‘Experiences’ as the undeniable luxury: Shoba Mohan
Pioneering boutique hotel brands under RARE India and promoting the largest curated collection of owners run lodges, retreats, palace hotels and glam camps, Shoba Mohan, Founder, RARE India is a name well known in the industry. She tells us more about RARE, conscious luxury travel and the current market situation.
Kindly tell us a bit about RARE, how have you grown, and which are the newer hotels that you are representing?
RARE India (www.rareindia.com) is a marketing and sales company we began in 2004, as we continue to evolve we strive to find the sweet spot between online and offline so that we can sell on value and direct the right kind of travellers towards our hotels. We believe our heritage hotels, lodges, retreats are among the finest experiential hotels in the subcontinent – India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan with a focus on conscious luxury travel that place planet and people first. Simply put these are a community of hotels that really care for the environment, destination and the host community.
Those looking to travel are looking for special experiences that boutique hotels can provide. How does RARE fit in?
We are perfect in this space and then some. Infact since 2004 we can claim to have pioneered the idea of ‘experiences’ as the undeniable luxury. And as we continue forth we are now aiming to create transformation in the way people travel by urging them to ‘explore differently’ by looking at responsible travel as integral to travel style and choices, while we assure comfort, luxury and unique experiences. Every hotel on the list is personally audited by me and my very ‘environment’ intelligent and aware team ( we call it EQ – environment quotient ) so that every hotel of the community is working towards being a ‘conscious luxury’ offering.
Post the lockdown how many of the hotels that you represent are now operational? What kind of occupancies do they have?
Almost all our hotels are operational, and we have been working hard to invite more and more hotels into our collection. Our collective dream ( that of the RARE team ) is to be the one company www.rareindia.com to have the best boutique and personal hotels to be promoted together both online and offline, to the discerning and the domestic traveller but at value, by talking about their best attributed, unique experiences, people centric and environmentally experiences. Many of them especially those who are at easy driving distances from feeder cities are doing exceptionally well, but the question you should be asking is at what ARR are they selling. Unfortunately, there is a price war out there and everyone is trying to make the best of the situation, while everyone should be supporting independent hotels and their initiatives to creating destinations.
What remains the F&B revenue for boutique hotels? Are they pursuing any ancillary sources of revenue?
Our hotels are best run as inclusive, immersive hotels which is what our hotels are best doing. Many of them have re-worked their experiences to make it attractive for the Indian travellers, infact the whole package concept is quite alien to some of our hotels who because of their experiential value are more for long stay and slow travel. Many hotels and experiences like river cruising like Assam Bengal Navigation’s cruises on the mighty Ganges and Brahmaputra have reframed their cruising experiences into three nights and four nights packages to attract the Indian travellers travel ideals.
What are the kind of trends in terms of travelling that we are witnessing now?
The Great Indian Road Journey is the great trend, most germophobic Indian travellers prefer to take to the roads, and of course there is the demand for boutique hotels, but with not much of a discerning sense. All boutique hotels with small keys are not the same quality nor do they offer the same quality of service, so to expect some of the world class ones to pull down their prices is a tall ask.
What are your expectations from the upcoming festival season around Diwali for travel?
Festival times around Dussehra and Diwali have had a good demand for hotels set in natural surroundings which is almost every one of the RARE Hotel. I hope travellers and travel consultant can see the value that RARE hotels can bring to them in terms of quality of service, person branding and unique experiences and ensure that the right value is paid. These hotels create jobs for the local communities and also bring value to the destination. This is also the time for the Indian traveller to evolve and learn, discover our country and understand that travel is a great contributor to the Indian economy. They should be prepared to pay the kind of money they would when travelling abroad and not demand deals.
Which are your favourite five currently among the quintessential RARE experiences and why?
This is a very unfair question; every RARE hotel is a unique proposition. So, you have to choose between wellness, wildlife, heritage, mountain retreats, cruises and active vacation. Those are my favourite and quintessential RARE experiences.
According to you, by when will the hospitality industry fully recover?
To go back to the buoyancy of the years of 2019 and 2018, it will be the season of 2022/23 for the industry to fully recover.
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