INDIA HAS BEEN ON THE CARDS FOR ST REGIS FOR MORE THAN A DECADE
St Regis is something that I bleed,” opened Paul James, global brand leader, St Regis Hotels & Resorts, The Luxury Collection & W Hotels Worldwide, at the introductory presentation made by him on the St Regis hotel brand. “When we look at the world, we have always set out a strategy for where we need to have hotels,” says James. And the St Regis targets world cities, those major capital, commercial centres where the gen luxury are doing business. “It’s essential to be there.” As also the resort destinations, where the money travels. “And as a business, we have to look for the best partnerships, the best projects,” and “how time slots into that is less relevant to us. We’ve got a long-term vision”.
“As a commercial centre, India is the third largest business hub for Starwood (part of the same group),” adds James. “It’s been one of the fastest growing feeder markets; we’re watching Indian customers travel to our luxury hotels internationally, so putting a hotel in a market that has propensity to travel outside is one of the greatest billboards we can build. So, we have to find the right partner, right place. And in India that is challenging. There have been a couple of false starts, some things that were going to happen and haven’t. But India has been on our map since the beginning,” says James, who wouldn’t commit to when a St Regis would open in India, but, “when we announce a project we ensure that we are delivering”. Which, he added, would be in the “not too distant future”, despite facing the question ‘Why aren’t you in India?’ several times over the last few years. India has been on the cards for St Regis for over 15 years.
As a curtain-raiser to the St Regis brand, James hosted the Maharaja Bhawani Singh St Regis Cup 2015, a polo match, which has been a long-standing ‘Family Tradition’ at St Regis. Events such as this polo match, are the starting point to bringing the St Regis experience to a country “to inform our travelling guests what the St Regis brand stands for”. St Regis uses the learnings from such events to find out what else needs to be done, “once we have a focus, we’ll start to build our story”. And part of that story is the heritage of the brand, such as its signature Polo Mary, or the Jazz music that can be found in most of the hotels.
“This week is more than just a polo match,” says Arnaud Champenois, senior director, brand management, Asia Pacific W Hotels, Le Meridien, St Regis, The Luxury Collection. “It’s the opportunity to work with a Royal family (of Jaipur), to reach, for the first time, a dynasty. The idea of dynasties in India is important and still relevant amongst the powerful community. So, I think it’s also going to be part of our strategy to work with families and work
with this kind of heritage and legacy in India.” St Regis has been built on history, tradition and heritage.
The first St Regis hotel was born in New York city in September 1904 by John Jacob Astor iv. The Astor family played and attended various polo events including the Veuve Cli- quot Governers event in 2007 where they first met world renowned polo player, Argentinian Nacho Figueras, who James says is the ‘epitome of a core St Regis customer’. Figueras flew into Jaipur to take part in this polo match. He, along with his 15-year- old son Hilario, were part of the St Regis polo team that played against Maharaj Narendra Singh and his son HH Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh of Jaipur.
Again, following its tradition, after the match was the St Regis Hi Tea featuring the iconic St Regis Bloody Mary cocktail, as well as the Polo Mary, a special concoction created for all St Regis polo events around the world. The famed cocktail has been a part of St Regis’ brand history since 1934 when Fernand Petiot, bartender at the King Cole Bar at The St Regis New York, first created the ‘Red Snapper’, which would later be renamed the Bloody Mary.
♦ SHONALI SHIVDASANI [email protected]