Luxury Hotels

INDIA – 10

Mandeep Lamba was thrilled to have got over 500 delegates to HOPE but he does not strive for growth. He does want to expand, but only the right delegates. Nothing, he admits, can stop sessions emptying as the day progresses. (The session on leisure and experiental travel, with one other female* on the panel, was fortunately mid-morning so the hotel ballroom was still about 60% full – later, a steady stream defected to the neighbouring eat-drink areas for yet more chitter-chat networking.) *Deepika Rao is billed as IHCL’s evp openings and corporate communications but in fact she’s a name to watch, Masters in Economics, also a former ceo Ginger and senor level Jill of all trades.

Lamba and his team had done a brilliant job tweaking the ballroom, which already has a raised stage reached by impressively red-lined stairs. Backcloths for most sessions were real-life real-time video of scenic India locations, including gushing ceiling-high waterfalls, and snow in Sikhim. There were real-life keynotes from such eminents as IHCL’s Puneet Chhatwal, and WTTC Asia-Pacific boss Liz Ortiguera. A session on airlines attracted little attention. A conversation with celeb chef Sanjeev Kapoor – see below – soared high. Main sponsors were St Gobain and Taj Ciudade de Goa, which, led by the paired-hotels’ developer and owner Anju Timblo and her husband, both of whom were Delhi lawyers.

Overall HOPE was a platform for Chhatwal. Fresh from announcing third quarter IHCL revenue up 15% year on year and growth of 18% year on year, he was here able to announce a continuing association with eleven of the Kathmandu-based Chaudhary Groups’ CG Group Global hotels. The pair already partner in five Taj Safari Lodges and the other CG Group Global properties will come into the partnership shortly. It was also announced, the same day, that IHCL is entering into a strategic alliance with Tree of Life boutique hotels, recently bought by Kolkata’s Ambuja Neotia Group.