Exclusive Interview with Suresh Menon: Hospitality Trends and More

Exclusive Interview with Suresh Menon: Hospitality Trends and More


Published on October 4, 2023


Born into an Armed Forces family, Menon spent the first 15 years of his life in an army unit. After graduating from St. Joseph's Bangalore in Industrial Relations (Personnel Management), he began his career in the hotel industry in 1992. "You don't choose a profession; the profession chooses you," he says, explaining how he ended up in Sales and Marketing. He went for an interview for Personnel Management, but the interviewer asked him if he would like to consider Sales and Marketing. Menon was open to anything and wanted a job, so he accepted. Menon has worked in Sales and Marketing for 31 years now, with some of the top international hotel chains, including Mahindra Hospitality and ITC Hotels. This is his second stint with Le Méridien; he previously worked at the Le Méridien in Bangalore in the mid-1990s. Menon is proud of his foundation in the Armed Forces. He believes that his 31-year career has benefited greatly from his military background. The hotel industry is very regimented, and one must always be prepared to do any task. Chaos is bound to happen, and the Armed Forces taught him how to handle it.

How was the business before COVID and after COVID?

The current scenario can be likened to a system reset affecting various industries. Before the pandemic, businesses were operating as usual, but a profound transformation has since unfolded. The domestic market has taken center stage, spurred by India's 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' initiative, resulting in a surge in domestic activities and remarkable progress. Hotels are no longer solely focused on attracting foreign business; the domestic market plays a pivotal role in achieving our targets. Numerous industries benefiting from 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' have had a positive ripple effect, and as they thrive, so do we. In this symbiotic relationship, hotels stand as a driving force for various industries' growth, particularly the travel industry, which demonstrates its resilience in challenging times.

How is the Chennai inventory placed and how about the demand and supply?

The hotel inventory in Chennai has remained largely unchanged, with no new additions both pre and during the COVID era. However, there are a few notable projects by renowned brands underway along Nelson Manickam Road. Additionally, smaller hotels have sprung up in areas like the IT corridor and elsewhere, responding to rising demand. Occupancy rates are consistently high across all hotels, reflecting the strong demand despite the relatively stable supply. This surge in demand can be attributed to India's growth on the global stage, bolstered by diplomatic relations, the emergence of new startups, and international networks, all of which have contributed significantly to the hotel industry's upward trajectory.

What are the new challenges you face on a daily basis in sales?

Currently, we are not encountering any significant sales challenges, although this situation is likely transient, akin to a passing cloud. If we were to recall today's challenges, the foremost issue would be acquiring the right manpower. In sales, the task of identifying the most suitable resources and nurturing a capable team is paramount, particularly in an emerging market. Moreover, navigating the traffic outside Chennai's metro area and coordinating work that extends beyond the city pose additional hurdles in meeting customer expectations. Effective preplanning becomes crucial in addressing these challenges, and these are the key considerations I can outline for a comprehensive overview.

What is your opinion on brand loyalty?

Brand loyalty plays a pivotal role in any business, particularly in the hotel industry where adhering to brand standards and procedures is of paramount importance. For us, as part of Marriott International with eight hotels in Chennai, customer loyalty holds immense significance. Collaboration within our Marriott fraternity has been instrumental in ensuring our guests' comfort, leading to high customer satisfaction levels. We leverage each other's strengths and selling points, forming a symbiotic relationship. Consequently, we have cultivated a strong and loyal clientele, establishing brand loyalty as one of our core strengths within the Marriott International network.

How about the business forecast for the next 5 years?

We are currently witnessing a substantial surge in domestic business, and the growth of the domestic market appears to be closely intertwined with the foreign market's expansion. Looking ahead, the next five years hold significant promise. Anticipated demand is expected to rise, with minimal changes in the supply landscape – perhaps just one or two new hotels on the horizon. Initiatives like "Make in India" and foreign diplomatic tie-ups are poised to make a substantial impact on the Chennai market. With an international port, a strong defense presence, an international airport, and a thriving industrial ecosystem in every direction, the outlook for the next five years is exceptionally promising in terms of growth and opportunities.

How do you sell this hotel?

Our location is strategically advantageous, situated in proximity to both the airport and the central business district, and we're also conveniently positioned in the emerging business district. This strategic location is of utmost importance to us. Our clientele primarily consists of frequent business travelers who appreciate the brand loyalty of Marriott International. We take pride in providing a personalized and comfortable experience for our guests, catering to their unique needs and preferences.

What types of clientele have you got for this hotel?

As I previously mentioned, our hotel's unique selling points lie in our exceptional location and our valued clientele. We prioritize the retail market, working closely with direct reservations and online travel agents to enhance our retail segment. Additionally, we have established a strong foundation of contracted business. Our attention is particularly devoted to our top 20% of clients, which contributes significantly to our revenue. Furthermore, we have a thriving MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) market, consistently hosting bulk and group business events. These specific clientele segments are our primary focus, and we ensure their needs are exceptionally well taken care of.

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.