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Luxury Hospitality Magazine speaks with the Chairperson of THE Park Hotels Priya Paul

“Inequality in all forms exists in almost all societies. I am not sure if it can be ever fully eradicated but we must all work to end these inequalities in whoever small or large way that we can.”

Have you always been passionate about hotel design?

I’ve always been interested in art and design – when I started working in the family business as marketing manager for THE Park Delhi, it was only natural for me to bring this passion to the job.

Talk us through the moment you decided this was the career for you.

My father introduced me to the family business and assigned me the role of Marketing Manager for the recently opened THE Park Delhi with the goal of increasing occupancy levels. I then took over the business after my father tragically passed away. I think this is the career for me as I enjoy working with people and because I have been able to bring creativity to my work place.

Aqua at The Park New Delhi

How does it feel to have been nominated Business Person of the Year By Fortune eight times/ the highest civilian award Padma Shri?

It’s always an incredible honour to be recognised for your work and I’m extremely grateful. The success is due to all the wonderful people who believe in my vision of the company.

What do you believe is the reason behind your great success in succeeding in the hotel industry?

When I took over the company, we evolved THE Park brand into an entity that is fun, playful and stylish. Influenced by my travels around the world and my interest in design, I wanted to bring luxury boutique design and experience-led hospitality to the subcontinent. We developed the brand during the 90’s, where there weren’t any design-led hotels in India. We recently developed a new social catalyst brand Zone by The Park meant for design conscious- price conscious guests expanding in the fast growing cities of India.

The company has a very impressive portfolio of hotels, what drives your ambition?

True passion for my job and a great team – it’s so important to surround yourself with the right people!

What has been your favourite hotel design and why?

Each of our hotels is so unique and special, it’s hard to pick a favourite. I am particularly proud of what we achieved with THE Park Hyderabad: we worked with 24- 25 designers from local up and coming names to international brands and the result was spectacular. We are currently working on two really exciting heritage projects, a first for our group and that is also very special.

THE Park Hyderabad

Do you have a specific design aesthetic?

I like to experiment and the outcome is always different and it depends also on the particular project.

Do you feel it important to incorporate cultural elements into the hotel designs, and if so why?

I have always believed and incorporated local cultural elements into the hotel designs. THE Park Hotels draws from myriad cultural and global influences to create a stylish, vibrant landscape, illustrative of contemporary India. Our DNA of creativity and innovation is expressed in distinctive ways.

You are also the Chair of the Women’s Fund Asia, how important is it to ensure that women’s voice are heard and continually raise awareness for such important issues?

I have been deeply involved in issue of women empowerment and rights. I headed Women’s Fund Asia for 2 years and have recently stepped down. It is extremely important for the voices of girls and women to be heard.

You are a very inspiring person and many would aspire to achieve what you have, do you have any words of advice for those who are passionate about hotel design and perhaps don’t know how to go about starting?

One thing that has been said so many times but that I fully belief in is the importance of staying true to yourself. I firmly believe that if I hadn’t put my personal touch on all of the hotels and invested the amount of time and love that I did, THE Park Hotels wouldn’t have been received in the same way. It’s also important to note that nothing happens overnight and beginnings are always hard, but if you approach every situation with a positive outlook and look at what you can learn from it, you will benefit in the long run.

In your opinion, do you feel that women in business still face stigma for aspiring to be successful bosses or leaders?

Surprisingly, even though a male-dominated society, India has had women in leadership roles in both the private and public sectors for a long time. While there was never any sense that being a women would or should hold me back in my family’s business, the family business sector as a whole still tends to be more male-dominated – this is changing however. There are increasing rights for women in business. In hospitality, there is more of an emphasis on inclusivity than some other industries, however the glass ceilings still exist everywhere to an extent.

Many are continually shocked that inequality for women still exists in today’s society, what do you feel is the reasoning behind this and as a society can this ever be fully eradicated?

Inequality in all forms exists in almost all societies. I am not sure if it can be ever fully eradicated but we must all work to end these inequalities in whoever small or large way that we can. At The Park hotels, we have worked consciously to increase the percentage of the women workforce. Over the last 5 years we have increased 3 % of the women strength and women are currently at 20 % of the total workforce.

What does the future hold, what are your long term ambitions?

We have a busy pipeline. We are launching our first heritage project The Denmark Tavern in September 2019, just north of Calcutta. We will also open a hotel from THE Park Hotels brand in Indore later this year. For Zone by The Park, there will be 4 – 5 more openings this year, so lots of exciting projects coming soon!

                                                                                             Priya Paul