Exploring Rajasthan with RAAS
Nikhilendra Singh, Founder and Managing Director, RAAS Hotels says all RAAS properties are a confluence of history and modern aesthet-ics
As a boy, Nikhilendra Singh had dreamt of owning a boutique hotel in his hometown, Jodhpur. To convert this dream into reality, his brother Dhananjaya Singh found an ideal piece of land at the foot of Mehrangarh Fort in 2007 and with a vision to preserve the Rajput heritage by combining it with contemporary aesthetics and vibes, RAAS Jodhpur came to life in 2009, marking the brand’s debut.
All RAAS properties are more of icons of modern design and contemporary aesthetics than just being symbols of heritage and legacy. A perfect confluence of yesterday and today, looking towards tomorrow, the designs are a blend of contemporary and old-school Rajput architecture. “RAAS focuses on delivering consistently high standard of luxury and services to our guests,” says Nikhilendra Singh, Founder and Managing Director, RAAS Hotels.
Rooftop Bar, Mehrangarh Fort, RAAS Jodhpur
Singh hosted events at Devigarh Palace nestled in the Aravalli Hills, less than an hour away from Udaipur. The property holds a commanding position with views out across the valley and the village of Delwara and the founder of RAAS had fallen in love with that palace. So, in 2015, he took over the iconic 18th-century palace which now breathes an array of decorative styles and tranquil landscaped gardens.
With sustainability, community investment and conservation as fundamental guiding values across all properties, RAAS Devigarh renovates and maintains government-run schools in its vicinity. Each hotel has its organic herb and vegetable garden that yields seasonal produce. In 2016, RAAS stopped the use of single-use plastic across all its properties.
Heritage Suite, RAAS Jodhpur
A contrast to RAAS Jodhpur and RAAS Devigarh, the next milestone for Singh was to take over the Chhatrasagar camps that have been an important part of the Rajput lifestyle. In earlier days, people use to go for expeditions to far-off places where tents were the only option for them for accommodation. Soon after these places started turning into mini-palaces and RAAS Chhatrasagar captures the essence of this romance.
Sticking to its roots, Nikhilendra Singh added another gem to its portfolio this year, Rajmahal Palace which is located at the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, also known as the ‘Pink City’ and capital of Rajasthan — Jaipur. The 19th century palace is an opulent heritage residence turned luxury hotel that provides some of Jaipur’s most luxurious experiences.
Talking about his journey since the inception of first boutique hotel, Singh says, “We started as a solo hotel with RAAS Jodhpur and didn’t precisely conceptualise a brand, and then before we understood it, RAAS had become a brand. The last decade has been an amalgam of good and challenging years. The most exciting aspects have been design and construction. Our growth has been organic, and we aim to keep it that way.”
Sheesh Mahal, RAAS Devigarh
CAPITALISING THROUGH DOMESTIC TOURISM
It has been no secret that inbound tourism is a major revenue generator for these palaces-turned-hotels. Now that international travel is on halt, the brands have been banking on domestic tourism to stay afloat. To increase engagement with the domestic audience, RAAS has been partaking in more partnerships, taking a deep dive into PR and is actively working on designing more attractive products to suit them.
“We, at RAAS, have always believed in promoting sustainable tourism and understand that today’s travellers are increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of their travel and are associating with brands that engage in such practices,” he says.
Luxury Tent, RAAS Chhatrasagar
INNOVATIONS DURING THE PANDEMIC
These unprecedented times has impacted the hospitality industry in a way that is beyond our imagination but it has also given us an opportunity to pause and restructure. Singh claims the pandemic has been a testing period but has also been an opportunity to innovate.
“The biggest challenge was the fear of the virus, but that got better as we learned more about it and what steps we needed to stay safe. It was tough and there were hurdles on the way but we have adapted effectively. Hygiene and safety levels were always high at all our properties, but we have added more protocols on top of those to adhere to the Covid-19 safety guidelines,” he says.
Main Porch, Rajmahal Palace RAAS Jaipur
Focussing on the role of technology ruling the hotel sector nowadays, Singh feels that businesses have had to innovate and develop more efficient approaches. “Now guests can remotely check-in and out of the property, eliminating the need to queue and deplete time at the reception. Restaurants have replaced menus with scannable QR codes,” he continues.
He believes that ever-changing technology in hotel operations has aided in the creation of seamless guest experience as well as increased the productivity of the hotel and its staff. “Social media has completely changed the relationship hospitality businesses share with guests. Technology does offer numerous benefits to the industry. Nevertheless, technology for us will remain in the backdrop. It will never replace the human element that comes with customer service,” he puts in.
Yuvraj Suite, Rajmahal Palace RAAS Jaipur
NEXT IN PIPELINE
Singh has placed all of its properties in mesmerising and stunning views that offer efficient services and boasts of fresh designs that calls to any generation. Shedding light on the future plans of RAAS, Singh says, “As they say, it’s a world of endless possibilities and endless experimentation. Next, we are looking to expand in Goa and South India, so stay with us as we RAASHop across the country.”
This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'SMART MANTRAS ISSUE VOL 7, ISSUE 4'
Around The World