October 2013 | Gayatri Kamath

Vivanta by Taj

The Vivanta, by Taj, unveils a completely new sensory experience, offering adventure, holistic healing and local colour in a complete holiday package

With a brand name that is a takeoff on ‘bon vivant’, it is to be expected that Vivanta by Taj is the cool luxury brand. Vivanta differentiates itself through its ‘sensorial’ model, i.e., making sure the guest experiences the hotel in a totally new way, right from the architecture of the property to the aromas used in the public spaces, the music to the menu design and other offerings.

“The brand was introduced in 2010 with a unique promise, persona and philosophy, which included visual, verbal, application and behavioural codes,” says Veer Vijay Singh, chief operating officer of the Vivanta business unit. “In a cluttered and segmented market, Vivanta offers a compelling and defined proposition.”

“The brand follows a new design and service philosophy; very edgy, very contemporary,” says Deepa Misra Harris, senior VP (sales and marketing), Indian Hotels. Each Vivanta property has a motif that is customised for the site. At Coral Reef, Maldives, guests can go big game fishing or feed the smaller fish; there’s a shipwreck for divers to explore, an uninhabited island to visit, or a trip in a submarine to look at the coral close up. At the Vivanta in Coorg, the motif is built around the 180 acres of rainforest that surround the hotel. At Kumarakom in Kerala, along with the local cuisine, guests can watch women from the community light a thousand lamps every night.

At the back end, the function is working to reduce operation costs by monitoring consumption of fuel and materials. “We are looking at alternative sourcing for high-consumption items without compromising on quality,” says Mr Singh. “Electricity usage is down and our hotels are using wind, solar and even geothermal energy as sources. People costs are being kept in line by having more non-managers reporting to managers.” Vivanta already has an international presence, with hotels in Maldives and Sri Lanka, and it now has Africa in its sights.

A healing touch for body and soul in Kerala’s backwaters
As Akho’s hands work their massaging magic on tired muscles, the aroma of ayurveda oils infuse the air and soothe the mind. The Vivanta by Taj’s Bekal resort is one of the latest spa-centric resorts that the Taj brand is promoting. Located about an hour from Mangalore airport, it sits serenely in a spot where the slow backwaters of the Kappil River merge with the white foamy swirls of the Arabian Sea.

The spa is the ninth Taj property in Kerala and covers 27 acres of green lawns, gently swaying coconut palms, plenty of water bodies and low-slung white buildings with touches of palm-frond décor that evoke the traditional Kerala houseboats. The backwaters of the Kappil meander through gardens dotted with Indonesian statuary. A small bridge that spans the water takes guests to the Jiva Spa, located across the river.

At Taj Bekal, the 16,000 sq ft Jiva Spa is the centre of the hospitality experience. “Wellness holidays are increasingly popular,” says Samir Khanna, general manager of the hotel. “We are getting a lot of interest from international markets, with guests coming to experience our relaxation, detox or de-stress packages. These holistic health holidays are also getting a lot of traction with our domestic guests.”

The spa is run by manager and ayurveda doctor Hemanth Kumar, who makes sure that the Bekal spa experience delivers the best of health and wellness for every guest who checks in. The ayurveda oils are local, and others are imported from Australia; the facial products come from Britain; the pottery products are sourced from Pondicherry; and the hand-combed, organic dyed linen is Indian. “Most of our therapists belong to India’s Northeastern states; they have a natural knack for it and are really good at their job,” says Dr Kumar.

Guests who want the complete health package eat in a separate dining room where special health meals are served. For others, the hotel offers a culinary experience steeped in the food heritage of the region. Assistant restaurant manager Saurabh Rana tempts guests to experience a sadhya, a typically lavish spread of Kerala food served on a green plantain leaf. With 30-40 different items to sample, starting with local pickles and jaggery-infused ginger slices to coconut-based vegetable curries, fried fish and chicken sukka, the sadhya is a gourmet experience.

Guests can work off the excess by kayaking in the Kappil River or playing beach volleyball in the warm sands. The resort offers every facility for a complete holiday; swimming pools and fitness centre aside, guests can opt for day excursions to Kerala’s famous backwater houseboats, trek through organic farms, walk around the Bekal Fort, or even accompany chef Ashok Pillai early in the morning to buy fresh fish.

Bekal’s amazing location — right on the beachfront — is due to the Kerala government’s desire to promote tourism at selected beaches. With its unique hospitality experience — which is a fusion of contemporary and tradition — the Taj Bekal showcases how Indian Hotels has evolved as an enduring, sustaining brand even while staying true to its luxury lineage.

This article is a part of the cover story on Indian Hotels published in the October 2013 issue of Tata Review
Overview
A century of service, style and substance
‘The loyalty of our guests will drive and sustain us’
Taj Luxury Hotels — India
Taj Luxury Hotels — International
The gateway to hospitality
Spicing up hospitality
A net spread wide