Luxury Hotels

Technology needs the art of luxury hospitality and vice versa

Butler Manoj, on the right, arrives with the IT specialist

One of the eye-openers of this trip through parts of India and Sri Lanka, says the gal, has been the high quality of connectivity – honestly better than in some parts of the USA and UK and certainly France (regular hoteliers, and travel advisors, at International Luxury Travel Market ILTM, know that at some of the best hotels on the Riviera, no names mentioned, working emails can be a problem and getting in deeper, to work a website, is sometimes almost impossible). In the sub-continent, IT is expected: Leela Palace Chennai, GM KM Chengappa, explained that although weddings fill his 326-room hotel most weekends, his main market is IT. Sunday through Thursday nights, techies are in-house, for regional and international MICE meetings. The price he charges to the organiser is all-in, which includes food, and connectivity, which is 4mbps throughout the entire 326-room hotel.

Taljinder Singh shows off the interactive concierge tablet

At Cape Weligama in south-west Sri Lanka, owner Malik Fernando said again and again that he has a fetish about connectivity. Anywhere throughout the 12-acre campus picks up the signals. The same is true at Taj Mahal Palace and Tower in Mumbai – see how the twin hotels’ shared pool surround becomes an ideal office, above. And if you need any help, as I did when a back-end hiccup caused temporary non-working of my WiFi, my superb butler Manoj Galkwad literally brought an IT guy in five minutes, no exaggeration – at 6.15 a.m. Now THAT is one of many pointers that all contribute to making a genuine luxury hotel.

Swipe screen for do-it-yourself information

Taljinder Singh, GM of the Taj Mahal complex, is actually a bit of a tech nut. Guests who want to talk to a concierge find that, as you stand at the relevant counter, what the concierges see on their screens shows, real time, on a smaller screen on the counter, facing you. For those who do not want to bother concierges, there are tall standing screens, about the size of cheval mirrors, that invite you to flick, from left to right or up and down, to find out restaurants’ opening hours and exact details of menus. From a practical point of view this is all much more efficient than having permanent, or temporary, written signs.  Outside my windows at Taj Mahal it seems that selfie-takers were working 24/7 – see a video below of the Gate of India on a Sunday afternoon.

High-tech beauty saloon

I was also impressed by the hotel’s first-class salon, which has some highly complicated machines in its beauty room (but, as if knowing I would soon have another most-of-the-night flight, I slept throughout my time in the salon so cannot report properly other than the fact there seemed to be quite a number of senior and obviously Very Important local men having manicures). Already, TripAdvisor reviews give five out of five to the shared gym, and the spa, and the salon, which will presumably stay where it is when a new, enlarged spa opens, in the couple of months, in the space previously taken up by Shamiana restaurant – which has moved elsewhere, as you will see. To sum up, luxury hotels today cannot exist without really top-end fitness and wellness, and they need faultless technology. I do wonder, however, how long it will be before hotels and resorts elsewhere, say The Lowell in New York, have real wood fires with the self-lighting system that I have at home? SEE A VIDEO, FIRST, OF SELFIE-TAKERS AROUND THE GATE OF INDIA, AND THEN ANOTHER, OF MY SELF-LIGHTING ESSE WOOD-BURNING STOVE.