March 2019 | 886 words | 3-minute read
Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, is the last of the great grand palaces of India. Built between 1928 and 1943, it is a magnificent piece of Rajasthani heritage, home of the erstwhile Jodhpur royal family and currently the world’s sixth-largest private residence. The imposing façade of the Chittar sandstone monument, the majestic cupola, 26 acres of lush greens with dancing peacocks, and lavish Art Deco style interiors create a lasting impression.
Last year, the palace was named the No. 1 hotel in India, No. 2 in Asia and No. 3 in the world at the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards 2018. We were one among only two Indian hotels to feature on the World’s Top 25 List. The palace was voted as the Best Destination Wedding Hotel in India at the Condé Nast Traveller Readers’ Choice Awards 2018. We also featured on the acclaimed Gold List by the Condé Nast Traveller in the US and the UK — an annual collection of the hotels and resorts in the world that exemplify the gold standard of service and hospitality.
In this metric-conscious world, these ratings and awards help reinforce the iconic positioning of the hotel, thereby generating renewed interest in the palace. However, the awards remain an outcome of the business and should not become the purpose of the business. How then do we differentiate ourselves from the rest?
Umaid Bhawan Palace embarked on this journey through a deeper understanding of the industry trends and consumer behaviours.
Given the global shift in consumer behaviours, it’s clear that experiences have a higher weightage over material things. What really sets a luxury brand apart today is providing authentic and genuine experiences. It’s personalised service. It’s having a clearer sense of community and place. It’s having a story to tell.
The Taj Grand Palaces have always been known for their curated experiences. We sought advice from the royal family to infuse various aspects of their lifestyle and the local ethos into these experiences. A cache of carefully designed experiences was created based on common interests of guests and age profile; showcasing the various aspects of Rajasthan. For our young guests, we have the Little Prince and Princess Program with age specific amenities and gifts. We also combined all the experiential offerings under one channel of the Palace Experience Manager to increase engagement and personalisation.
The perception of luxury starts from the product and extends to the service experience one has through well-orchestrated moments. Culinary enhancements in terms of in-house productions, stylising of equipment and Insta presentations have taken centre stage in this journey. The quest to stay at the top, requires one to continually reimagine the business.
Each point of contact with the guests was studied to design small surprises and talk lines. We launched “Operation Spruce Up! Clean Up!” by allocating sections of the palace to the senior leadership team for spearheading the exercise of observing, discovering and identifying the areas that needed management input, better utilisation or any structural alterations. This resulted in reutilisation of spaces, refurbishment of rooms and restoration efforts
Personalisation Is Key
Taj is known for its care and warmth, and the Umaid Bhawan Palace is a benchmark in complete personalisation, especially through our Royal Butler concept. We build our in-room amenities, turn down surprises, culinary experiences and associate interactions around a deep knowledge of our guests’ interests in food, facilities and activities. We provide a seamless experience by spreading any information that is gathered across the ecosystem to ensure subsequent interactions can build on that information.
An exclusive and unparalleled guest experience is a result of planning and detailed execution. I also use personal connect to develop a strong trust-based relationship with guests, seek constant feedback and ensure our managers pay careful attention and monitor guests’ behaviour to provide impeccable service.
A Winning Team
Our team is a healthy mix of associates who have served the royal family for generations and passionate colleagues from across the Taj, with innovative new ideas and concepts. This enables us to provide a truly royal service.
The buddy mentor system is an effective tool to pass on the ancient practices through generations. The focus is on increasing emotional connect, sensitivity and intuitiveness.
There are a range of initiatives for employee engagement, development and recognition that have resulted in Umaid Bhawan Palace having the highest Employee Satisfaction Score in the company. We also pioneered the ‘Coffee with General Manager’ initiative to allow the team to share their concerns and ideas. Winning an award also improves the team morale, increases the level of productivity as well as fosters a sense of achievement.
Events, whether international celebrity weddings, corporate conferences, or celebrations for high networth individuals’ families, are growing and evolving rapidly. To succeed, you have to be dynamic, flexible and, above all, in tune with the desires of each guest. The palace is aspirational for high-end events due to the opulent edifice, reputed Taj hospitality and culinary expertise of varied cuisines.
Winning an award or getting ranked allows you to pause and appreciate what you have achieved, but is also an opportunity to reinvent yourself. The Umaid Bhawan Palace team is on a journey to continuously raise the bar to give our guests a lifetime of memorable experiences.
Author Mehrnavaz Avari is General Manager, Umaid Bhawan Palace.