Vikram Aditya Singh, Vice President and General Manager, The Lodhi, New Delhi, talks about how they have upped the luxury quotient with their differential offerings
The Lodhi has the distinction of offering some of the largest rooms and suites in the city, with most categories featuring their own private plunge pool and expansive balconies
What has defined your journey with The Lodhi, New Delhi?
When I joined the hotel over three years ago, I laid out a strategy to turn it around from ‘good to great’. I engineered our quality of service on standards based on customer expectations and sequentially mapped the ‘Guest Journey Experience’, which is designed to be a living canvas celebrating the art of hospitality and its artisans in every form. Throughout the property, guests are surprised with unconventional yet exquisite enhancements. Over the years, we have excelled this journey through a series of developments, offering a new twist to every guest touchpoint.
What is the USP that the hotel has added to an already mature market like Delhi?
An urban oasis centrally located in New Delhi, The Lodhi has the distinction of offering some of the largest rooms and suites in the city, with most categories featuring their own private plunge pool and expansive balconies. Our dining scene is considered amongst the finest, offering eclectic options. Additionally, The Lodhi houses a world-class spa with an exclusive hammam. The hotel’s world-accredited Les Clefs d’Or Concierges can also create tailored experiences in and around Delhi. The Lodhi is an intuitive expression of a contemporary yet stylishly confident India. Personal journeys and experiences for guests are created through bespoke experiences of culture, cuisine, wellness, architecture, lifestyle and customised service.
In order to ensure the highest level of bespoke experience, we have introduced a ‘Personal Preference Menu’. This unique feature allows guests to choose all their special preferences before arrival, including, but not limited to the preferred level of service (‘pampering’ to ‘discreet’), complimentary welcome indulgences, pillows, bath amenities, dietary preferences, and even housekeeping service timings.
The Lodhi, New Delhi has expansive outdoor spaces.
So, how do you define ‘luxury’?
Luxury is no longer about signals of wealth or status; it is about inner fulfilment. It is a feeling, emotion and a sense of seemingly contradictory attributes — surprising, yet familiar; authentic, yet seamless; cutting edge, yet uncompromising on quality. We are a very high touchpoint hotel delivering bespoke stay experiences in a market that is flooded with business hotels.
What sort of changes have you seen in the profile of travellers coming to Delhi and how has that transformed the market?
Domestic travel is on the rise. While the US and UK markets have traditionally dominated inflow of tourists to Delhi, disposable incomes in the local markets are high and people are looking for staycations within the city.
You have one of the highest ADRs in the city. What drives your ADRs? Can you give us any numbers?
We average around INR 27,000-29,000 ADR on an annual basis. We offer some of the largest rooms in Delhi with personal plunge pools and private balconies, which is a unique offering that helps us stay ahead of the competition. Discerning travellers are willing to pay a premium. The Lodhi’s average occupancy rate is 87%. Our primary target audience are the successful, established High Networth individuals who are highly discerning and seek the best in life. These high-powered luxury consumers put a high premium on time and are willing to pay more for quality, expertise and convenience.
Our big revenue streams are rooms, long-staying guests, F&B, events, and The Lodhi Athletic Club. Our room rates ADRs are higher, but we drive NRRPOR (Non-Room Revenue per Occupied Room) of nearly INR 10,000 per room, which is the highest in the country. We don’t worry too much about the competition because we are normally 2x of competitor pricing.
An epitome of grandeur, the 4,400sq.ft suite spans two floors connected by a private elevator.
The hotel went through a makeover just a while ago. How has that helped to maintain an edge in the market?
The Lodhi’s building, products and services are designed to be high-experiential. We enriched the guest experience journey through a series of enhancements, giving a makeover to every touchpoint — right from reservation, pre-arrival and post-stay engagement, in-room experience, to unique dining, wellness and leisure concierge. We have enhanced all our rooms and suites with more contemporary décor and every conceivable modern amenity, including features such as state-of-the-art large screen HD smart TVs, air purifiers, the best ultra-plush beds in town, TOTO automatic toilets, full bottle private bars, and much more.
The hotel’s exquisite dining scene includes Elan, which has a fresh look and a new food theatre, Teppanyaki Theatre and Sushi Bar. We recently launched Perbacco, which presents an inventive approach to contemporary Italian dining infused with traditional flavours, by Michelin-star chef Adriano Baldassarre. The Safari Lounge at Perbacco showcases a collection of rare wildlife photographs and contemporary mixology to match. Renowned as one of the best fitness and recreational areas in the capital, The Lodhi Athletic Club has added a cutting-edge Spinning Studio and Functional Zone, along with the latest range of best-in-class ‘Technogym’ equipment. We are also delighted to have partnered with Old World Hospitality in bringing Indian Accent to The Lodhi. This much-acclaimed restaurant offers yet another superlative dining experience to our guests. It has further consolidated our prestige on the capital's gastronomic map.
On the operations front, what do you think have been your biggest learnings as general manager of The Lodhi, Delhi?
Follow up, follow up and follow up! No matter how good your intent is, an error is unforgivable when it comes to a customer's request. And I always reinforce that you should anticipate what guests might need and have a backup plan put in place in advance. For instance, if you have more departures, plan for more valets. Murphy’s Law applies to every guest encounter. When I was a banquet manager at Four Seasons, I always used to order two wedding cakes; one for the guests to cut and one for serving directly from the back area. Once, a cake fell in the ballroom while bringing it out for an event. And then, we dimmed the lights and brought out the second cake which was a backup, creating a real moment of delight for the guests.
What have been the big changes that the industry has gone through?
Luxury has evolved and there is a new paradigm of constantly growing expectations that guests have. ‘Personal’ has become a key driver in innovation in the hospitality industry. And guests are looking for ‘experiences’ rather than hardware-driven solutions. Technology and digital marketing have assumed centre-stage. Personalization is at the heart of luxury hospitality, as consumers seek customised experiences. It’s all about “me and my time, space, attention, experience, discovery and self-fulfilment.”
Do you think the government has paid enough attention to hospitality as a sector, given the number of jobs it creates?
If you look at the global statistics, the hospitality sector is one of the largest employers worldwide. India is at the cusp of a boom where international travel will grow. Hospitality is one of India’s soft powers and the country offers some unique experiences, not just in urban cities, but also nature, wildlife, wellness and more. The government can make it easier by improving infrastructure and making funding more readily available.
In a hyper-connected world, how do you think the guest experiences and services has changed?
When we look at how the luxury market has evolved in the last few years, ‘digital’ is one of the first things that comes to everyone’s mind. Most people turn to online platforms before planning their trips. The use of social media has become widespread and travellers are consistently using these platforms to share their experiences with others. Monitoring the feedback they are posting online and engaging with them is important to ameliorate and enhance your service offering.
What have been your biggest takeaways from the industry?
Hospitality is a highly people-oriented business and ever-evolving, catering to the oscillating demands of travellers. The most important people are your colleagues. If they are happy, they will keep guests happy — it’s a beautiful circle.
How has the role of a general manager evolved over the years?
The role of a general manager in today’s dynamic hospitality industry, the pursuit of guest and colleague delight, graciously intuitive service and flawless product quality must harmonise to create a world-class hotel. You have to lead a team of motivated professionals to create exceptional experiences, achieve organizational objectives, and manage assets holistically, enabling them to contribute positively and triple bottom line. Your focus needs to be on enriching the guest experience journey and the lives of your colleagues by developing a sustainable culture of excellence.
Almost every luxury suite in The Lodhi, New Delhi has a private plunge pool.
General managers have to constantly think on his feet. How do you deal with day-to-day issues or the bigger problems?
Every day, every hour, every 15 minutes, my colleagues and I pull rabbits out of hats, providing creative solutions. We commit to the philosophy ‘The difficult you can have right away, the impossible just takes a little longer’. The Tenth Commandment in The Lodhi’s ‘Culture of Excellence Commandments’ states: “Guests will never be refused or told ‘no’, but offered thoughtful and relevant alternative solutions as long as their requests are legal, morally compatible and consistent within our value system.
What is that one thing you would like to change about the industry?
Nothing should ever be perfect as it won’t leave room for improvement. There are ups and downs, but hospitality is a beautiful experience. I would like the retirement age to be increased because people with experience are priceless. Imagine opening a restaurant with retirees from different hotels — how great that would be! I would like people to cherish seniors and seek their advice. It should not hamper them from learning new things but ameliorate issues.
If you had one piece of advice to offer those beginning their career in hospitality, what would you say?
Perseverance, hard work and genuine care and empathy for guests are the three most important things.
On a personal note, how did you decide on hospitality as a career?
I am a third-generation hotelier in my family. I was born in a hotel and for the first 20 years of my life, I stayed in The Oberoi Hotels and travelled across Iraq, Tanzania, Nepal, India and Singapore. If someone in school asked, ‘Where do you get milk?’ I'd say ‘Dial 3!’ I got reasonable grades and my father wanted me to be a banker. But I found my true calling in hotels, so he finally acceded and sent me to Les Roches International School of Hotel Management in Switzerland. It's been 23 years now, and I don't feel I've worked a day.