Elevating Hospitality: A Journey Through Tamara Leisure Experiences With CEO Shruti Shibulal
Read this exclusive interview with Shruti Shibulal, CEO & Director of Tamara Leisure Experiences as she delves into the world of hospitality, Tamara's emphasis on immersive hospitality and experiential travel. She gives insights into the evolution of the industry with technology and emerging trends.
Shruti Shibulal, the CEO & Director of Tamara Leisure Experiences, shares insights into the art of experiential travel and the unique offerings that define Tamara’s properties. From immersive nature-centric adventures in Coorg and Kodaikanal to transformative wellness experiences in Alleppey, she unveils the thoughtful details that make each stay unforgettable.
In the age of experiential travel, what are some of the unique experiences and activities guests can enjoy at your properties?
Our resorts in Coorg and Kodaikanal have been designed to offer an immersive nature-centric experience. In Coorg, guests can trek through 40 acres of untouched forest land, which remains part of the estate. They also learn about the process of growing and harvesting coffee at our in-house plantation, which culminates in each guest creating a custom blend of fine fresh coffee that they can take home with them. In Kodaikanal, we offer stargazing experiences as well as wildlife or bird-watching tours. Kodaikanal is an exceptionally rich canvas of flora and fauna, which continues to be a memorable experience for our guests.
On a more transformative level, at Amal Tamara, our NABH-certified Ayurvedic hospital on the backwaters in Alleppey, Kerala, guests or Amal yatris receive personalised and thoughtful care that includes curative treatments and meaningful lifestyle changes that result in long-term wellness.
How has technology transformed the guest experience, from mobile check-ins to in-room amenities controlled by smartphone apps?
Technology is a powerful proponent for evolving guest experiences. Our approach to tech integration is not so much focused on being tech-forward (as is the case with smart hotels and highly automated hospitality experiences) but being tech-aligned (which is incorporating effective tools that help us do what we do, better).
Technology has significantly helped to optimise our internal operations. We use a share application for daily, internal communication which records leave applications and customer feedback, it also enables information exchange (similar to an instant messaging app). We also developed GPM, a proprietary project management system that facilitates seamless communication across and throughout the organisation. By increasing transparency and easing collaboration across departments, properties and various stakeholders, GPM has made us more efficient in handling everything from a customer grievance to rolling out large-scale pan-organisational plans.
Additionally, it has helped to bring inclusivity and digital literacy to certain designations that would not typically be exposed to digital tools.
Keeping in mind efficiency and ease of use for all, we will continue using functionality-focused, lean tech that bolsters existing operations and guest experiences.
Culinary tourism is a significant trend. How are hotels incorporating local flavours and dining experiences to attract food enthusiasts?
We have the great privilege of having hired over 50 per cent of pan-organisational staff from local communities in which our properties are located. Our chefs across all properties bring with them recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Each of these culturally integral recipes is prepared through traditional processes using fresh produce and fresh ingredients that are either grown on our estate or sourced locally.
We also incorporate coffee (grown on our estate in Coorg) and locally sourced cinnamon into spa treatments, which extends the experience of the land to include wellness derived from native spices and ingredients.
Sustainability and eco-friendly practices are increasingly important in the hospitality industry. How does Tamara Leisure Experiences incorporate these principles into its operations?
From its inception, Tamara Leisure Experiences has integrated sustainability into operations and offerings. Starting from scratch gave us the freedom to rethink the status quo at every incremental step. Our sustainability initiatives are, therefore, comprehensive; spanning environmental, social, cultural and financial arenas.
We design sustainable practices to act as end-to-end solutions. For example, to conserve water we established rainwater harvesting tanks, set up water-efficient plumbing systems and reduced turnover services by offering them on demand. Additionally, we use treated greywater for landscaping.
Similarly, LED lights placed across our estates in Coorg and Kodaikanal are not only energy efficient they also help us maintain the appropriate level of lighting to ensure that wildlife is neither disturbed nor harmed.
Green building principles such as restoration, repurposing and material conservation greatly reduce the conventional carbon footprint of construction. They simultaneously reduce short-term expenses and, in some cases, render compounding cost savings in the long term.
Sustainability to us is not a series of initiatives but rather an ecosystem, a collaborative framework of interloping practices that facilitate and maintain long-term impact.
With properties in different parts of India and the world, how do you ensure each property retains a local touch while reflecting the overarching brand identity?
Tamara’s value system: our commitment to responsible and heartfelt hospitality is reflected across the properties that we operate. That said, each property is distinctive. It has been both a challenging and rewarding experience to design region-specific operational policies and authentic experiences while accounting for the unique landscapes, climates, cuisine, culture and traditions associated with each location.
What trends do you anticipate emerging in the near future in the hospitality industry?
Sustainability will continue to be a high priority for the hospitality industry. With increasingly discerning customers who are seeking out green and conscious travel experiences, the sector will have to evolve to adopt these principles.
Wellness-focused travel will continue to be important and will become more diverse. A deep focus on holistic wellness triggered by the pandemic will continue to influence travel decisions. I believe we have already begun to see a shift from demand for merely cosmetic wellness treatments such as spa packages to more lifestyle and long-term wellness offerings such as integrative yoga, meditation and Ayurvedic retreats.
Domestic travel has been dominant and robust in the post-pandemic era. That said, I believe we will see an uptick in international travellers choosing India, especially, for nature-centric and wellness-related travel experiences.
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