May 10, 2017

TK Murthy, Group General Manager, Sangam Hotels, talks about the group’s Chettinad heritage property and how its location has been leveraged to draw tourists.

The Chidambara Vilas, a luxurious heritage property situated near Karaikudi, is a name to reckon with as far as heritage addresses are concerned in Southern India. The property is being managed by Sangam Hotels for six years now and the other hotels in the group’s umbrella include hotels in Trichy, Thanjavur and one in Madurai which is currently under renovation.

TK Murthy, Group General Manager, Sangam Hotels, says that the group was confident when it set about to take Chidambara Vilas under its wings. “The goal was very clearly set by our Managing Director. We set up a chain of hotels of various tiers, by that I mean city hotels, boutique hotels, heritage and business class hotels all over south India. Our hotel in Trichy was established 42 years ago. Chettinad was becoming popular as a destination in the last few years. The Bangala Hotel was doing well and had no competition. So we thought of managing this property. The biggest advantage we have is all our hotels are in one belt. When the tourist comes on a holiday today, he does not prefer to stay in one hotel, unless he is on a business trip. In this case, he can visit three or four places in the same belt. Trichy has the nearest airport from Chettinad at about 50 km. This is a 106-year old house that we have converted into a hotel.”

Demand and supply
We had a break-even for Chidambara Vilas in the first year itself. The concept of heritage properties in India has come on very forcefully. People want a different stay experience. Compared to Rajasthan or even Madhya Pradesh, the south does not have as many heritage properties. We thought we would be the pioneers.

Our USP is our standards and the Chettinad cuisine. The school next to our hotel was visited by Mahatma Gandhi and had signed in the ledger. A French group which stayed at our property recently, spoke to the principal to see the ledger.

Promoting the property was not very difficult as we are an established group. We marketed it to all tour operators who have been patronizing us and we invited them on Fam trips and then, the property speaks after that. Americans have been our No.1 market, followed by French and German groups. Now Japanese groups have started coming from this season. People other than those in south India still do not know about Chettinad. Domestic tourism has just started picking up. Initially inbound groups gave us more business. The movements of foreigners are more in season. But these days a lot of countries come even in off-season. We have direct flights from Madurai to Mumbai and Delhi. Trichy has got more international connectivity.

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