Last night, I was over at one of my favourite places in Mumbai, the Chambers Terrace of the Taj Mahal Palace, at the invitation of the Leading Hotels of the World. The LHW invited me over for their annual India Showcase, which is a cocktail evening they hold every year for clients, potential clients and some media publications. And this was thanks to the fact that I have patronised some of their hotels for a while. The last I stayed at was the grand Hotel Hessischer Hof in Frankfurt in 2010.
This last evening, a total of 41 hotels were going to be over. This included names like the Capella (Singapore), Orient-Express, Hotel Okura (Tokyo, Japan) and the The Datai (Malaysia). Obviously, there are many more and my pocket is full of business cards as of now, but I invite you to have a look over at their website at www.lhw.com to check out the scores of marquee hotels they have in their fold.
I chatted up with Philip Ho, the Vice President, Asia Pacific who takes care of the activities in this part of the world. When he realised I was a finance guy, we were talking about the economy and specially the Eurozone. However, I was also interested in understanding how a company like LHW works. I was told that the Leading Hotels of the World franchise is owned by some 70 hotel companies globally, with small footprints, who come together to market their properties in newer markets via the alliance. However, this is different from the various hotel chains where they put their own brand on properties they own or manage, even the luxury brands like Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental. Each hotel has its own identity, and in some cases, legendary identities like the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, and it is the precise reason why they come together to offer an experience via the alliance. Hotels have to be top notch, and they recently stopped accomodating chains to keep their focus on selecting ‘Legends’ in the business.
Most interesting for me was to meet some of the hoteliers around and their families, some telling tales of how they grew up in a hotel, and at a young age asking friends “so which hotel do you live in?” That had us in splits. Also, ended up meeting Birgit Zorniger, who has been running the Taj Lands End recently and been the number 2 executive of the Taj Mahal Palace for a long while. It was nice to hear their stories, and of how hotelier kids look at the world outside. One anecdote said a lot, when a 6 year old hotelier kid was in another one of the LHW universe and counted a few fused bulbs in the lobby chandeliers and said this one could not be a good hotel since it had a few fused bulbs.
That the hotelier community is like a small family and most people know others in the fraternity was also evident. In spite of this being a business event, they all mingled around, and talked on a personal level, not hardselling their properties for a visit and so on. And introducing to friends from other hotels if they were around.
I wish I’d have stayed till the end. The wine was good and the food looked lovely, but I had to rush to a dinner with friends!