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Badaga dance at Mumbai Star hotels?
The general manager of a hotel chain recently requested me to help him finalise a group of dancers and singers who would highlight the ethnic speciality of the Nilgiris. We are interested in giving our guests an opportunity to witness the local cultural flavour. So, we are looking for performance on the local cultural flavour and not on the common music or dance available in metros already, he reasoned. In other words, he wanted a group that would perform the Badaga dance with original music, or a tribal of the Nilgiris hills like Todas.
If the hotel gets international guests, it matters little what one stages as long as it is Indian. If the focus is on Indian guests, it does make a tangible difference to highlight the local cultural flavour. To that extent, I praised the keen interest shown by the GM to get the local highlight. We would like to hire them on some arrangement such that they perform here every night irrespective of the number of guests. It would suffice if we get them for an hour daily, he explained.
If it is Bharata Natyam or Carnatic music, it is not all that difficult to get quality performers. But, trying to provide variety is a different ball game altogether. From western music and dances that characterised the hotels of metros in the past, indigenous performances are the value addition these days. Thus, hotels are known to host performances by Karagam artistes who specialise in Tamil rural cultural music and dances. These are a great attraction to Indian and foreign visitors alike.
Another indigenous value addition comes through yoga. There are hotels which offer free yoga classes to willing inmates. While a single or a couple of sessions cannot do wonders, they help to maintain continuity for travellers and to create an interest for new entrants as also provide an insight to curious guests.
The ayurveda retreat in Coonoor provides cooking classes on Indian vegetarian dishes for all the interested staying guests. Although this is not a hotel per se, it provides star hotel facilities and there are a number of foreigners who come for ayurveda tourism.
Another hotel provides an interesting session to all guests who intend to work as promoters for the hotel. Apart from highlighting the positive aspects of the hotel, the sessions help the guests in turning out to be marketing personalities. Commission is paid to those who bring in business, but the offer of the classes is regarded as a value addition to the guests because, it helps them with a business proposition.
One hotel is known to conduct stitching classes. In Athens, the hotel I stayed in had a chapel with a chaplain who conducted special masses for guests and prayed for their safe travel from the hotel. The underlying principle of these facilities is that they come without any extra charge and is a value-add for the tariff already borne. So, guests could use them to their advantage during spare time. But, the biggest deterrent is the likelihood of such programmes falling short of professional excellence. I came across a sub standard Chinese cultural performance in a big hotel I stayed in Beijing, as the management thought that it would not be possible for international guests to know the difference. In such cases, these are not value additions, but reductions!
by P.S. Sundar, Express Hotelier & Caterer, 21st February 2005
(The writer is a freelance columnist )