The sustainable and responsible environment of ITC Grand Chola complemented by world class services makes it an ideal choice for guests with short as well as extended stay requirements while offering an experience of responsible luxury. Ranvir Bhandari, vice president (South) and general manager, ITC Grand Chola speaks about the hotel’s USP and how they are working towards making it a part of the top 10 iconic hotels of the world By Kahini Chakraborty
Standing as an embodiment of the glorious empire of the Cholas, ITC Hotels flagship property in Southern India, in Chennai, the ITC Grand Chola speaks volume for its unequaled artistry. While the city is recognised for its cultural abundance, unfortunately it has not been able to become a tourist destination on its own. It instead attracts leisure and spiritual tourists in transit to other parts of Tamil Nadu, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and even parts of South East Asia. However, the recent increase in the number of luxury and business hotels in the past few years are a clear indication that Chennai is on a growth path. And the ITC Grand Chola is a testimony to this change. Known as the world’s largest LEED Platinum green hotel, Ranvir Bhandari, vice president (South) and general manager, ITC Grand Chola boasts that the hotel’s sheer size and its ability to cater to different segments of the markets is an unparalleled advantage. “The government of Tamil Nadu and the residents of Chennai were most supportive in the pre-opening stages of the hotel and continue to do so,” says Bhandari, adding that, ITC Grand Chola’s strength lies in the ability to host global conventions and conferences with state-of-the-art venues and accommodation of 600 rooms, suites and residences. Guests can choose from the hotel’s well-appointed Executive Club rooms, the bespoke Towers and Chola Suites, signature ITC One rooms, Karikalan- The Presidential Suite, Raja Raja Chola – The Grand Presidential Suite and 78 luxury residences. Moreover, it also has four separate porches in the hotel, which add exclusivity to the choice of accommodation. “Also the 4735 m2 of convention space coupled with futuristic technology and world class service makes ITC Grand Chola the preferred destinations for all events. In fact Rajendra is one of the largest pillar-less banquet halls in the country,” he mentions. The hotel also been home to several firsts of ITC Hotels, from the launch of Royal Vega, Ottimo – Cucina Italiana, ITC Grand Chola Residences and the in-room iPad to name a few.
Bhandari has had the privilege to lead some of the finest hotels in the country as general manager since 1996 both at The Oberoi Group and ITC Hotels. “ITC Hotels beckoned in 2002 and I headed the pre-opening team of ITC Sonar, successfully launching it as the bedrock of luxury in the East,” he recalls.
Post ITC Sonar, he moved to New Delhi as vice president North and general manager of ITC Maurya. He also oversaw the operations of ITC Rajputana, ITC Mughal and WelcomHotel Sheraton New Delhi.
“I have been vice president South for over two years now and am responsible for all ITC and WelcomHotel properties in Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kerala and Visakhapatnam and also general manager of the ITC Grand Chola,” he points out.
With years of experience in the hospitality industry, and in terms of market dynamics and trends, according to Bhandari, Chennai’s topography and location being close to the key hubs of the Far East makes it the preferred destination for MNCs who would like to expand their operations in India. The city in particular has experienced robust growth in IT, ITES, automobile, healthcare and knowledge related business. Having said that, he maintains that while the basic principles of hoteliering remains the same, the profile of guests has evolved in the last decade.
“Guests today are well travelled and are exposed to the best practices in hotels around the world. They are very communicative about their experiences and do not hesitate in sharing their feedback through multiple channels, either through email, social media or travel websites. Positive, neutral or negative, their feedback is a constant learning for us as hoteliers to personalise each experience. Since most of our guests are constantly on the move, they often seek for familiar touches of home through cuisine, fitness regime or preference for a certain kind of pillow to name a few,” he elaborates.
What has worked well as a successful strategy for ITC Grand Chola has been the concept of a hotel within a hotel. “Our four porches, for instance are gateways to the exclusive experiences we offer to different segments of the market,” points out Bhandari. The Vallavan Porch offers undivided attention to detail for captains of the industry and government and those staying at the Raja Raja Chola – The Grand Presidential Suite.
The pre-lobby area at the Chola entrance offers non-resident guests the convenience to access the restaurants and banquet space without having to pass through the Sangam Lobby. Guests residing at the ITC Grand Chola Residents have the comfort to enter and exit from the Killi Porch, away from the activity at the main hotel. Also, the extensive choice of 600 living spaces offers an opportunity for different levels of corporate hierarchy to stay at the same place. “Apart from this, our signature services such as WelcomDivas, Butler Services, the sommelier, the beverage specialist, expat chefs at pan Asian, Ottimo – Cucina Italiana and for the patisserie have contributed to the hotel’s offerings being regarded as truly world class,” he informs.
The hotel also has a specialised team of professionals dedicated to the MICE and social segment. For example, they have an events and conventions sales team, wedding planners and bride whisperers, an exclusive team of chefs, a banquet concierge and WelcomAmbassadors anticipating guests’ needs at such events.
The entire layout and positioning of their banquet spaces allows for multiple functions to take place simultaneously without intruding into the privacy and comfort of other guests at the hotel. The hotel offers state-of-the-art technology such as the AMX Touch Pad which can control the lights, projectors and sound system and data card reader which is also a camera that can scan all physical documents and project it on the screen. The hotel also has space to accommodate a luxury limousine making it the ideal venue for car launches and auto expo. “In sync with ITC Hotels ethos of Responsible Luxury, Green Banqueting is a key feature much appreciated by the guests since most organisations, like us are sensitive to preserving the environment around us,” he adds.
The fact that ITC Grand Chola is the world’s largest LEED Platinum Certified Hotel (New Constructions Category) and that it has been awarded the five-star rating by TERI GRIHA system are a reflection of ITC Hotels’ philosophy of Responsible Luxury.
Some of their green initiatives in terms of energy conversation are as follows:
- The luxury hotel owns a wind farm of 12.6 MW capacities that caters to 100 per cent of the electricity demand of the property
- State-of-the-art technologies like Hartmann Loop, Digital Hot water generators, iPad based room controls, etc. being used for the first time in India to achieve benchmark figures of energy efficiency
- High percentage of recycled material and materials with recycled content used in construction
- Sequential Batch Reactor (SBR) technology based Sewage Treatment Plant, treats every drop of waste water to near potable quality. This treated water is recycled for gardening, cooling towers of air conditioning plant and for toilet flushing
- Over 50 per cent of the wood products used in the project are from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified forests
- Conversion of food waste into manure through a biological waste convertor.