Features

Rajasthan’s Independent Hotels and experiential travel

8 Feb 2019 by Anithya Balachandran

With its grandeur and royal hospitality, Rajasthan has positioned itself as one of the major tourist destinations in India. However, there is a rising segment of independent hotels, in addition to big chains, that is also drawing discerning travellers towards this region.

By offering personalised and authentic services, the independent hotel segment in Rajasthan is carving out a niche for itself in the Indian hospitality sector.   

The changing demographics

Contrary to the notion that independent hotels only attract international guests, there is a considerable surge in the domestic segment as well — this includes well-travelled Indians who are keen on exploring what rural Rajasthan has to offer. Commenting on this, Saloni Mahajan Narang, Brand Marketing Consultant for Samode Hotels says, “The usual notion about boutique and independent hotels is that they cater to the international audiences more than the domestic. This is not the case with Samode Hotels. Our focus in terms of markets has been equally aggressive with both, domestic and international audiences, as we believe that the Indian audience too is ready to experience and appreciate these properties, unlike the scenario a few years back.”

As far as international guests are concerned, travellers from the United States, Europe and Australia form a major clientele for independent hotels.

Paving the way for responsible tourism

Independent hotels also provide a platform for “responsible travellers” who wish to enjoy luxury in exquisite locations while also playing a part in conservation and community development. A case in point is SUJÁN — for every guest who visits its property, a conservation contribution is directly added into a fund with which SUJÁN offers financial support and resources to their own nature conservation projects and of their local non-profit partners’ as well.

Likewise, House of Rohet too has extended its support towards “responsible tourism” — Owners Siddharth Singh and Rashmi Singh have ensured that village communities are involved in the functioning of their properties, thereby generating employment opportunities and increasing tourism inflow in rural Jodhpur.

Blocks on the way

Operating in a hospitality market, primarily dominated by big chains, poses many challenges to independent hotels. Rising costs of maintenance being one of them
as not all the independent hotels have huge budgets.

On the subject of difficulties faced by independent hotels, Nakul Hada, General Manager, Suryagarh, Jaisalmer says “Being a boutique and independent hotel, we do not have the benefit of being identified as a group. Thus, making our presence felt in a market was one of the biggest challenges that we faced. Secondly, being a little away from the main city, there is a limited supply of labour. Also, we are easily affected by the negative ratings and reviews in comparison to the large hotel chains as the brand name often overshadows the negative feedback received for one of the hotels.”

Furthermore, promoting independent hotels comes with its fair share of ups and downs — because where big hotel chains are investing huge amounts of money on advertising, it becomes strenuous for independent hotels to compete in terms of advertising and brand awareness.     

“The market in India is now awakening to experiencing independent and boutique hotels, but there is still a significant section of travellers who prefer the larger chains, keeping in mind the member-reward system which reaps them more benefits. Therefore, most of the times clients feel it is more economical to travel with regular hotel chains when it comes to larger groups. Also, well-travelled audiences appreciate boutique and independent hotels more than the new-age traveller/family travellers, the per cent of the latter being far more than the former. Hence, the marketing campaigns need to be subtle and not in- the- face marketing, which usually costs more,” expresses Saloni Mahajan Narang.

Strategies adopted

An active presence on social media has played a vital role for independent hotels to acquire visibility. Avijit Singh, owner of House of Rohet says, “Social Media is an area we have gathered our attention to, to reach out not only to the mature travellers but also to young well-travelled guests, in both domestic and international markets, who are looking for a luxury-boutique experience in Rajasthan.”

Along with social media, luxury brands like SUJÁN and Ajit Bhawan also believe in personal and one on one interaction with key decision makers of travel, tourism, trade, and event management companies to promote themselves.

Apart from this, experiences shared by social media influencers, during their visit to the property, also gives huge boost to independent hotels in being noticed.

It’s all about authenticity

Travellers are no more interested in visiting a destination to just enjoy the plush amenities of a hotel. In fact, today they are keen on venturing out to explore all the local and cultural experiences that the place has to offer — which is where the independent hotels gain an upper hand over a big hospitality chain.  They focus on offering those experiences and activities that people won’t get in a city life. For instance, Mihir Garh (Relais & Châteaux property), House of Rohet’s nine-suite eco-friendly hotel near Jodhpur offers a village safari that takes guests through the mud clad houses of Western Rajasthan giving them an insight into the lives of village folks. Nature lovers can participate in 32-key Rohet Garh’s (a heritage hotel by House of Rohet in Jodhpur) bird watching activity wherein over 200 species can be sighted.

Similarly, Samode, a hospitality chain that owns four properties across India offers nature walks, saddling up on horse or camel safaris and meals with village folks.   

For guests at Suryagarh, Jaisalmer, there is breakfast with peacocks at Khaba Fort— enjoy traditional delicacies and witness the arrival of hundreds of peacocks called in to feed, as the sun begins to rise over the Fort.

Our picks of best independent hotels in Rajasthan

Ajit Bhawan

This luxury property in Jodhpur boasts being the first heritage hotel in India. Ajit Bhawan also offers a variety of F&B options serving local and contemporary cuisine. There is J-Bar for exquisite drinking experiences and excellent wellness services at Ajit spa. Driving around the town in a vintage car with a royal butler to escort is one of the highlights at Ajit Bhawan. ajitbhawan.com

House of Rohet

House of Rohet comprises of three properties — Mihir Garh, Rohet Garh and The Rohet Wilderness Camp, each of which offers an engagement with the local culture of the region. Overlooking the Thar Desert, Mihir Garh is a nine-suite eco-friendly hotel featuring private terraces, courtyard and spa. A heritage hotel, Rohet Garh has 32 rooms including six suites. The Rohet Wilderness Camp includes luxury tents that sit on a small dune in the midst of nature. houseofrohet.com

Narendra Bhawan

Situated in Bikaner, the rooms at Narendra Bhawan are based on the theme of India’s past and present. Elaborate ceilings, Bikaner terrazzo floors and traditional crafts are some of the design elements that you will find here. From royal explorations to museum dinner at the night room, there is a lot to enjoy at Narendra Bhawan. narendrabhawan.com

Samode Hotels

Samode Hotels include four hotels namely Samode Palace, Jaipur; Samode Haveli, Jaipur; Samode Bagh; Jaipur and Samode Safari Lodge, Bandhavgarh. All four properties, featuring elegant designs, offer a perfect balance of heritage architecture and modern facilities. samode.com

Shahpura Hotels

Shahpura Hotels, a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts, consists of three properties — Shahpura House in Jaipur, Shahpura Haveli in Shahpura and Shahpura Kumbhal Villas in Kumbhalgarh. Customised experiences, royal accommodations and local activities form the core of the signature ‘Shapura Experience’ that is offered to the guests. Village walk, farm lunch and traditional spa treatments are some of the facilities that guests can enjoy at Shahpura Hotels. shahpura.com

Suryagarh, Jaisalmer

Located in the ancient city of Jaisalmer, Suryagarh lets you enjoy the stunning views of Thar Desert. The rooms are spread across seven accommodation types. The unique activities at Suryagarh, Jaisalmer include breakfast with peacocks at Khaba Fort, picnics at desert oases and pastures, sundowners to perfectly end the day and dinner on the dunes complemented by folk music performances. suryagarh.com

SUJÁN

Sher Bagh, The Serai Desert Camp and Spa, and JAWAI are owned by SUJÁN in India. Sher Bagh is a luxury tented camp bordering Ranthambhore National Park; The Serai Desert Camp, housing 21 tents, is an ideal spot to experience the Thar Desert; Rajmahal Palace, which is managed by SUJÁN is among the oldest palaces in the city belonging to the Royal family. sujanluxury.com

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