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Substance over style

A club room is no longer just a larger space with fancier toiletries. At the same time not all business travellers need to check into one. Here’s how to decide if the executive floor is really worth it

Sushmita Choudhury | Print Edition: March 20, 2008

Hot deals
Interesting packages to look out for
EcoMantra Holiday
Andaman Islands
Andaman Islands

COST           Rs 32,500 per head
CONTACT    022-25007347

This seven-night package packs in everything from scuba diving and snorkelling to history and geology lessons.What’s even better is that this is as eco-friendly a holiday as possible. The cost,on twin sharing basis,includes your personal car with a chauffeur and guide,daily breakfast and all internal travel.

European Royale

SOTC
COST             Rs 1,88,990
CONTACT       18002093344
To make your 15-day European sojourn a once-in-a-lifetime experience, SOTC has included special moments in the itinerary like cocktails next to the Colosseum,a visit to the Brunello winery,a horse carriage ride in Innsbruck and more.

Location…a comfortable place to work…prompt service…flexible check-out rules...security. These were the five most repeated buzzwords thrown up in a random survey of frequent business travellers on what they wanted in a hotel. Did they actually base their choice of a hotel on these criteria? Ten of the 15 respondents in the impromptu, informal survey emphatically agreed.

This is the reason why business hotels are mushrooming across the country, why club rooms and executive rooms in even leisure hotels have grown to about 30-50% of the room count, why many hotels now offer a dedicated executive floor. Business travellers have always been wooed by the hospitality industry. But today’s corporate client is a lot more demanding and unwilling to compromise on his growing expectations.

If he is going to empty his pockets, or the company coffers, he expects real value—and not mere frills—from every paisa shelled out. No longer is he willing to settle for just a larger room with better bathroom amenities, branded toiletries and free breakfast, in the name of a “club room”, which costs up to 20% more than a regular room. So to cater to this discerning segment, hotels have come up with the concept of executive floors.

These come packed with facilities like a separate check-in area, teleor in-room check-in facility, wi-fienabled rooms (those who are used to paying a hefty charge for using the Internet in five-star hotels will testify what a boon this is) complete with a large screen TV and DVD player, a business kit containing everything from a stapler to paper clips.

Other facilities include an electric razor on stand by, private concierge, secretarial services, a club lounge to entertain guests, free access to meeting rooms, airport transfers, happy hours and complimentary cocktails. Above all this, the raison d’etre for an executive floor is efficient service. Says Navya Paul, a senior MNC executive who lives out of her suitcase, “It’s worth paying extra just for a quick and efficient check-in and check-out.”

As Aubrey Mullerworth, general manager, The Metropolitan Hotel, Delhi, says, “Any city hotel must be equipped to exceed the needs of today’s business guest if they intend to pursue this critical segment.” Of course, you can get your money’s worth out of a club room only if you avail of all the facilities.

Says Sonica Malhotra Kandhari, director, MBD Group, which owns the Radisson MBD, Noida: “Renting a decent business centre would cost over Rs 8,000 a day but a club room entitles you to free access to such a facility.” Then, most club rooms offer complimentary ironing or laundry services.

If you just bundle up your dirty laundry to take back home and insist on doing all your work yourself, you might as well stay in a regular room, which are usually just as comfortable. Similarly, if you are only looking for a place to crash, you don’t really need a club room. So what does the future hold for the business traveller? More pampering.

Uncommon places,the affordable way
The destination:
Sitla Estate,Uttaranchal

Why go there:
An unravaged paradise,tucked away at 7,000 ft,no television, no mobile phone network,fickle newspaper appearances—venture here all ye who want to take a break from “life” but not miss out on comforts.

Don’t miss:
Long walks in the verdant Kumaon hills—excellent trekking possibilities too—and a visit the nearby Jageshwar temple complex (left) which is counted among the 12 jyotirlings in the country.

The living quarters:
A 100-year-old house surrounded by 40 acres of orchards.

How to get there:
Take a train to Kathgodam and then it’s a two-hour drive to Sitla.

Damage to the wallet:
A double room comes for under Rs 3,000 a night, all inclusive.
The next few years will see an explosion in business-cum-leisure hotels. Data from the World Travel and Tourism Council reveals that the value of business travel in India is poised to grow from Rs 35,330 crore in 2007 to over Rs 1,22,800 crore by 2017. Judging by the current state of affairs, this may even be a conservative projection.

According to Pradeep Kalra, vice-president, sales and marketing, Sarovar Hotels and Resorts, 85% of the total occupancy at their metro locations are business travellers while the ratio of executives to regular holiday-makers at leisure destinations is 60:40. Also, about 60-70% of leisure travellers want access to a business centre to check their mail so no hotel can afford to do away with this feature.

Soon we will see entirely wi-fi hotels, because, as Kandhari says, “the contrast between the business and leisure guest continues to blur”. The key to big savings is to research hotels before landing in a new city, zeroing in on the best option depending on what you need—convenient location may not really matter if you get a cab from your firm.

Berggruen Hotels, for one, assists in the matter by enquiring about the purpose of the visit before booking a room. And remember, loyalty pays. If you are a familiar face in a hotel, you will not only get better service but also nicer rooms and upgrades.

Cost-benefit analysis

• A club room at the Taj Palace hotel, Delhi, costs about Rs 19,500 a night, inclusive of breakfast, airport transfer and club floor facilities.

• A regular room costs around Rs 17,500 with breakfast. But if you book a meeting room, costing Rs 11,000 plus taxes,you will have to pay Rs 9,000 extra per day compared to a club room.

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