The Oberoi, Gurgaon opened this week. Bhupesh Bhandari gets a preview.
The Oberoi, Gurgaon is spread over nine acres, yet has only 202 keys: 187 rooms and 15 suites. With real estate prices on fire, hoteliers pack in as many rooms as possible in the land they own. The industry norm is 100 rooms per acre. The Oberoi, Gurgaon is clearly under-built. But then the land was acquired way back in 1982 when Gurgaon was just a forgettable village on the highway to Jaipur, by Orbit Resorts at a fraction of what it costs today. So there was no pressing need to build pigeon holes all over.
Some bit of it is also by design. The promise of the luxury hotel is height, light and space. The rooms are thus all 12-feet high. Most hotels put the ceiling at nine feet; so, over five floors The Oberoi, Gurgaon has sacrificed 15 feet — enough to fit in a complete floor of 40 rooms. The smallest room is 620 sq ft, which the hotel staff claims is larger than 575 sq ft, the average size of suites worldwide. Every room, as well as the bathroom, has large glass windows to let the light in. There is a green patch of two acres and water bodies over 1.5 acre.
The hotel, the first city Oberoi after 19 years (the last one came up in Bangalore), is banking on the presence of large corporations in the city for business. The Trident next door, also owned by Orbit Resorts and run by Oberoi Hotels & Resorts, ran 83 per cent full in 2010-11 — the highest anywhere in the country. Oberoi Hotels & Resorts Senior Vice-president Kapil Chopra, who looks after both the hotels, says that of the 10 global boards that came to India last year, six stayed at The Trident. The hotel is linked to 300 corporations for business, something The Oberoi, Gurgaon could leverage to its advantage. Chopra wants to pitch The Oberoi, Gurgaon as a rival to upscale hotels in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur which have emerged as serious destinations for corporate events. He claims that he has no fewer than 118 enquiries for events (board meetings, conferences, etc) that could fructify over the next few months.
Almost 85 per cent of The Trident’s business comes from corporate travellers, largely from multinational corporations, and 15 per cent from tourists. Chopra says tourists could contribute up to 25 per cent of The Oberoi, Gurgaon’s business. He claims that The Obeori, Guragon is fully sold out for April 21 and 22.
But will not the new hotel eat into the business of The Trident? The lowest tariff at the Trident is Rs 14,000, which is not very different from the inaugural rate of Rs 16,000 at The Oberoi, Gurgaon. Chopra knows that could happen, but says the sheer volume of business could change the landscape. In fact, he lets out that the business plan of The Trident for the current year has projected higher occupancy than last year.
Also, being in the suburbs, won’t The Oberoi, Gurgaon miss out on all those travellers who come to meet government officers, as also the embassy business? Chopra admits that the embassy business in Delhi can be huge — up to 400 rooms a night — but says The Trident has made some inroads that could help The Oberoi, Gurgaon as well. “The King of Malaysia stayed here, and so did the Prime Minister of Hungary,” says he.
The hotel has cost Orbit Resorts Rs 450 crore. Of this, Rs 270 crore was debt and the rest was contributed by the profits of The Trident. The debt probably carries interest of 10 per cent. Most hotels have an operating margin of 50 per cent. So, the hotel needs to do business of at least Rs 54 crore to cover the interest cost. Chopra expects rooms to contribute 50 per cent of the revenue, and the restaurants (Amaranta and threesixtyone degree) and banquet facilities the other half. Assuming average room rate of Rs 16,000 per night, back-of-the-envelope calculations show that a 24 per cent occupancy will be enough to cover the interest outgo.
Curiously, there are only two restaurants in the hotel, though threesixtyone degree has five kitchens for Chinese (the two chefs, claims Chopra, have for the first time travelled outside China), Indian, Italian and Japanese cuisines. Amaranta specialises in seafood from all the coastal states of India. The catch is flown in every morning from Kochi and Vishakhapatnam by Jet Airways. There is no fixed menu — it changes according to the catch. All food waste is treated and turned into compost for use in the green patch.
The banquet halls are large. The Belvedere club has 70 leather chairs from Mattero Grasi purchased at Rs 80,000 apiece. And there is a separate Cigar Lounge for smokers. The hotel’s architecture, unlike the domes and gentle arches of The Trident, is contemporary and uses a lot of glass and steel. The edifice looks like beige sandstone but is actually reinforced concrete. Beige gravel has been spread over the roof of The Trident to bring in a harmony of views. The shopping arcade, which will be given out only to luxury brands, has a separate entry, so that the hustle and bustle does not disturb hotel guests. It has taken four years to build the hotel.
The hotel will have Peter Negi’s Nature Morte gallery of contemporary Indian artists. Artworks from 35 upcoming artists from Kolkata, Vadodara, Kochi and Mumbai are on display all over the hotel, including the rooms and lobbies. Over every water closet is a water colour from a Vadodara artist. One hundred and fifty original black & white photographs of the monuments of India by Tarun Chopra have been hung in the lobbies. Artist Dimpy Menon has done 54 pieces in brass on the celebration of life. The rooms are spacious — the electric control panels have been custom-made by Schneider. There is zardozi embroidery on one wall, done by 250 craftsmen in Lucknow, to give the Indian feel. The colour scheme is red and beige. The toiletries in the bathroom are a new range from Forest Essentials. Every room has a butler trained by the Guild of Professional English Butlers.
The Oberoi, Gurgaon has 520 people on its rolls, which gives it a room-staff ratio of well under three. Most luxury hotels have between five and six people for every room. The average age, Chopra claims, is around 22 or 23. The guest-satisfaction level at The Trident, according to him, is as high as 91 per cent. “I think it should be the same here,” says he.