What makes a brand luxury? The overall experience they provide to customers. The Leela Palace New Delhi takes this very, very seriously, as the General Manager, Mr Tamir Kobrin, assures us
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: January 30, 2013
What is probably the first thing you do when you plan to travel? Check out tripadvisor.com to read reviews of your preferred hotel. This ubiquitous, crowd sourced website is the cause for fear and worry of many hoteliers today, because, at the end of the day, the guest is god.
So when Tripadvisor awards a hotel, you know it has to have substance and admiration from all its guests! The Leela Palace New Delhi is one of those. The hotel has been awarded five titles, by the 2013 Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards, in the category of the Top Big & Luxury hotels in Asia and amongst the Top Big, Luxury & Service Hotels in India.
Being as smitten by the property as other travellers, we tried to figure out what makes it so up-to-the-mark, dedicated to often high-expecting guests, by talking to Mr Tamir Kobrin, general manager, The Leela Palace New Delhi, who also headed The Leela Palace Udaipur previously.
When The Leela Palace New Delhi had opened, it had been a grand affair. With a prime location, the most opulent interiors, two famed international restaurants, there was nothing bigger at that time. All that people ‘in-the-know’ could discuss was whether the hotel will live up to the hype. With such high expectations to weigh him down, was Mr Kobrin apprehensive? “No”, he says, “When I came from Udaipur, I had a clear dictate to make it the best property in the region. It took some time to set the tone, lead the team, define the vision and against all odds, direct the vision forward without interruptions. Clearly knowing the vision and long term strategy, the right thing to do is to make it the best to get a premium for the hotel product, service, F&B and spa. As a result of our efforts, we are the market leaders today and no one can take this away from us.”
During an earlier trip to The Leela Palace Udaipur, we had figured that The Leela takes its job very seriously. With the royal experience we had there, it is safe to assume that you could receive the same treatment (probably better), at The Leela Palace New Delhi too. Indeed, Mr Kobrin ensured that his brief and training was the same in this property too, which was to make the property the finest in the destination and in the country, and to ensure that they get the most out of the team, develop talent, which in turn delivers the finest service experience to guests.
Indianess to the root
This quintessentially Indian hotel not only has to face stiff competition from international hospitality brands coming in, but the very Indian Oberoi and Taj properties too! Differentiating itself from others is not easy, but Mr Kobrin makes it sound quite effortless. “It [The Leela] caters to the uber-luxury segment that expects more for their money. They want new updated products and are willing to pay more for their experience, sometimes a bit over the top, but unpretentious and unobtrusive,” he says.
You only need to see the way Mr Kobrin and his team interacts with guests to believe that for them, the guest's comfort is indeed crucial. Anytime you go there, you’ll only see smiling staff, eager to accommodate every question, every need. Even Le Cirque, which is known to be a snooty establishment in New York, has a more hospitable team in New Delhi. This motto of ‘Guest is God’, which is also an Indian saying incidentally, is indoctrinated “in every facet of our operations and DNA.” In fact, Mr Kobrin reminisces how once one of their guests left the hotel leaving behind his iPhone and flew to the next destination country. Realising that he had left his phone, he contacted and informed The Leela Palace New Delhi. The team found the phone and ensured that it reached the guest that same day as he could not function without it. With a lot of juggling and negotiations, their Clefs d'Or team managed to get the phone on the next flight, and in the hands of the guest before his meeting in the destination country.
An intelligent hotel
Apart from their exceptional service standards, ask Mr Kobrin what the USPs of The Leela Palace New Delhi are, and he counts them merrily of his fingers – “The largest rooms with a spectacular design appointed with the latest technology; our great culinary experience which includes two New York famed restaurants; the exclusive royal club floors and lounge, an urban oasis Spa by ESPA (London); and a temperature-controlled rooftop swimming pool to rejuvenate and relax in a wonderful ambience. Once you walk-in, the Lutyen’s architecture, Indian design and interiors and the overall grandeur of the hotel gives you a glimpse of the fascinating Indian culture.” But ask him what the pride of the hotel is, it is not Megu or ESPA or even Le Cirque. It is, quite simply, the guest comments which they read out in their morning meetings without fail. “Every morning it is heartening to see our performance through the guest satisfaction scores translating to achieving the highest rate in the city. Ever since we debuted in Delhi, our guests are willing to pay a premium for our experience, we hit a home run!” he said excitedly.
But it is not just guest comments at the hotel which provide them a way forward. More often than not, it is inconspicuous discussions online which really show how well a hotel is doing. And anything negative there is even more dangerous for the long term market well-being of a brand – hospitality or otherwise. Mr Kobrin also concurs. “It [social media] is a wakeup call for all the hoteliers, that everything we do is scrutinized instantly, and that we cannot escape dealing with it. We must address the fact that customers are tech savvy, opinionated and express their feelings by giving their reviews online. We have to be on the top of our game, be aware and ensure that we address the matter with sincerity, honesty and instantly,” he said.
A perfect blend of luxury, sophistication, class and genuine care, The Leela Palace New Delhi truly deserves these many accolades. Understanding the hotel is his passion, you ask Mr Kobrin what luxury means to him, and pat comes the reply, “Time! The time you have to do what you want, when you want to, with whomever you choose to spend your time with. I choose to spend it with my lovely wife, Kathrine!” In a way, isn’t that the genesis of understanding what your guests would also want from a hospitality brand?