Interview: Naresh Chandnani, Founder, Serene Experiences
In Conversation with Vishakha Talreja

Travel for leisure has long ceased to be the forte of the rich and famous. No longer drawn by ostentatious services, luxury travelers want understated luxury and look for authenticity and experiential travel.
Naresh Chandnani

With more and more discerning travelers seeking experiences rather than just a hotel stay and a cookie-cutter itinerary abroad, international luxury hotels are ensuring they reach out and offer luxe offbeat experience to the luxury Indian traveller. Naresh Chandnani’s hotel representation company Serene Experiences is bringing unique luxury hotels a step closer to this luxury traveller. In a chat with The Hotel Explorer, Naresh explains how and why he is doing this.

Your company Serene Experiences represents some of the most stunning international hotels.

Yes! In fact our USP is the kind of unique hotels that we represent. In our kitty we have luxury hotels in some of the most exotic locations.  For example in Italy, we represent a stunningly beautiful hotel, Therasia Resort Sea & Spa on the island of Vulcano in Sicily.  This is one of the few places in the world where you can actually witness a live volcanic eruption with lava & fireworks literally every 15 minutes, on the next door island of Stromboli.

Similarly, we also represent the iconic Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento Italy, that is run by the fifth generation of the Fiorentino family, keeping alive a long tradition in the name of the Italian hospitality excellence. We also represent the Caesar Augustus Hotel on the glamorous island of Capri, ranked amongst the 100 Most Beautiful Hotels of the World, the Castello di Velona Resort, Thermal Spa & Winery hotels in the “Tuscany of Your Dreams” and Garden & Villas Resort on the beautiful island of Ischia.

In Switzerland our clients are Chalet RoyAlp Hotel & Spain Villars- sur-Ollon a Member of Leading Hotels of The World, The Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic in Montreux. In Greece too we have some true gems in our portfolio – The Electra Metropolis Athens, Daios Cove Luxury Resort & Villas and The Royal Blue Resort in Crete, The MarBella Corfu in Corfu, Eagles Palace & Villas in Halkidiki.

 

Garden & Villas Resort, Isola di Ischia (Photo Credit: Serene Experiences)

 

All these are breathtakingly beautiful destinations but the kind of properties that will be typically not on a list of a first time traveller to Europe. Only a discerning luxury traveller will enjoy these unique experiences. We have identified our niche of representing luxury hotels in truly exotic locations and doing what our brand name suggests- offering serene experiences.

So why did you choose luxury to be your niche?

I have always worked in luxury segment of the hospitality industry and so evolved the thought of creating a representation company for luxury hotels.  With growing wealth in India, more and more Indian travelers are looking at experiential travel and opting for unique destinations and tailor made itineraries.  So when I felt the time was right, I took the plunge to create “Serene Experiences” .

My hospitality industry career spans over three decades, covering hotel operations, sales & marketing and strategic business and brand development. I have worked with leading hotel groups like the Taj Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Hotels and also with niche companies such as  Shanti Ananda Maurice in Mauritius and IHHR Hospitality,  where I successfully launched and positioned Ananda In The Himalayas. 

During the course of my professional career I did a lot of work on brand building and in positioning high end luxury spa resorts and hotels. So when I decided to take the entrepreneurial route it was only natural that it had to be something wherein I could utilize my varied and rich industry experience.

So since you have been in the industry for three decades how have you seen luxury travel and traveller evolve?

Travel for leisure has long ceased to be the forte of the rich and famous. Travellers are younger now and a lot more adventurous.  One of the major changes which was practically non-existent several years ago is the rise of experiential travellers. They are clearly becoming more adventurous in their destination choices.  No longer drawn by ostentatious services, they want understated luxury and look for authenticity and experiential travel. The culinary experience is high on their list of special-interest themes, along with art and culture, off-the-beaten-track destinations, spectacular scenery and nature reserves.  The evolved Indian travelers value leisure time than ‘point-covering’ mindset of the other segments.  Indian luxury travelers may spend lavishly, but they also like to know they’re spending wisely and securing top quality that justifies the price. Intuitive personalised service is of paramount importance to the Indian luxury traveler, whose expectations sometimes can also be a challenge to meet.

 

Relais & Chateaux Caesar Augustus, Capri (Photo Credit: Serene Experiences)

What about digitization, how has that impacted luxury hotel marketing?

The advent of unprecedented new technological innovations mean that today’s consumers are demanding honest, accurate, timely and engaging information. In the travel sector, this translates into increased expectations around personalization cutting across all touch points, including digital media platforms, as luxury travellers research, purchase, engage in and reflect upon their travel experiences.

Social Media plays a key role in boosting consumer demand for luxury travel by getting consumers interested and excited about the myriad travel hotspots and experiences available. Against this backdrop of a rebounding global luxury market and a smart, tuned-in consumer, the age of digital has taken flight, revolutionizing traditional marketing and transforming it into customer engagement. And the luxury consumer is at the forefront of this revolution.

Thanks to review sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, ActiveHotels, Ctrip and Agoda, individuals have more influence than ever.  Word of mouth has always been a key driver in consumer decision making. But consider today what word of mouth means not just the opinions and experiences of family, friends and business colleagues but also the opinions and experiences of anyone as evidenced by the explosion of social networking.  Marketing has shifted budgets and resources toward digital channels across electronic, Internet, mobile and social platforms. The return on investment for this kind of persistent, 24/7 communication for luxury brands is incredibly high, and rivals more traditional, mainstream marketing methods such as advertising and print-based collateral. Beyond ROI, companies simply must integrate digital communication if they are to be successful.

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