24 October 2013
Wexas Managing Director Steve Allen records his impressions of the Oberoi Hotels he stayed at whilst travelling in India with his family.
This year I travelled to India for the first time with my family and visited four Oberoi hotels, staying in three of them. Many hotel groups claim to deliver consistent levels of quality and service. Few actually deliver. Oberoi Hotels and Resorts do, and in an unswerving and stylish way.
Established in 1934, the Oberoi Group comprises two brands: Oberoi Hotels and Resorts at the luxury end and Trident Hotels, the 5-Star sister. Most of the Oberoi hotels are in India, although they also have properties in Indonesia, Mauritius, Egypt and new this year, UAE. There's also a Nile Cruiser and a Kerala vessel operating under the Oberoi banner.
Oberoi founded their Centre of Learning and Development in New Delhi in 1966. 100 students graduate each year, and this investment in and commitment to achieving high standards is laudable, placing the brand in excellent company with the likes of The Four Seasons.
What makes for a luxury brand is an interesting topic with many views and interpretations. For me, there are seven key ingredients that need to be right:
- Location - an essential consideration, whether for access to the centre of a city, the beach or an icon, or to simply escape to, depending on the purpose of your stay.
- Comfort - from the quality of the bed, the pillows and the flooring, to the seating and ambience in the public rooms: all showing the attention to detail to truly make one's stay comfortable.
- Meals - the quality and range available, with local options and nuances, and with a decent range of wines and drinks to complement both the meal content and the needs of the clientele.
- Space - whether in your bedroom or suite, or in the public areas both internally and externally: having the space to breathe and to be private when desired, design and layout are essential considerations.
- Service - achieving consistency, with style; being understated and readily available; offering real warmth and consideration; anticipating as well as reacting and always with a smile; all characteristics that combine to achieve a level of service that rises well above the norm.
- Relevant facilities delivered well - swimming pool to a gym; spa to gardens; library to terraces. And not as gestures provided almost as an after thought or squeezed in: if these facilities are key supports to the visit that will enhance the experience then deliver them well, and achieve best-in-class standards.
- Surprises - these may be service-related with personal touches from enabled staff and management; small tokens that demonstrate thoughtfulness in relation to the reason for one's visit; going the extra mile.
No doubt there are many variations on my seven key ingredients especially as we all have varying frames of reference and experience!
So how did Oberoi do?
Our first experience was a lunch and tour of the New Delhi Oberoi. This is an hotel that's designed for the business traveller although it has a number of luxuries that'll suit all types of travellers. These include a 24-hour personal butler service, a fine spa and their Oriental Restaurant, located at the top of the hotel with fine views across the city. The food was first class, and the service quietly efficient and considered.
Saying at the The Oberoi Amarvilas in Agra is a truly memorable experience as it's the only hotel with views of the Taj Mahal from every room. The location, comfort, dining and service were all tiptop, and we were sad that we had chosen to spend just the one night there. We didn't have time to enjoy the pool, the gardens, the spa or a spot of yoga. So stay for at least two nights, and chat to the chef to agree the preparation that best suits your taste buds! Overall, a classy hotel experience.
Our next port of call was The Oberoi Vanyavilas in Ranthambhore, from where we set out each day in search of the tigers in the reserve. This is a delightful boutique-style hotel with many neat touches to complement the fabulous tented rooms, the swimming pool and pretty gardens. The service was excellent, led by the manager, Ratna, who inspired her team, ensuring that every guest felt welcome and at home. We did stay two nights here and should have made this three or four, taking the safari drives each morning and then chilling out by the pool, occasionally raising the flag to signal one's next drink order. A real taste of luxury in the heart of India.
The final Oberoi experience was our stay in Jaipur at The Oberoi Rajvilas. A well-located property that was the busiest of the hotels we stayed at. Perhaps the density of rooms to space is a little higher here? The rooms were of a high quality though, and the library for our G&T's plus the lovely outdoor restaurant for dining beneath the stars proved to be a winning combination.
Overall, the consistency of the Oberoi experience stands out. All hotels were well located, comfortable, and providing a quality dining experience (try the Indian Sauvignon Blanc which is rather good and well priced!). The space at all of them is good, with the only minor aberration being the Rajvilas, although I am being a little picky. Certainly the use of space reflects well on the designers. They have created the sense of calm, a bit like an oasis, helping one to escape the hurly burly that is Indian life beyond the gates.
Service is of a high standard throughout. A pleasure to receive and I'm pretty sure a pleasure to give for the staff too. Service is part of the Oberoi DNA. We enjoyed the facilities at each hotel, when time allowed, and they did add value to our stay. They were relevant and thoughtfully provided. Finally, the surprises. Certainly there are a number that Oberoi deliver on consistently and well. Best were the Vanyavilas touches, whilst in every hotel the use of stones and petals to leave a message on one's doorstep and little notes from key staff meant that we felt we were definitely more than a number.
As you plan your visit to India, ensure that you incorporate a stay in an Oberoi property. It's worth it.
You can stay at a selection of these properties on our India with Oberoi Hotels tour - talk to an India specialist on 020 7590 0620 to tailor-make your trip or add other Oberoi properties to your trip.