Exclusive Interview: Navigating Challenges and Innovations at Le Royal Méridien Chennai, GM's Perspective

Exclusive Interview: Navigating Challenges and Innovations at Le Royal Méridien Chennai, GM's Perspective


Published on October 1, 2023

In this issue, we had the opportunity to sit down for an exclusive interview with the distinguished General Manager, Bhaskaran T Menon, of Le Royal Méridien Chennai.

Bhaskaran T Menon, General Manager at Le Royal Meridien Chennai, has been leading the luxury hotel since December 2019. Prior to this, he served as the General Manager at The Lalit Ashok Bangalore for an impressive 5 years and 3 months, during which he achieved remarkable growth in revenues and profits. His tenure as a Resident Manager at The Lalit Laxmi Vilas Palace Udaipur demonstrated his ability to turn around underperforming units, resulting in significant revenue growth. Additionally, he has held key leadership positions at InterContinental The Lalit Mumbai, Hyatt Regency Pune, and Novotel Hyderabad & Hyderabad International Convention Centre, showcasing his expertise in hotel management and project leadership. With over two decades of experience, his career has been marked by a strong focus on operational excellence and guest satisfaction.

Le Royal Méridien Chennai is a renowned hotel. What do you believe sets it apart from other hotels in the area, and what strategies have you implemented to maintain its reputation?

Le Royal Méridien Chennai boasts a rich legacy, with 23 years of history behind it. It holds the distinction of being the first international hotel in South India. While other hotels in the region previously had tie-ups with international chains, we were the first to stand alone, and that heritage carries significant weight. Our hotel's construction was a carefully considered endeavor. We collaborated with international designers to bring together the timeless beauty of Tamil Chozha and Pandiya architecture, blending it seamlessly with our modern aesthetic. The result is a truly unique and inspiring style that sets us apart.

From a strategic standpoint, we prioritize accessibility and approachability. When you choose to stay with us, you'll encounter more than just smiles and courtesy; you'll meet warm and friendly individuals who genuinely care about your comfort and well-being. Our hotel offers some of the finest suites in the city, boasts one of the most luxurious banquet halls, and our restaurants are highly sought after.

Can you share some insights into the challenges the hotel industry has faced in recent years, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how you've navigated these challenges?

The foremost challenge we encountered was a shortage of skilled manpower, a critical issue in our industry. Quality personnel are in short supply, and this shortage is expected to persist for the next 5 to 6 years. To address this, we adopted a unique approach by collaborating with universities and colleges that might have been overlooked. We've hired fresh graduates from these institutions to fill the gaps in our workforce.

From my perspective, Chennai, like many other major Indian cities, is still developing. It may take around 3-4 years for it to reach its full potential. Consequently, sourcing high-quality materials is another significant challenge. To maintain the desired standards in our hotel, we've had to invest in developing our supply chains and ensuring we have the right personnel in place. This is essential to meet our quality requirements.

What is your approach to guest satisfaction, and how do you ensure that guests have a memorable experience during their stay at Le Royal Méridien Chennai?

Throughout the hotel's existence in our country, we've used terms like "guest satisfaction." But, ultimately, we're in the business of selling luxury. Two decades ago, a bathtub or an 18-inch TV was considered a luxury. However, things have evolved due to increased accessibility and affordability. Now, big-screen TVs, plush mattresses, and high-thread-count bedsheets are no longer luxuries but expectations.

Our focus has shifted towards genuine guest experiences. We must recognize that our guests invest a significant amount to stay with us, whether for leisure or business. Therefore, empathy towards every guest is crucial. Making each guest feel valued and important is our top priority. If we excel in these aspects of management, we've already solved 90% of the challenges. You don't need to reinvent the wheel; you simply need to be authentic.

Sustainability and responsible tourism have become increasingly important. Could you describe any sustainability initiatives that Le Royal Méridien Chennai has undertaken under your leadership?

In today's era, the prevailing talk and focus revolve around sustainability. We are equally dedicated to creating a sustainable environment and leaving a positive legacy for future generations. Our hotel operates solely on 100% renewable energy, and it's a zero-discharge establishment. We take pride in not discharging any wastewater into the city sewage system. Our Sustainable Development Plans (SDPs) and Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs) are self-sufficient, efficiently managing all the wastewater generated within the hotel.

Moreover, we've implemented a robust rainwater harvesting system that caters to our air conditioning plant and gardening needs. These initiatives make us self-reliant, significantly reducing our dependence on city water sources. Although we can't completely eliminate drawing water from the city's supply, we've minimized it considerably.

One noteworthy step we've taken is in the realm of plastic waste reduction. Hotels often contribute significantly to plastic waste, so we've made conscious efforts to reduce it. We've eliminated the use of cling wraps and single-use plastics throughout the hotel. In lieu of disposable water bottles, we've established our bottling plant. This measure alone has reduced our garbage production by an impressive 70%. For instance, during a banquet event for 500 people, the production of 1500 plastic bottles as waste has been completely halted. This represents a significant achievement in our recent efforts.

Furthermore, we're in the process of installing heat pumps to limit the use of diesel, reserving it solely for diesel generators. We remain open to adopting new technologies that could eliminate the need for diesel in electricity generation, aligning with our commitment to sustainability.

Managing a large team is a critical aspect of your role. How do you foster a positive and productive work environment for your staff, and what strategies do you use for employee development and retention?

I find myself in my current position today because I've been fortunate to work with many exceptional leaders who mentored and guided me. They provided me with opportunities to learn from my mistakes and helped me grow. I believe in applying the same approach to my team members. We all go through phases in life where someone extends a helping hand to shape our journey, and now it's our turn to support those who join us with dreams in their hearts.

So, we strive to create a nurturing environment within our team. We understand that mistakes happen, and we don't dwell on them. Instead, we provide ample coaching and guidance. We've implemented a buddy system in the hotel, where newcomers are paired with experienced team members who mentor them, helping them acclimatize to the hotel's operations and culture.

Additionally, we organize regular employee engagement programs, and our team hall serves as a valuable platform for interaction. We highly value every individual's feedback, and we ensure that all team members are involved in certain decision-making processes to make them feel valued.

Ultimately, if I can see my team members relax with a cup of tea at the end of a long day's work, I believe I've accomplished my goals. It's about creating an environment where they feel appreciated and cared for.

With the advancement of technology, how has Le Royal Méridien Chennai incorporated innovations in hospitality to enhance guest services and operations?

When you consider our hotel's affiliation with Marriott, it's clear that we benefit from their extensive support and guidance. We've made several upgrades to enhance our guests' experience. For instance, we've installed brand-new televisions and modernized the guest entry and exit processes. Our state-of-the-art locking systems allow guests to check in while they're still at the airport, and they receive their room key directly on their mobile phones.

We're also in the process of installing heat pumps, a technology that will replace traditional boilers. This shift towards more eco-friendly practices is part of our commitment to sustainability. Just a decade ago, having an in-house water bottling plant in a hotel was unheard of, but we've implemented it successfully.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us valuable lessons, leading us to make crucial changes. We've upgraded our air filtration systems, increased internet bandwidth, and adopted the latest property management system. These improvements ensure that our guests enjoy a seamless and productive stay with us, reflecting our dedication to their comfort and satisfaction.

In terms of dining and cuisine, what unique offerings or culinary experiences does Le Royal Méridien Chennai provide, and how do you stay attuned to evolving food trends and preferences?

We take great pride in our dining options at the hotel. For instance, we have Cilantro, our 24/7 all-day dining restaurant, which was the first to reopen immediately after the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. We've also recently reopened Navaratna, our Indian restaurant.

As for Kayal, our seafood restaurant, we're considering some exciting changes, although those will be implemented a bit later. Our bar, Dome, has gained a well-deserved reputation for its fantastic cocktails, offering some of the most innovative concoctions in the Chennai market. Flame, our nightclub, has been a hotspot for the younger crowd for over two decades.

In order to stay relevant and keep up with changing trends, we send our chefs out to explore the culinary landscape, assess the competition, and see if there are any unique ideas we can incorporate into the hotel. In fact, we recently won an award for our wedding cake in the ongoing SICA Culinary Challenge. These achievements serve as morale boosters and incentives for our team to continue innovating.

Every Friday, we encourage our chefs to come up with something innovative. The top three innovations are then featured in the buffet for the following week, ensuring that our menu is constantly evolving and offering something fresh and exciting for our guests.

As the GM, what is your personal leadership philosophy, and how does it influence the hotel's overall culture and performance?

I firmly believe that a leader sets the tone for an organization's culture and direction. That's why I strive to be open and approachable in my leadership style.

The most crucial aspect to remember is that our guests, who invest a significant amount of money to stay at our hotel or dine in our restaurants, are the lifeblood of our business. Recognizing this and instilling this understanding in my team is paramount. When we all grasp that our guests are the most important people in the world, we've already won half the battle.

I make it a point to be easily accessible. Anyone, anytime, regardless of the hour, should feel comfortable reaching out to me—whether they are guests, team members, or superiors. This approach sets the tone for the entire organization. It means we're always ready to serve, regardless of the time of day. It's a mindset that makes a real difference.

What do you personally find most rewarding about your role as General Manager of Le Royal Méridien Chennai, and what goals do you have for the hotel's future under your leadership?

To me, a fulfilling day is one where I can go home with a sense of happiness, knowing that I've made a positive impact on someone's life, be it a guest or a team member. If I've been able to share the knowledge I've accumulated in my 25 years in this industry and help someone grow, then it's been a good day.

Looking ahead, I see growth on the horizon. In the next two years, our aim is to become one of the best hotels in the city, and I believe we're on the right path to achieve that goal.

This interview is exclusively published on Hospitalitynews.in. 

Pioneering Eco-Friendly Hospitality in the Land of Maharajas - Earthian Hotels & Resorts

Pioneering Eco-Friendly Hospitality in the Land of Maharajas - Earthian Hotels & Resorts


Published on July 3, 2024

In this exclusive interview, we connected with Rohit Pareek, Managing Director of Earthian Hotels & Resorts, to discuss the future of sustainable hospitality, cultural integration, the challenges he faces as a Managing Director, and more.

Rajasthan, the land of maharajas, majestic forts, and vibrant culture, now offers a unique hospitality experience that blends luxury with sustainability. Earthian Hotels N Resorts, a forward-thinking hospitality group, is redefining what it means to travel responsibly in this captivating region.

They offer spacious accommodations, impeccable service, and all the modern amenities you desire. But they go beyond mere indulgence. Here, luxury is redefined by respecting the environment and preserving the region's rich heritage.

Whether you crave the thrill of a tiger safari in Ranthambore National Park or the serenity of ancient temples in Kumbhalgarh, Earthian ensures an authentic and enriching experience. The dedicated staff, with their passion for the region, will curate personalized itineraries that immerse you in Rajasthan's cultural treasures.

But Earthian's commitment extends beyond luxury and adventure. They actively support local communities and conservation efforts. Imagine participating in a pottery workshop led by local artisans or contributing to tree-planting initiatives. Earthian encourages guests to connect with the land and its people, fostering a sense of responsible tourism. 

How do you envision the future of sustainable hospitality, and what specific innovations do you see Earthian Hotels & Resorts pioneering in this field?

The future of sustainable hospitality hinges on crafting eco-friendly experiences that honor nature and local communities. At Earthian Hotels & Resorts, we lead by example, employing traditional building methods such as mud and lime mortar. Moreover, we integrate renewable energy sources to significantly reduce our carbon footprint. Our commitment extends to waste reduction initiatives and the promotion of biodiversity through organic farming and thoughtfully landscaped environments.


How has your background as an engineer influenced your approach to hotel management and the design of eco-friendly resorts?

My engineering background enables me to think creatively and devise innovative solutions for sustainable design and operations. While I appreciate the skills taught in hospitality courses, my unique perspective allows me to tackle challenges differently, ensuring our resorts remain both eco-friendly and luxurious.

Can you share some unique experiences or amenities that guests can look forward to at the new resorts opening this year?

Guests can look forward to unique experiences at our resorts, such as staying in mud villas with open-to-sky showers, enjoying organic meals at our restaurants, and participating in cultural performances at our open-air stage. Each resort is designed to offer a deep connection with nature and local culture. Additionally, guests can savor homemade brownies, sip Hi-Tea under a tree prepared on a chulha, and enjoy chulha-made rotis, experiencing the true flavors of Rajasthan.

How do you integrate the rich culture of Rajasthan into the guest experience while maintaining a strong focus on sustainability?

We integrate Rajasthan’s rich culture by showcasing local arts and crafts, hosting traditional performances, and serving authentic cuisine. Around 70% of our staff comes from local villages, and we regularly train them to enhance their skills, ensuring an authentic and sustainable experience for our guests. This creates moments and experiences that allow guests to fully immerse themselves in the true colors and culture of Rajasthan.

What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced in creating sustainable resorts, and how have you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges is balancing luxury with sustainability. We overcome this by using eco-friendly materials and technologies without compromising on comfort. We also invest in continuous staff training and community engagement to foster a culture of sustainability.

Beyond the upcoming launches, what are your long-term plans for Earthian Hotels & Resorts, and how do you plan to expand the sustainability aspect further?

Our long-term plans include creating more experiential properties across different parts of Rajasthan and eventually expanding to other parts of the country. We aim to continuously improve our sustainability practices, collaborate with more local artisans, and introduce more green technologies to enhance our environmental impact.

How do you educate and engage guests about the importance of sustainability during their stay at your resorts?

We educate and engage guests through interactive workshops, eco-tours, and informative materials in their rooms. Our staff, trained in sustainability practices, also plays a crucial role in sharing knowledge and promoting eco-friendly behaviors among guests.


In what ways do Earthian Hotels & Resorts contribute to the local communities in Rajasthan, and how do you ensure that your sustainability efforts positively impact these areas?

We contribute to local communities by providing employment opportunities and promoting local arts and crafts. By employing and training local villagers, we help uplift the community and preserve cultural heritage. Our sustainability efforts ensure that we not only minimize environmental impact but also create a positive social impact.

Ultimate Escape at The Fern Brentwood Resort, Mussoorie

Ultimate Escape at The Fern Brentwood Resort, Mussoorie


Published on July 3, 2024

In this exclusive interview, we had the opportunity to sit down with Arindam C Bahel, General Manager of The Fern Brentwood Resort in Mussoorie. We discussed his role as GM, culinary offerings at the resort, sustainable initiatives at the resort, and more.

Nestled amidst the breathtaking Himalayan foothills, The Fern Brentwood Resort, Mussoorie, promises an escape unlike any other. This luxurious haven transcends the ordinary, offering discerning travelers a haven of comfort, adventure, and unparalleled vistas.
Imagine waking up to the gentle whispers of the mountain breeze, sunlight dappling through your window, and the majestic Doon Valley stretching out before you. The Fern Brentwood Resort isn't just a hotel; it's a portal to a world of serenity and rejuvenation.


Beyond the stunning location, the resort boasts a plethora of amenities that cater to diverse interests. Unwind in the luxurious spa, indulge in delectable culinary experiences at the on-site restaurants, or take a refreshing dip in the sparkling pool.  For those seeking adventure, the resort can arrange trekking expeditions, nature walks, or visits to nearby historical landmarks.

How has your background as a chef influenced the dining experience at The Fern Brentwood Resort?

Chefs are meticulous, consistent, and focused on quality. The Fern Brentwood resort’s dining experience features innovative themes and designs, high-quality food, and top-notch service. Our managers and the kitchen team regularly interact with guests to create personalized dining experiences. The culinary team receives ongoing training to maintain consistent excellence. This blend of creativity, expertise, and dedication results in a memorable and elevated dining experience for all guests.

What unique culinary experiences can guests expect when they dine at The Fern Mussoorie?
At The Fern Brentwood Resort, we are known for our themed festivals and pop-up events, as well as our excellent breakfast spread, which rivals the best food establishments in the city. We regularly host chefs from other states to ensure authentic flavors.

How do you balance luxury and sustainability in the operations of The Fern Brentwood Resort?

The Fern Hotels believes that luxury in hospitality must be environmentally sustainable. Alkaline drinking water, bottled in-house at our own plant, is a standard offering—making us one of the few hotels in the state to do so. Even the straws in our drinks are made of rice paper. Our napkins and toilet rolls, made from Bagasse (a by-product of sugarcane), are entirely paper-free. Additionally, our key cards are crafted from board, and our suite rooms feature bamboo supplies. We are constantly striving to achieve our goal of a zero-garbage hotel while providing top-class service to our guests.


What initiatives has the resort implemented to promote environmental sustainability?

Introduction of Glass Bottles: We have replaced plastic bottles in guest rooms with safe and sanitized glass bottles filled with healthy alkaline water. This initiative helps us reduce the use of 60,000 plastic bottles annually.

Eco-Friendly Rice Straws: We have eliminated hazardous plastic and paper straws, opting for eco-friendly rice straws instead. These FSSAI-approved straws are a safe and sustainable alternative, significantly reducing single-use plastic and virgin paper consumption.

Natural Unbleached Napkins: Our F&B areas now use natural unbleached napkins made from 100% agro-fiber sourced from sugarcane waste, completely eliminating the need for paper towels.

Solar Water Heaters: By installing solar water heaters, we conserve electricity and provide alternative energy to heat water for room usage, saving approximately 80 to 100 units of electricity per day.

Rainwater Harvesting: We have created rainwater harvesting tanks with a capacity of 10 KL to promote water conservation within the hotel.

Herb Garden and Plantation: We have established a herb garden and increased plantation around the hotel to enhance the green cover.

Sustainable Guest Room Amenities: We have introduced sustainable and locally sourced amenities, such as bamboo toothbrushes and combs, as part of our guest room supplies, ensuring our commitment to eco-friendly practices.

Can you share a memorable guest experience that highlights the resort's commitment to hospitality?

Most of our guests commend our sustainable efforts, which is reflected in our rankings on TripAdvisor and other OTA channels.


How do you ensure that The Fern Brentwood Resort stands out in the competitive hospitality market of Mussoorie?

Mussoorie, as a hill station, has limited resources. Today’s discerning travelers are increasingly conscious of their environmental impact, and as a brand, we have a significant role to play in this market. We are pioneers in environmental sensitivity, creating a niche with our slogan, “Hospitality with Responsibility.”

What future plans or expansions do you have for the resort to enhance the guest experience further?

Since this year, we have launched a series of cultural food shows called “Flavours of India,” where we host chefs and artists from different regions to promote Indian cuisine at our hotel. The recently concluded “Padharo mare Des” – Rajasthani festival received tremendous acclaim and was a resounding success. Our upcoming festival, starting on June 14th, will highlight “States on the streets.” Additionally, we are expanding our hotel services to include a Spa, enriching the guest experience.

How do you train and motivate your staff to maintain high standards of service and guest satisfaction?

During and post-COVID, attrition has posed the greatest challenge to our organization and the industry at large. To counteract this, we intensified our team engagement efforts and focused on local recruitment from institutes in Uttarakhand and the Garhwali community renowned for their hospitality. We’re proud to highlight that over 80% of our team comprises local residents.

Recognizing and reinforcing positive behaviors, our salary disbursements are scheduled from the 7th to the 1st of each month. We provide accommodations for all outstation employees and host a range of employee engagement activities such as “Movie of the Month,” induction walks, picnics, and the informal “Chai pe Charcha” sessions. Additionally, our new employee meetings include monthly trainee sessions with the GM.

New joiners participate in an “Induction Walk” with the GM, where they learn about the local flora, places of interest in Mussoorie, and the town’s historical significance. Our “Chai pe Charcha” sessions serve as icebreakers for new team members and provide a platform to address any concerns they may have. These initiatives have been instrumental in fostering a supportive and engaging work environment at our organization.

Beyond Safaris: Wild Whispers Designs Dream Journeys for Discerning Travelers in Kenya

Beyond Safaris: Wild Whispers Designs Dream Journeys for Discerning Travelers in Kenya


Published on July 3, 2024

In this exclusive interview, we sat down with Aman Shah, CEO of Wild Whispers, to discuss authentic cultural experiences, new markets, and more.

Wild Whispers isn’t just about safaris; it’s about crafting bespoke journeys that delve deep into the heart of Kenya's breathtaking landscapes and rich wildlife heritage.

Led by a team of passionate travel specialists with a deep understanding of Kenya’s hidden gems, Wild Whispers curates itineraries that cater to your every desire. Whether you dream of witnessing the awe-inspiring wildebeest migration in the Masai Mara, tracking majestic gorillas in the mist-shrouded forests, or simply relaxing amidst the serenity of a private luxury retreat, Wild Whispers makes it a reality.

Beyond the breathtaking safaris, Wild Whispers unlocks the hidden gems of Kenya. Explore vibrant cities, immerse yourself in rich cultural traditions, or unwind in luxurious retreats that epitomize relaxation. The company’s meticulously selected network of partner resorts ensures you experience unparalleled hospitality throughout your journey.


Imagine yourself embarking on a private guided safari, traversing vast plains teeming with majestic animals. Witness the awe-inspiring wildebeest migration, the heart-stopping thrill of a big cat encounter, or the gentle sway of giraffes against a backdrop of breathtaking sunsets.

What distinguishes your company from other Destination Management Companies in Kenya?

At Wild Whispers, our attention to detail, personalized service, and commitment to sustainability triumphs over the other destination management companies in the region. Offering a suite of luxury accommodations with signature resorts and tie-ups with the region’s best-in-class luxury excursion specialists, Wild Whispers is a preferred pick for travelers to Kenya eyeing for a calming, immersive and luxurious stay in Kenya. 

How do you incorporate authentic cultural experiences into your itineraries?

Community support across our destination management services is key to helping the guests engage with the cultural experiences of the locals. Hosting exclusive visits to the village, engaging in traditional ceremonies with the tribes, to exploring the expanse of the region with the locals, our itineraries offer  a lot of cultural experiences that one can soak in.


What steps do you take to ensure respectful and meaningful interactions with local communities?

By adopting an inclusive approach, we aim to preserve the regional sanctity and ensure guests have mindful interactions with local communities. We provide in-depth guidance on the dos and don’ts to keep in mind while engaging in activities involving the local communities. The interactions are usually candid, and the locals are quite friendly. With each guest’s visit to the region, we see a new iteration of experiences.

What measures do you take to ensure the safety and security of your clients?

Wildlife-concentrated destinations certainly demand real-time safety and actionable contingent plans. Understanding dietary preferences in advance to having a healthcare professional available throughout the visitor’s stay, we are always at the forefront of upholding the guest's safety and security.  


Are there any plans for expanding your services or entering new markets in the near future?

Kenya is a large market to serve, and it being the uncontested wildlife capital of the world, we look forward to including more activities through strategic relationships with luxury activity providers to offer a suite of experiences to our guests, ranging from Private Guided Safaris, Masai Mara Migration Tours, Bush Breakfasts, Photographic Safaris, Balloon Safaris, to Sundowners, Gorilla Trekking, Helicopter Safaris, and Luxury Retreats.

What new initiatives or projects are you currently working on?

Being deeply rooted in providing eco-conscious luxury safari experiences, we are working to reduce our carbon footprint by curating indulging activities that are eco-conscious. From bush breakfasts including more local seasonal ingredients and culinary varieties, to collaborating with eco-conscious luxury resorts within the region, our focus remains on contributing to the planet’s wellbeing, building strong communities, and the foremost of all – curating best-in-class luxury safari experiences for the guests.