Travel Executive of the Month – Priya Paul, COO, The Park Hotels
“It gives me immense pride that we are the pioneers of design hotels in India,” says The Park Hotels’ COO, Priya Paul.
The modern, luxury boutique hotels of the fast-growing brand are found throughout India, in Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Navi Mumbai, New Delhi, Visakhapatnam, Goa, Hyderabad, and Kerala. Also included is the luxury cruiser Apsara, a floating hotel that plies the waters of Kerala’s Vembanad Lake.
The Park Hotels’ first property opened on November 1, 1967, on the fashionable Park Street in Kolkata, and Paul describes how the ever-evolving street lends its name and character to the company. Although the first Park Hotel opened nearly 45 years ago, Paul says that she constantly strives to create new brand concepts, and to rebuild and improve the company’s hotels to accommodate their guests’ changing needs. “My passion and creativity helped us in establishing our brand as the first luxury boutique hotel [brand] in the country.”
Part of the 100-year-old Apeejay Surrendra Group, which holds interests in tea, shipping, hospitality, real estate, and retail, The Park Hotels are a family business.
The company currently owns 12 properties and is developing more hotels in Kochi, Pune, Jaipur, and Kolkata. “The aim is to own or operate 20 hotels by the year 2020,” says Paul, adding, “This year we will add a 170-room property in Kochi Kerala, a destination that appeals to both leisure and business travelers. We will also launch a four-star brand in the India market.”
The growth of the brand has not been without its challenges though. “In 1990 and 1991, when I took over as president of The Park Hotels,” Paul says, “the issue I faced was how a small ‘insignificant’ hotel company would stand up against the existing large hotel chains, and how it could add value to the group and its shareholders. After much deliberation and brainstorming, we embarked on a program to ‘Renovate, Rebuild, and Reposition’ The Park Hotels.”
And Paul has accomplished just that, setting the brand apart from the competition in very distinctive ways. “We get our competitive edge as we are the only collection of design hotels where creativity and innovation are ingrained in our collective DNA. No two hotels are alike, a quality that makes us stand out in an industry that makes a virtue of standardization.”
“People identify with the imaginative spirit of our hotels and the use of design, which takes aesthetics to a whole new exciting level. Our hotels represent contemporary India and are young, trendy, hip, and buzzing. This takes the consumer’s need for fun and functionality to a whole new level.”
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