Business Traveller India speaks to Digvijay Singh, area director UK and general manager of St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel and 51 Buckingham Gate, London for an insight into business and leisure travel from India to London and their upcoming plans.
What do Indian business travellers look for when they visit London?
For any business traveller, time is very crucial. They have multiple meetings and they pack up a lot in their schedule. When it comes to Indian business travellers, they tend to look for very quick check-ins and comparatively larger rooms. Size is always an issue in London but fortunately at St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel, we enjoy a better average size in central London as compared to our competitor set.
Like international travellers, Indian business travellers look for great connectivity, good quality and high speed broadband.
They also look for seamless service; for example they expect a faster delivery on their laundry and quicker response times for their concierge queries.
Interestingly, Indian business travellers also like to mix business with leisure. So if they are coming to London, they would like to go for one musical at least. Since London is the hub for top quality musicals just like New York, this is an important addition to their itinerary.
Effortless transport in London is another important factor they look out for. They prefer using the underground trains and Uber taxis which are convenient and an economical option to the black cabs of London.
Is food an important part of their stay?
Most definitely! Indians look for Indian comfort food in London. While they are adventurous and don’t mind trying out new restaurants, at the end of the day, they would like a slice of India on their plate. 51 Buckingham Gate is an ideal destination in that sense as we offer a Michelin-starred dining experience at Quilon (Kerala’s cuisine) and Bombay Brasserie that serves local favourites of the Maharashtra capital.
Indian travellers are quite social and like to entertain their relatives and family friends on their days off. Our two properties are quite popular for sophisticated Indian get-togethers; for example Alice Tea Party in Wonderland and the Sherlock Holmes themed signature afternoon teas in Kona (a restaurant in 51 Buckingham Gate) are highly sought after.
At the St. James’ Court, we are also opening a brand new all-day dining brasserie that will overlook the courtyard.
That’s interesting, what else is going to be new?
We have a private members club — Chambers — coming up that is an offshoot of the Mumbai one that started back in 1980s. HNIs and business magnets would love to apply for membership, however since this is an invite only club, it will take some time to get onboard. This is going to be a very business oriented club, not like the old style ones where people didn’t want to interact with others. This is going to be a more contemporary club where one can network better and make the best use of their time.
We are also looking at creating a separate business vertical for events using our Taj brand where we will partner with relevant conferencing destinations. We are going to handpick venues that resonate with the Taj ideology, to offer our expertise in terms of catering and event planning. More on this later!
Do Indian business travellers combine business and leisure?
Indeed, that’s happening more and more. I am seeing less of pure business travel. At St. James’ Court, A Taj Hotel, we have staycation packages to make bleisure travel more affordable for families. This trend is being seen in business travellers around the world where Americans, Europeans and especially the middle eastern travellers travel with their family. It is here to stay and the shift is very organic. It is happening because of paucity of time, I would say!
Another sector that I would like to highlight on is the education sector. Families visit their children who are studying in the UK and make a holiday out of it. Business travel is now evolving through other dimensions such as education as well.