When you took over as CEO of The Park Hotels what was your vision for the hotels?
The hotel business was started by my family in 1967, with the first hotel opening in Kolkata. The Park Visakhapatnam was added in 1968 and The Park New Delhi in 1987. I joined the business in 1988 and soon saw great potential for creating a niche for The Park Hotels. India was developing quickly and consumer expectations were changing, so I worked to create India’s first and only collection of contemporary luxury boutique hotels. The Park Hotels are design-led, stylish and edgy properties, they were the first to launch on the subcontinent and that, along with the exceptional service offered, makes us stands out from our competition.
How has that vision evolved over time?
Modern travel is all about experiences, it’s not just the destinations and the activities; the hotel and even the transport, must propel the traveller into the new world that they have chosen to inhabit. At The Park Hotels, we have developed a series of “Anything But Ordinary” experiences that a guest can experience at every touch point in the hotel. Starting from‘The Arrival’ that seamlessly continues into ‘The Stay’ experience. All these standards are designed such that from the moment guests arrive, to the moment they leave, no matter where life takes them; they take a part of The Park with them. Under The Table Dinner was also a part of these Anything But Ordinary experiences.
Art & design obviously play a big part in your hotels. Who or what is most inspiring you in the world of art & design at the moment?
I am constantly inspired by my travels and what I see in art and design in India and globally. What excites me right now is the way people are working across disciplines and mediums to create new ways of living.
Are there any other hotels that you have stayed in across the world that have inspired you in the design of your hotels?
I find hotels and travel very exciting. All styles of hotels are inspiring, be it a small 6 room hotel or a large classic hotel. I find inspiration at times in the most unexpected places. It’s very difficult to pinpoint one clear idea as each hotel or project I do is an amalgamation of my experiences … and they are not necessarily always with hotels!
Do you have a favourite room out of all the hotels?
Whilst it’s hard to pick any one hotel as the ‘greatest’, The Park Hyderabad is a particularly stunning hotel, widely regarded as having set the bar for modern Indian hotel design. So I would say the “La Sultana” Suite designed by Tarun Tahiliani at that hotel is my favourite. It is spacious and opulent – and reflectscontemporary Indian design.
The 267 room hotel, designed by more than 20 famous Indian and international designers, draws inspiration from the settings and metal work in the Nizam’s jewellery collection (one of the most valuable jewellery collections in the world). The end result is a modern interpretation of a Nizam’s palace, the famed former rulers of Hyderabad, who were renowned for their wealth and decadence.
How do you select artwork for the hotels?
I’ve spent years building up my art collection both for my hotels and my personal one and many of those pieces now live within our hotels.
Each hotel has a distinct character and is designed and completed with artworks that draw upon the history and hotel’s location. A hotel is a blank canvas, like an art gallery or museum. In this sense I am incredibly lucky that I have so many art galleries to fill!
Do you have a favourite piece of artwork?
Not really, even though I would not want to part with any! Each one has a story.
You’ve won many awards for your work as a hotelier but also as a prominent female entrepreneur. What would your advice be for women wanting to start their own business?
I think it’s important to take risks and if you have a good idea and are willing to try, take that risk (with some planning) and move ahead. Though you must understand that failure is also part of running a business; it’s important to be able to persevere. To lead any business you have to have clarity of vision, an ability to communicate and work with teams, and be able to face challenges with a level head.
Do you have any international aspirations for The Park Hotels?
Yes we do.
With so many hotels around India and inevitably an extremely busy lifestyle how do you achieve balance in your life?
I really enjoy what I do so a lot of the time it doesn’t seem like work in the traditional sense. It’s the whole creative process that I love so much – it’s fun. Of course spending time with my family and friends helps me to achieve balance and I’mvery lucky to have a close supporting family.
Where is your favourite place to go and unwind for a few days?
Goa, I always love it there. The energy of that place is very special.
Where is next on your wish list to visit?
Where in the world are you happiest?
With my family and friends.
What’s next for Priya Paul and also for The Park Hotels?
This year we are launching our first hotels as part of the diffusion line, Zone by The Park.
The Park Hotels have been pioneers in the hospitality market since their inception and again will lead the way, opening up new fast growing Indian cities in leisure and business destinations by creating a high standard of affordable hotels. Zone is a four-star brand aimed at Indian business travellers and international visitors exploring India’s new and upcoming cities. The first hotels will open in Coimbatore and Jaipur at the end of this year.