Anmol Ahluwalia, a cluster General Manager at Taj Holiday Village Resort & Spa and Taj Fort Aguada Resort & Spa, is a Hotel Management graduate from the Institute of Hotel Management, Mumbai and holds an Advanced Diploma in Hotel Management from The Oberoi Centre of Learning & Development. He had been associated with the IHCL since 2005 when he joined Taj Fort Aguada Resort & Spa, Goa as the Executive Housekeeper and climbed up to the position of Cluster General Manager in 14 years. Before joining the Taj Holiday Village as General Manager, he was holding the responsibility of General Manager at Taj Wellington Mews, Mumbai.
Please tell us about your background and journey to begin with.
I started out in hospitality by studying at IHM Mumbai. As part of campus placements, I went on to study at the Oberoi management school, OCLD with a speciality in housekeeping. I was given the opportunity to work in picturesque locations as part of my tenure with the Oberoi group, including Amarvilas Agra, Cecil Hotel, Shimla and the then newly opened Trident, Gurgaon. The next phase of my career, and so far the most interesting and fulfilling part of my life, started when I joined the Indian Hotels Companies Limited as an executive housekeeper in Taj Fort Aguada – the same hotel I now overlook as part of the cluster in North Goa. This was in 2005, and I have not looked back since.
How and why did you enter the Hospitality Industry? What has been an inspiration and Role model?
The hospitality industry was always on the anvil when I first started researching the subject areas that piqued my interest. I wanted to delve into multiple things including fashion and interior designing. Hospitality was the industry that amalgamated as a mélange of all my interests, giving me a sense of semblance in terms of what I really wanted to do. It gave me opportunities that enabled me to design, create, nurture, lead and most importantly, make a meaningful contribution to the lives of people I get to interact with. Pinpointing one particular role model may be tough, as every individual I have met has been an inspiration in their own way. In the industry, one comes across people from all genres and walks of life. While I may have inspirations both within the IHCL as well as outside of it, including leaders in the global realm, I believe it is daily acts of kindness and inspiration that leave an indelible mark on one’s mind, which becomes a constant source of reference in your life.
How was your beginning and what challenges (if any) do you expect to face down the line?
I had a great beginning, given that it was the time hospitality was booming, and what it meant to be a ‘hotelier’ was coming into its own. We had an opportunity to give the market a perfect combination of what is commonly referred to as the ‘4 Ps’ – the product, price, place and promotion. As a brand, we were able to leave a mark on the minds of each guest we were interacting with. There are of course challenges in every profession and sphere of life. It is important to focus on the learning provided by the challenge instead of looking at it as a hurdle. Something often said by our managing director, Mr Puneet Chatwal, very much resonates with me. He always told me to not be afraid of making mistakes in life, because you will learn from them – but not to make the same mistake twice. We must welcome every challenge, not shy back from taking chances and mould them into opportunities, to spread our wings and fly.
How do your handle daily stress and challenges?
Stress has become a normal part of our lives. When in a crisis, I try to focus on the bigger picture in order to be a solution seeker. If we keep faith in our ability to find solutions, however unusual, to give and reach out to touch the core of the person sitting across us, we will eventually be happy. There might be some days which are darker than others – but where is the fun without a challenge or any opposition? Every day, when we have moments of stress, we also have the chance to convert those into meaningful conversations and moments of joy.
I am sure you have seen the hospitality industry across the country, what is your opinion about Goa’s Hospitality Industry?
I think Goa’s hospitality industry sits at the cusp of change and is amidst international competition as a holiday destination. Since my first time here in 2005, Goa has evolved and now plays host to globally recognized brands. As a place, the state has an inculcated culture of service and kindness, with those in the industry showing a strong sense of mutual respect. Nestled in these strong pillars, the industry has grown at a faster pace and is on the right path. This is the reason Goa has almost become immune to the impact of seasonality in terms of tourism. We receive perennial business of a very wide market profile ranging from families on holiday to those visiting for destination weddings as well as a large number of corporates for incentives and conferences. Goa has to offer something for every type of traveller – whether it is an exploration of tropical flora and fauna, through river ways and sacred groves, or discovering the culture and cuisine of the susegaad state or simply a trip focused on energizing and rejuvenation. All of these reasons make Goa the prime destination in India today.
The Taj is a big property and you are managing it very well what according to you are the advantages or disadvantages of it?
Taj, North Goa as a cluster, comprising of 2 large resorts – Taj Holiday Village and Taj Fort Aguada, along with 7 ama stays and trails villas, makes for one of the largest and most profitable clusters we have not only in the state but also in the country. The biggest advantage of a cluster such as this is the scope to give back and make more of every aspect of the prism. We are able to work closely with an interconnected team and make a meaningful difference in their lives. We are able to offer unique experiences to customers and guests in an environment of comfort and luxury. It also presents an opportunity to work with the community and the ecosystem you become a part of, given the magnitude of both the hotel and organization. Given that Taj Fort Aguada was the first luxury and therefore a heritage property in Goa, we undertake many activities which positively impact the quality of many lives. With the mighty influence of our cluster, we have weaved together a system of employment, employability, dependability and trust which extends to all our stakeholders, whether it is our partners, vendors or individuals we come across on a daily.
Can you tell us the USP of your property?
We have a unique proposition with an interesting mix of properties, each having an identity of its own. As I mentioned, Taj Fort Aguada was the first to the Goan market in the 5-star, luxury space. It was the hotel that brought tourism to the state, and opened its doors on Christmas Eve 1974, going on to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 1983. It is also the only property within the ramparts of a historic Portuguese fortress, overlooking the Arabian Sea alongside a pristine beach – factors adding to a truly inimitable terrain. Impeccable service with a wide array of rooms to choose from, and a winding hill dotted with cottages that offer unparalleled views is what makes Taj Fort Aguada unlike any other. Coming to Taj Holiday Village, the resort has been a home away from home for guests returning as families over many generations to recreate and fondly reminisce memories. With the latter having recently celebrated 40 years and the former close to touching 50, we realize both hotels are leaving behind decades of legacy, touching the minds and hearts of the many people who have visited. The warmth of Tajness and generosity displayed during service at both hotels is a unique factor in itself. What I strongly believe in and reaffirm to all our associates is that if we simply satisfy and pamper our visitors, they will leave as guests, but if we go above and beyond they are sure to return as family. In addition, given the close proximity and complimentary shuttle service between both hotels, our guests can enjoy and avail a bouquet of offerings across the two properties.
Tell us about your banquet facility and how it is positioned?
At Taj Fort Aguada we have the Aguada Ballroom, in addition to our many outdoor venues. Fishtail, Bayview Point and Sunset Point are our large open-air spaces offering picturesque views, making them ideal to host banqueting events, whether it is personal & social celebrations or meetings and large-scale corporate events. In Taj Holiday Village, we have 2 well propositioned, intimate meeting spaces referred to as ‘Drama’ and ‘Debate’, in addition to the ‘Sunset Deck’ – ideal for nuptials and traditional Indian ceremonies. Each banquet space has its own character and beauty, so to speak. Timeless events are of course, incomplete without our bespoke culinary curations and warm hospitality.
Finally, tell us about your future plans, are you planning to carry on with your career in Goa?
Well, I can begin by telling you what the future entails for these two hotels. We have tied up with Papermoon, a renowned Italian brand and are soon to open a fine dining restaurant with them at Taj Fort Aguada. We have a few things in the making at Taj Holiday Village. To begin with, we are re-introducing our Goan-Portuguese restaurant, Beach House Voyager’s Trails, which takes inspiration from the legendary traveller Vasco de Gama – building on nuances from cuisines along his trail of Lisbon to Calicut and of course Goa, brought together with the freshest local ingredients. We are also reinventing our authentic Thai restaurant, set under the 300-year-old Banyan Tree from which it gets its name. Chef Lily has just joined our team from Thailand and we are in the midst of developing an exciting new offering with her. In the space of a culinary sojourn, we are also going to have House of Nomad and 7 Rivers brewpub as part of our portfolio soon. There is much excitement around all these upcoming plans. As for me, I am looking forward to bringing about change and adding an extra bit of pizazz to our hotels, so each visiting guest finds a luxurious yet safe and happy space. In terms of the ama stays and trails, we are extremely lucky to have 7 beautiful bungalows, each with a story of its own.