Friday, January 21, 2011

Wellness Hotels And Resorts - Adding A New Dimension To Life Style!

Hospitality is an ever evolving industry. It caters to needs and desires of its users. As these desires keep changing with the ever evolving life style, the hospitality product offer makes micro adjustments to address these fresh demands. They say wealth gives birth to desire, how true it is. As people get more spendable income, we see new demand generation in almost all areas of our daily life.

We saw the introduction of health concept in city hotels in early seventies when the luxury hotels embraced something called a health club. Those days it consisted of only a gym, steam and sauna rooms. Good health clubs also had a few body massage rooms. The demand for a beauty parlor followed soon. No one wanted to step out of the health club without a proper facial or hair do. This made the beginning of a new era for hospitality industry - the wellness age. Those who recognized it as an opportunity exploited it to remain competitive.

Today, after four decades, things are different. The concept of health club has undergone a drastic change. It is now one of the key revenue generators for luxury hotels. Things are very specialized. No more just a gym and massages, now they offer a whole range of products, treatments and therapies and services for holistic wellness. There are specialists offering counseling on diet, nutrition, weight loss, slimming, fitness, beauty, body care and general well-being. The underlying philosophy being to help the guests remain healthier.

The demand for wellness travel has given the hospitality industry a new niche, the wellness hotels or a resort. A well planned wellness resort in an attractive resort location offers all the luxuries of a resort hotel. In addition, it offers a well equipped Wellness product. The facilities in these resorts vary but generally include a range of restaurants or food outlets, bars and clubs, business facilities, meetings and conferencing, entertainment and indoor and outdoor sports. The main emphasis in these resorts is the wellness center.

A luxury wellness center will include a well equipped and fitted gym with personal counselors and trainers, a range of body baths, steam, sauna, solar therapy and so on. Wellness hotels located in an area with natural springs even offer natural spring water soaks, dips or baths, a number of swimming pools, different types of body and massage therapies, yoga, aroma and color therapy, skin treatment therapies, beauty treatments and the list is ever-increasing. Needless to say that the hotel employs specialists in all areas to counsel and physically render various therapies to the guests and residents.

Some wellness resorts, with enough landscape offer their own gated jogging tracks within the resort. Wellness resorts offer enough outdoor activity to its residents. They have tennis courts and badminton courts on the premises. Alternatively they have arrangements with a local club for use of facilities by its residents.
The resort management does everything to ensure that the resident spends minimum time in the room by offering a range of wellness, leisure and entertainment activities and facilities in the resort. The food menu in the restaurants offers a wellness food section offering a range of organic and nutritional selections. One can find a choice of diet and health dishes even on the buffet spreads. A special feature in some wellness food menus is that they also mention the nutritional values of the dish, including the calories. There is enough evening activity in a wellness resort to keep the residents occupied before retiring to bed.

A wellness hotel or resort could be anywhere or in any location. However those located in well-known vacation spots or resort location are more successful than the city center ones. The wellness hotels located in resort locations like a hill resort, ski resort or a beach resort offer the opportunity to combine vacation with wellness. Of late, it is observed that big corporations also patronize wellness resorts as their meetings and conference venues, combining business with wellness.

Branding of a wellness hotel or resort plays an important role in its success and within the hotel, the branding of the wellness product is absolutely crucial. It must be ensured that the brand has strong market presence and backing of an even stronger brand ambassador. In recent years the industry has witnessed launch of a number of highly successful brands, some belonging to large hotel chains and some to stand-alone hotels.

The most important aspect of a wellness hotel or resort is its initial conceptualization and planning. This is the most complex exercise. One can not simply have a hotel and add to it a state of the art health club. Wellness hotels need an in-depth study and research on needs and demands of its potential guests, the competition with in the area and how to ensure that the resort remains competitive for at least the next four to five years. While Big hotel chain have their own in-house wellness facility planners, the independent investor will be well advised to retain a professional consultant to create a unique and competitive product. It pays back in the long run.

A good wellness resort with attractive activities give room for one complaint - why the sun rises so late and the night comes so soon? One is so busy the whole day that the day never seemed to have come in the first instance. Wellness resorts, on one hand define your life style, and, on the other they offer a perfect opportunity to fuse your holidays with your well-being. Live healthy for you only live once!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Heritage Hotels of India - Umaid Bhavan Palace Hotel, Jodhpur

It was 1953, as a child, I still remember with nostalgic feelings my first school outing to the majestic "Chittar Palace" in Jodhpur. I was too small to understand the architecture or the grandeur of the imposing palace at that age. For me the scale of size was very different at that time. The gardens were huge, simply unimaginable. The building looked as if one was experiencing a dream, tall ceilings, imposing stone clad central dome, and the immaculately polished marble floors. It was all too much for a child to absorb and understand. However, it was an experience that I remember narrating to friends and family members repeatedly to the best of my understanding.

25 years later, I had the chance to visit the palace again. This time as a qualified hotelier to sort out some issues with the local management. The palace was operating as a heritage hotel by the same company that I was working for. This was a real experience. I could now understand the real beauty of the palace. It was known as the Umaid Bhavan Palace Hotel. Large, luxuriously furnished rooms and suites, Italian furniture, antiquated art effects and rich drapes and fabric. The palace is a statement of the lavish life style of ex rulers of Indian states. Today all this is available to the travelling public as a luxury heritage hotel.

The palace was built as a drought relief measure by the then maharaja to create employment to its subjects. The construction took almost 15 years and was completed in 1943. The construction technique is unique. No cement or mortar. The building is made of stone blocks joined together by interlocking technique. The stone walls and ceilings are designed to maintain a comfortable 20 to 25 degree temperature year-round.
Henry Lanchester designed the palace with the help of his Indian counterpart Budhmal Rai and the interiors and fit outs were done by one Stefan Norblin of Poland. History has it that the original interior decorators of the palace were Maples of London but as the ship carrying the furniture sank because of German attack, the Maharaja was forced to introduce the services of Norblin.

Today the palace is divided into three areas, a luxury heritage hotel operated by the Taj Group, the private residence of the erst while maharaja and a museum. The hotel offers a rich experience of the royal lifestyle of Maharajas in the same ambiance and atmosphere. This hotel has luxury rooms and suites, a stylish bar called the Trophy Bar, a fine dining Indian and continental cuisine restaurant serving an a la carte menu and choicest of wines. The Palace also has an all day dining restaurant with a stunning view of the Fort, the city and the gardens of the palace. There are enough banqueting and meeting facilities in the palace. The palace is equipped with all other facilities that are required in a luxury hotel like the business centre, health club and spa, laundry and dry cleaning and even interpreter services.

What a treat it is to be able to relive the past. To experience the royal life of yester years. Heritage hotels offer truly an amazing experience.

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Ram Gupta is a professional hotel and resort consultant with over four decades of experience in Asia, Far East, Middle East and Europe. He has been associated with over two dozen hotel and resort projects. His web site can be viewed at and can be contacted at