, construction of an archaeological park and a museum at the Friday mosque in Qalhat, a conference and exhibition centre in Muscat and a study of about 30 locations across the country, including Al Hoota, Majlis Al Jinn and Suhoor Caves, for potential tourism development. 20

The current focus, however, seems to be on propelling its cruise industry. Besides launching fly and cruise packages, the ministry is also working to attract major cruise players to come to Oman by convincing

them of the great facilities the country has. “We are working with Oman Air to attract people to fly directly to Oman and join the cruise, from Europe or elsewhere. To convince the cruise companies to come to Oman, we are

presenting them the facilities we have, including visa, port and air connectivity,” says, Haitham Al Ghassani, Director of Tourism Promotion and Awareness at Oman’s Ministry of Tourism. Oman’s main source market is Europe. Last year, Muscat saw the opening of Royal Opera House and it has attracted a large number of tourists from Europe and around the world. In 2011, tourism accounted for 2.6 per of the country’s gross domestic product.



Qatar aims big, ropes in Hills Balfour


s part of its strategy to grow Qatar’s tourism industry by 20 per cent in the next five years, Qatar Tourism Authority has roped in Hills Balfour, a travel representation and public relations firm, to establish the country as a preferred destination for both leisure and business travellers. “As of now, 95 per cent of visitors to Qatar arrive as part of business trips or in transit to other destinations. Hence, the key focus is on attracting these visitors to spend an additional 48 hours in the country,” says a reliable industry source. Meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) is already a flourishing industry in Qatar, hosting over 60 major conferences each year. MICE segment will get a further boost soon, as Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre is

set to open in 2014. Also, its the country as a centre for hospitality sector is growing leisure and business tourism. at a faster rate, with nearly Our partnership with Hills 80 new hotels and 42 hotel Balfour is a very positive step apartments under towards this aim, construction. as we look to grow “Qatar has this area of our witnessed a national economy,” significant says, Ahmed increase in its Abdulla Al Nuami, profile, following Chairman, Qatar Ahmed Abdulla Al Nuami, the decision in Tourism Authority. Chairman, Qatar Tourism Authority December 2010 by Qatar is a FIFA to base the modern and a 2022 World Cup in Qatar. We thriving country in the heart must now capitalise on this of the Middle East, which opportunity by establishing offers a blend of authentic

Arabian experiences and top-class accommodation. With long stretches of coastline, dunes, year-round sun, great shopping avenues, hotels and a packed calendar of sporting events, Qatar has a lot to offer to the travellers, who seek adventure and relaxation alike. One can visit the world-renowned Museum of Islamic Art in its capital city of Doha, take a camel back safari in the desert and camp in a luxury Bedouin tent. The options are plenty.

Ireland pins hope on Bollywood to lure Indians


ourism Ireland is betting big on Bollywood flicks to spread awareness on various tourist destinations in the country among Indian travellers. This third largest island in Europe has, of late, seen shooting of some of the big-budget Bollywood films and the latest one to shoot in this picturesque country is Ek Tha Tiger (once there was

a tiger), which has Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif in the lead. The film is shot in Dublin and has captured attractions in and around Trinity, Merrion Square and the Ha’penny Bridge. “Bollywood is deeprooted in the psyche of most Indians and the films have a considerable influence on Indian travellers, when they are deciding on their holiday


destination. So, it gives us a reason to use Bollywood films to promote Ireland as a holiday destination, across India,” says an official with Tourism Ireland. Ireland, the 20th largest island on earth, is home to three World Heritage Sites - Brú na Boinne, Skellig Michael and the Giant’s Causeway. Its major tourist hot spots include the Burren,

Mount Stewart, Bunratty Castle, the Rock of Cashel, the Cliffs of Moher, Holy Cross Abbey and Blarney Castle. Dublin is the most frequented destination, with attractions such as the Guinness Storehouse and Book of Kells. County Kerry, County Galway and County Mayo, with attractions like the Lakes of Killarney, Dingle peninsula, Connemara, Aran Islands and Achill Island, are also fast emerging as popular tourist locations. “We are confident that the films shot in Ireland will help whet appetite and create a curiosity among Indians to come and visit the places where they were shot,” concludes the Tourism Ireland official. 21


Dubai hospitality players respond to green call


he initiative to encourage the hospitality sector to adopt environment friendly practices by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) has proved to be a resounding success, with 104 hotels and hotel apartments applying for the second edition of Dubai Green Tourism Award. Out of this, a panel of experts has shortlisted 23 hotels for the award. “The significant increase in the number of applications reflects the keen interest of the key tourism industry players in sustainable tourism and their commitment Eyad Ali Abdul towards Rahman

maintaining international standards and promoting green tourism movement in the region. The selection process has been made multi-tiered in order to recognise the best practices and make the programme one of the best in the world,” says, Eyad Ali Abdul Rahman, Executive Director - Business Development, DTCM.

Vijayan Thomas appointed KTDC Chairman


he Kerala Government has appointed Vijayan Thomas, a prominent Dubaibased businessman and the current Chairman of Jaihind TV, a Malayalam channel, as the Chairman of Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC). He succeeds Cherian Philip, who resigned from office on March 2011. Vijayan Thomas is also a senior Congress leader. KTDC operates hotels, resorts and tourist rest houses in key locations across the state. Its official slogan is ‘Official host to God’s own country’ and it is one of the most profitable ventures of the state government.

Dominican Republic unveils social media inspired ad campaign


ollowing the successful there is no better place to get launch of the social closer and socialise in real life media friendly website than in Dominican Republic. in 2011, the Dominican “As Dominican Republic Republic Ministry of Tourism continues to thrive, we are distinguishing our enchanting is all set to take the idea destination and its vast of social networking tourism offerings from to a new level by the competition. We will introducing a social ensure that the campaign media inspired multi remains unforgettable channel ad campaign, and instils a strong Magaly Toribio featuring print, online desire in the minds of and broadcast, that travellers to experience and will engage with consumers explore our country,” smiles, around the world and inspire Magaly Toribio, Vice Minister them to be social and share of International Promotion, their unforgettable experience Dominican Republic Ministry in Dominican Republic. The of Tourism. ad campaign, with its tagline The ad campaign is likely ‘Dominican Republic is closer to employ liberal use of than you think’, is designed in stunning and captivating a way to convince people that photographs of the country’s


various attractions, to lure potential travellers. “The campaign will rely on social media terms as metaphors for socialising with others about a vacation in Dominican Republic. The social interaction suggests the vacation as something worthy

of a status update, both literally and in the Facebook sense. The campaign will blend technology and social interaction, to create value - the value of sharing your experiences with others,” Toribio throws more light into the proposed campaign.



Kerala Tourism website wins National Tourism Award


erala Tourism’s consistent and dedicated efforts at innovative use of information technology (IT) to spread awareness on its various tourism products and services has once again drawn both international and national attention, as its website won the National Tourism Award in the category of most innovative use of IT/ Best Website and Portal. It is the fifth time in ten years Kerala Tourism’s website is bagging this prestigious award instituted by the Union Tourism Ministry. Kerala Tourism Minister A P Anil Kumar received the award from the Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, at a glittering ceremony held in New Delhi, recently. “It (the award) underlines our (Kerala Tourism Ministry’s) constant efforts

to innovate on the latest technology in this hightech era to stay always atop amongst the most favoured destinations in India,” beams a delighted A P Anil Kumar. Recently, Kerala Tourism has announced its plans to roll out a new set of user-friendly mobile-based applications. The award-winning website (www.keralatourism. org) has been designed and produced by Thiruvananthapuram-based Invis Multimedia. “Kerala, as in many cases, is a pioneer in capitalising on the IT boom to market its tourism products and reach out to the travellers across the globe. This award once again acknowledges our successful attempts to market the state’s various tourism offerings to a growing number of potential travellers,” concurs, T K Manoj Kumar, Kerala Tourism Secretary. He

was also present for the award ceremony. Kerala Tourism website is virtually an online encyclopaedia on Kerala, with a focus on travel-oriented content. It receives around 1.75 lakh visitors and 7-8 lakh page views, every month. Rich with text and high quality

photographs, the website, besides in Malayalam, is currently available in English, Hindi, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Japanese, Arabic and Chinese. The website is highly regarded as the best source for information on Kerala, since 2003.

… while its print campaign bags Golden Gate award


t ITB Berlin 2012, the world’s leading travel show, it was indeed Kerala’s moment of success, as Kerala Tourism bagged the prestigious Golden Gate award for its print campaign, ‘Your Moment is Waiting’. Conceptualised and created by Stark Communications, creative partner for Kerala Tourism, the campaign won the hearts of everybody at the Das Golden Stadttor (Golden Gate) awards and eventually won the Silver Prize in the print campaign category. Rani George, Director of Kerala Tourism, who led

the travel trade delegation from this South Indian state, received the award at a ceremony held as part of the travel meet. “We are extremely happy to be on the honours roster, this time making a mark for our print campaign,” smiles, a visibly gleeful Rani George.


Kerala Government has launched an intensive drive through both print and online campaign, to attract quality travellers from niche markets and increase the share of foreign tourist arrivals. “It is another big endorsement at the global level for our efforts to promote Kerala in the

world tourism circuit,” A P Anil Kumar, Kerala Tourism Minister, seconds the view expressed by George. Kerala Tourism’s contribution to the state’s economy registered an 11.5 per cent increase in 2011 to Rs 19,000 crore and its tourism ministry is expecting a 15 per cent growth in its contribution to the state’s economy in 2012. The state’s major domestic source markets include New Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and West Bengal, while the main foreign markets comprise USA, Germany and United Kingdom. 23



V Duraikkannan


he human brain consists of about one billion neurons. Each neuron forms about 1,000 connections to other neurons (amounting to more than a trillion connections), exponentially increasing the brain’s memory storage capacity to something closer to around 2.5 petabytes (or a million gigabytes). For comparison, if your brain worked like a digital video recorder in a television (TV), 2.5 petabytes would be enough to hold three million hours of TV shows. You would have to leave the TV running continuously for more than 300 years, to use up all that storage. Human mind is very complex and at times the very complexity of its nature can be very much complicating things for us. Try this exercise on a group of some ten people and see how complex we can get and how complicated we can make things: There is a box full of white socks and another box full of red socks. Now, they are put into a third box in a jumble. You are now blindfolded and asked to pick from the box a pair of same coloured socks. The question is how many attempts one should make at the minimum and at the maximum, to get the same coloured pair. And one can find all the ten people coming up with ten different answers and the number of attempts for finding a pair of same coloured socks would range anything from 1 to 16, or 28 to 256 etc., and the explanations they come up with for their answers would be much more mindboggling. One person was citing Boolean algebra as the base for his working! But the answer is very simple: You pick one white on the first attempt and another white on the second as well and then, the minimum required

attempts are just two. Just in case, you are not getting the matching one on the second, on your third pick you would be getting either a white one or a red one, which would go with the one of the two already on hand! The maximum number of attempts is just three and somebody was talking about Boolean algebra. As the saying goes, it takes a lot of intelligence to act stupid! What is worse than not doing something necessary is doing something which is not necessary at all in the first

place! The weirdo ‘Ig Nobel Prizes’ are in a way a spinoff from this kind of activity. The Ig Nobel Committee’s official mascot is the Stinker (a parody on Rodin’s ‘Thinker’ – toppled thinker at that!). The Ig Nobel Prizes are an American parody of the Nobel Prizes and are given each year in early October, for ten unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research. The name Ig Nobel is a play on the word ‘ignoble’. The prizes were originally awarded for discoveries that ‘cannot, or


COLUMN should not be reproduced’, though over time the prizes acquired their own merit so much so the prizes are now presented by genuine Nobel Laureates. Interestingly enough, in 2010, Sir Andre Geim became the first person to receive both the Ig Nobel and Nobel Prize in 2000 and 2010, respectively for his magnetic levitation experiment on a frog and for his work on graphene, an allotrope of carbon!

We all have a propensity to complicate things or rather use a practiced logic, to do things that are not required or that makes things go wrong. For instance, ask somebody this riddle: Mary’s mother has four daughters. First daughter’s name is April, the second daughter’s name is May and the third daughter’s name is June. What would be the name of the fourth daughter?” Invariably people would blurt out ‘July’! Because of their too logical a mind forgetting the fundamental fact that Mary herself is one of the four daughters! We need not be reinventing the wheel. More uncluttered our brain is the more clear and ingenious it can work. That is why we get answers for some of the knottiest problems only


during our sleep when we are disengaged and uncluttered with our own self – just as Elias Howe came up with the sewing needle’s eye on the top rather than at its bottom, or Friedrich Kekule came up with the Benzene’s chemical formula (C6H6) as the typical mythological snake that eats its own tail in a coil, which gave birth to the hexagonal representation of its molecules.

Simplify the complex, for that is where the intelligence is just as my friend explained why a crow has no external flaps of ears, while a cow has. The guideline is that all the species that reproduce through laying eggs and then hatching them will not have external ears, while all those species which give birth to their young ones directly will have! This is minimalist thinking at its best!



Intriguing, yet devotional Some journey can yield an entirely different but fascinating experience. And a visit to Darasuram offers nothing short, writes Dr S Bakthavatchalam


visit to Darasuram in Tamil Nadu will be, for sure, different from other journeys. Any other journey to a temple town may or may not turn out to be a pilgrimage, but a journey to Darasuram, situated about three kilometres from Kumbakonam in Thanjavur, even if it is meant to be a leisure trip, may transform


into a pilgrimage, somewhere, somehow. Darasuram is famous for its Shiva Shrine ruins of Airavateshwara Temple, now a UNESCO World Heritage monument. The earliest records of the temple mention the name of the town as Rajarajapuram. The main attractions of the devout Hindu town of Darasuram revolve around the Airavateshwara temple,

said to be constructed by the Rajaraja Chola II, in the 12th century AD. The exquisite stone carvings and the ‘mandapam’ in the form of a huge chariot drawn by horses and elephants, speak volumes for its architectural beauty. The temple is about 85 inches tall and is one of the finest examples of the Dravidian architecture. This famous temple is named after

the mythical white elephant of Indra - Airavata, who was a strong devout of Lord Shiva. The temple has in it a Shiva Lingam, which is believed to have been worshiped by Airavata and hence the name Airavateshwara. The temple, a storehouse of art and architecture, has quite interesting legends to tell the travellers. When you spot the sacred tank ‘Yamateertham’, remember that there is a legend attached to it. Yama, God of death, is said to have taken a bath in the sacred tank, to get rid of the burning sensation that developed all over his body, following a


TAMIL NADU TRAVELLER saint’s curse. And now you know the tale behind the tank’s name. The tank gets its supply of fresh water from Kaveri River. A bath in this tank will be a rewarding experience. The main deity of the temple is Shiva and he is worshipped here as Airavateshwara. The temple complex houses Amman Temple and it is dedicated to Goddess Deva Nayaki, the main deity’s consort. Though not as large as the other two Chola temples at Thanjavur and Gangaikondacholapuram, the level of detail that has gone into the architecture of Darasuram temple is simply stupendous. The Jagannath Puri temple in Konark is believed to have taken inspiration from Darasuram’s architectural master piece. Shaped like a chariot drawn by horses and elephants, Airavateshwara temple is supported by around 100 monolith pillars, all elegantly and splendidly carved. The temple wall is a veritable art gallery, with sculptures made of polished black basalt, distinctive representations of ancient Chola art. Multi headed and multi armed, they come alive with various emotions. Since elephant draws the chariot, the main ‘mandapam’ is known as Raja Gambira ‘Mandapam’ and it features some of the interesting sculptures, including Lord Vishnu and Brahma attending Shiva’s marriage, the entire marriage sequence of Lord Muruga, Goddess Saraswathi in a yoga posture and a beautifully crafted Annapoorani with sharp nails. On the eastern side of the ‘mandapam’, there is a sculpture of Saraswathi with a closed lotus and to the western side there is another depiction of Saraswathi, with an open lotus. Works

of various demons and birds adorn the roof of the Raja Gambira ‘Mandapam’. Another artistic marvel is the ‘mandapam’ in front of the temple, which can be reached by three steps in the form of a ladder. It produces different musical sounds when tapped and one can hear all the seven ‘swaras’ at different points. Various moods and forms of Shiva can also be seen depicted through sculptures. Other major attractions include Periya Puranam, a poetic account of the lives of the 63 Nayanmars depicted in vegetable colour paintings, sculpture of chopped off Nandi’s head and beautiful depiction of Yali, a mythical creature. The numerous carvings depict not only the gods and their stories but also daily life of those days. As you pack your bags to head to nearest destinations such as Swamimalai, Pazhayarai and Patteeswaram, you will realise, the atmosphere and the intricate carvings have taken you entirely to a world of Gods and Goddesses, for quite a long time. The word Swamimalai literally means ‘God’s mountain’ and the place is famous for its temple dedicated to Lord Muruga. Pazhayarai is known for the Pazhayarai Someswarar Temple, while Patteeswaram’s main attraction is its Sri Dhenupureeswarar Temple. If you have time at your disposal, it is worth exploring nearby towns like Nallur, Govindakudi and Thiyasamuthiram, to experience rustic charm of remote Tamil Nadu. Reaching Darasuram is quite easy. The nearest airport is Trichy, while the nearest railheads include Kumbakonam and Darasuram. The destination is also well connected by road.




A stylish urban oasis


stylish urban oasis! That is what Vivanta by Taj - Begumpet, Hyderabad is. Located at the intersection of Hyderabad and Secunderabad, Vivanta by Taj – Begumpet is designed in a way to cater to both the


business and luxury travellers. This fifth property of Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces in Hyderabad is spacious, contemporary and stylish. The property is centrally situated and is a short walk away from Hyderabad’s central business districts, tourist attractions and shopping destinations. This is the first ever hotel under the Vivanta banner in Andhra Pradesh. The hotel comes with 181 rooms and suites that perfectly blend delightful comforts with smart technologies. Accommodation facilities come in categories such as Superior Charm rooms, Premium Indulgence rooms, Deluxe Allure suites and Presidential Nirvana suite. Superior Charm rooms offer perfect harmony of comfort and aesthetics and its interiors display a contemporary touch with modern styled furniture with Indian accents, while Premium Indulgence rooms,

located on the eighth and ninth floors facing either the charming city or the cool pool, are embellished with features that delight. These rooms offer access to the Rhythm Lounge, an upscale business lounge offering exclusive services. Those who prefer suites can select between Deluxe Allure suites and Presidential Nirvana suite. Deluxe Allure suites are smartly designed and feature a private sitting and dining area, bathrooms with walk in showers, a walk in closet, a bath tub and ample functional lighting. These suites offer a stunning aerial view of the city and come with an exclusive lounge, where you can unwind in the evenings, with complimentary cocktails. Perched on the ninth floor, Presidential Nirvana suite overlooks the Flying Club airstrip and provides a 180 degree view of the city. This is the finest suite in the hotel and it comes with a large living room, dining area, study,

a kitchenette and elegantly appointed bathrooms that feature walk in showers, a walk in closet, a bath tub and functional lighting. The hotel’s wining and dining venues are a treat for the senses and the flavours, aromas and live cooking sounds from the Grill, Viva, Tease and Thai Pavilion will surely entice the guests. They offer lively atmosphere, besides great exotic food. Viva, its all-day diner, is the place for the ones, who want to indulge in Mediterranean, Italian and European cuisine, fused with Creole and Cajun culinary styles. You can enjoy live interactive cooking on convection trolleys right at the table. If you desire a different dining experience, there is the Grill, a romantic poolside al fresco restaurant, serving Italian, Moroccan, Greek, Lebanese and Indian cuisines, cooked in shaslik, rotisserie, brochettes and Indian styled



grills. Opt Tease for a fast and contemporary meeting can the business and leisure fashionable late night chill out spaces, suitable for power travellers ask! and it serves exotic cocktails, a meetings, memorable brand “With the launch of wide selection of wines, a fine launches, upscale weddings Vivanta by Taj - Begumpet, selection of single malts, rare and other events. One can Hyderabad, we have scotch whiskeys and other select among its offerings expanded our footprint in spirits. Comfortable lounge of Imperia, Rendezvous, Andhra Pradesh. It supports sofas and Ottoman seating Strategy and Debate, which the company’s objective of enhance the experience at are designed with modern achieving growth through Tease, while the DJ sets domestic dominance. the mood. Taj Hotels, Resorts To add to your and Palaces has culinary experience, a long-standing the hotel will soon relationship with open its Thai Pavilion Hyderabad. This is and it will house an our fifth hotel in the interactive kitchen city,” says, Raymond in the middle of the N Bickson, MD and restaurant. It will also CEO, Indian Hotels Raymond Bickson, Veer Vijay Singh, COO, feature semi private Company Limited. MD & CEO, IHCL Vivanta by Taj - Hotels & Resorts dining areas and some Taj Hotels, Resorts tables for those who want to technology, integrating style and Palaces is India’s largest eat in traditional style. If you and elegance, for company hospitality group and want to really enjoy authentic getaways and incentive Vivanta by Taj is the latest Thai cuisine paired with a retreats. They are also brand in its portfolio. Vivanta fine collection of young and suitably wired for hi-tech by Taj is a five-star hospitality vintage wines, there won’t be conferences and meetings. In brand positioned in the upper a better place in Hyderabad. addition, it also offers alluring upscale segment. “The name The hotel, besides other natural spa treatments, for ‘Vivanta’ draws inspiration facilities, offers over 7000 a rejuvenating and relaxing from the term ‘bon vivant’, square feet of well-defined, experience. What else more signifying sophistication and


appreciation for the good things in life and also from the attributes of vividness and vivacity. The brand exudes style and a strong sense of living life to the full. Designed to deliver vibrant experiences, Vivanta by Taj Hotels and Resorts is a brand with a contemporary, energetic and vivacious twist,” smiles Deepa Misra Harris, Senior Vice President - Sales and Marketing, Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces. “We are happy to welcome our guests to the Vivanta experience for the first time in Andhra Pradesh. The Vivanta brand is growing at a rapid pace. Vivanta by Taj Begumpet, Hyderabad, is the fourth Vivanta property to be launched, since 2011. This hotel has been created for the global traveller looking for a unique and contemporary experience,” concludes, Veer Vijay Singh, Chief Operating Officer, Vivanta by Taj Hotels and Resorts.



Golden Star Awards honours Ambica Empire GM best employees, who have taken that extra step to differentiate themselves from good to exceptional. The award speaks volumes t the Golden for R Kalathinathan’s Star Awards, R understanding of the Kalathinathan, ambition and aspiration General Manager, Hotel levels in hospitality, efforts Ambica Empire, Chennai, in pursuance of excellency was honoured with the to cater to the expectation of Hospitality Leadership Award customers and the ability to for the year 2011-12. The motivate organisation to excel award ceremony was held in their professionals. He was at Taj Lands End, Mumbai, selected for the award by an recently. Instituted by Stars independent jury, comprising of the Industry Group, the of senior professionals from award honours the hotels, the hospitality and service hospitality industry and their industry.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Achievement Award for Param Kannampilly


aram Kannampilly, Founder Chairman and Managing Director of Concept


Hospitality Pvt. Ltd., which owns the prestigious Fern Brand of environment friendly hotels and ecotels, received the

A unique Spa


f you are in the capital city of India on a business or a leisure travel and are looking for options to rejuvenate, de-stress, nourish and reshape you, head to the Courtyard by Marriott, Gurgaon, one of the best business hotels located strategically in New Delhi, National Capital Region. The Spa at the Courtyard by Marriott, Gurgaon offers an extensive menu of body and beauty treatments, integrating the traditional Indian systems of ayurveda with the contemporary western spa approach. “Our range of exquisite spa endeavours to achieve the ultimate harmony between the physical and mental realm of the individuals. The royal ambience of soothing music, tantalising aromas gives you the taste


Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Achievement Award 2012 in the field of hospitality, at a glittering ceremony held at Emerald Hall, Kohinoor Hotel, Mumbai, on March 10, 2012. “It is an honour to have been considered for the award. Our dedicated efforts to provide environment friendly products to the Indian hospitality industry have borne fruits,” says a joyful Kannampilly.

Keys Hotel enters Aurangabad

B of uber luxury and our staff greets you with utmost warmth. Our treatment has everything that will make your ordinary day in a crowded city turn into a special and serene one” assures a spokesperson for the Courtyard by Marriott, Gurgaon. Courtyard by Marriott, Gurgaon is also a preferred destination for many to conduct business, while dining at MoMo Café or catch up with colleagues, while sipping cocktails at the contemporary Bar Zen. The hotel also features large, fully equipped work zones.

erggruen Hotels has entered into a management contract with Aures Hospitality Group, to Sanjay Sethi, operate the latter’s four star MD & CEO, Berggruen Hotels property in Aurangabad under its fast growing brand Keys Hotels. As per the agreement, the hotel, which was earlier known as Pride Biznotel The Aures, will be hereafter called Keys Hotel The Aures. “Our plans to launch Keys Hotels in India are well underway. We are delighted in having signed this management contract, as it will help us to establish our presence in Aurangabad, the tourist capital of Maharashtra. Keys Hotel is quickly establishing itself as a hotel of choice for today’s travellers and our partnership with the Aures Hospitality Group will surely bolster our commitment towards offering the best in class services to our customers,” says, Sanjay Sethi, MD and CEO, Berggruen Hotels. ASIAN TRAVELLER | MARCH 2012


The 90th birthday of the prominent hotelier and businessman Captain C P Krishnan Nair, Chairman, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts, was celebrated at a glittering party organised at the poolside of The Leela Mumbai. The party was attended by prominent cabinet ministers, celebrities, luminaries from the Malayalam film industry and close friends and relatives. A lens view of the party






What is the origin of the word Pokémon?


Name the most popular networking site in China? 3. The native New Zealander is called a Maori. What does it mean?

Alain St. Ange has been appointed as Seychelles Minister of Tourism and Culture

Susan Klagesbrun has been appointed as Director of the Israel Government Tourist Office in Sao Paulo, Brazil

Elsia Grandcourt has been appointed as CEO of Seychelles Tourism Board

Davinder Singh has joined The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts as Vice President, Development

4. What is the meaning of the famous Angkor Wat in Cambodia?

TAT has appointed Chattan Kunjara Na Ayudhya as Director of International Public Relations Division

5. What is half of a Byte (4 bits) called in the world of computer? 6. 7.

What is the shortest French word with all the five vowels in it? Which planet has the largest moon?


What part of our brain is often referred to as the ‘fear centre’? 9. How many keys are there in a standard piano?

Srikant Kalayansundaram has been appointed as Head - Outbound Leisure Division of Travel Tours Group

10. What is the length of the Great Wall of China?

Compiled by Deekay

Send in your answers to with TYKC 54 in the subject line. Answers should reach us before the 31st of this month.

Jean-Jacques Vallet has joined Mauritiusbased Constance Hotels Experience as Chief Executive Officer

Andrew Milton has joined Mauritius-based Constance Hotels Experience as Chief Operating Officer

Guido Farina has joined The Zuri Whitefield Bengaluru as General Manager

Answers to TYKC 53

1. Ferret. 2. Las Vegas. 3. Russia. 4. Mashhad. 5. The only woman to cross the Niagara Falls end to end on a tightrope ( 1876) till date. 6. SUBCONTINENTAL. 7. Orbital. 8. From the Batu river which is called Sungai Batu. 9. Tennessee. 10. Crush, Tear & Curl


Michael Salmon has joined The Zuri Kumarakom, Kerala Resort & Spa as General Manager & Director of Spa Operations

Dr Manjula Shettigar has joined Goa Marriott Resort and Spa as Spa Manager

Shrikant S Wakharkar has joined The Grand New Delhi as General Manager

Shanmugam N 103, Abhirami Enclave Ramanathapuram Coimbatore, TN.

One all-correct entry will get

Free Stay at UDS, Kovalam [ 2 nights and 3 days for two ]*

Michael G. Singh has been appointed as General Manager of Aditya Sarovar Premiere


Apichart Asa has joined Outrigger Laguna Phuket Resort and Villas as General Manager

Simon Hirst has joined Raffles Praslin Seychelles as General Manager

With its sleek and stylish design, Uday Samudra Leisure Beach Hotel is nothing less than a golden feather in the cap of Kovalam beach. Located just 15 metres from the sea, this four star hotel can well be categorised into a destination in itself. Its philosophy of combining the best elements of incomparable lifestyle, with the convenience of today’s modern world through exceptional standards of luxury, elegance and services, is well reflected in its products and services and has put the Uday Samudra Beach Hotel, popularly known as UDS, at the top position, in Kovalam. What is more noteworthy about UDS Kovalam is the international flair it sports.

* Conditions apply


Incredible India



Asian Traveller March 2012  

Travel & Trade Publication on travel and tourism industry in the Asia Pacific region