We focus on FIT MICE verticals to gain traction Paritosh Ladhani Taj Hotel Convention Center

Agra – is one of the most iconic places in the history of India. Whether it’s the Taj Mahal, the new seven wonders of the world or the golden age of the Mughal emperors. It has a rich history. The way they spent their lives made it the city of the royal family. To maintain the legacy of old and new flavors, the Taj Hotel & Convention Centre, Agra offers a wide range of dining options ranging from Indian cuisine to Asian and European dishes. Spread over 4.5 acres, the hotel is located within walking distance of the Taj Mahal, making it more accessible. In an interview with BW Businessworld, Paritosh Ladhani, the Managing Partner of Ladhani Group and Executive Director of Sincere Developers, owner of the company Taj Hotel & Convention Centre, Agra talks about the Entrepreneurs Organization, the Noida Chapter, the Hard Rock Cafe, Delhi and Agra as a tourist destination.

How do you position the Taj Hotel Agra & Convention Center as a culinary destination?
Our hotel offers a wide range of dining options: Palato – the all-day dining restaurant; Daawat-e-Nawaab – the Indian specialty restaurant; and Infini – a rooftop bar and cafe. Whether enjoying interesting cocktails and sumptuous European cuisine by the infinity pool while overlooking the majestic Taj at Infinite or partaking in the wealthy Awadhi Biryanis and Kormas at Daawat-e-Nawaab, guests have sometimes spoiled for choice. In my view, a culinary destination should offer an eclectic range of Indian and global cuisine in varying configurations. And that’s what we strive to do. We are also in talks with Taj for the establishment of the famous Chinese restaurant “House of Ming” in Agra. The restaurant enjoys cult status at many other Taj properties. The move is again aimed at heightening the feel and ambiance of an ideal culinary destination.

You started the Entrepreneurs Organization (EO) Noida Chapter in the midst of a pandemic. How was the first year?
The quality of the first year can be gauged by the fact that we recently won an award for being the fastest growing chapter in EO and also quickly reached the gold count for members – 50.

Personally, as a chapter leader, EO Noida was a great learning experience for me and I’m sure the same goes for the other members. The birth of this organization also marks a special place in our lives as it took shape during the pandemic and lockdowns when we members felt like thinking, even if it was virtual, to begin with. We have successfully hosted many events throughout the year, but two events stood out and were truly impactful. The first was an interview with Batman producer Michael Uslan. Another, a freewheeling chat session with Bollywood actor Pankaj Tripathi. Both sessions were truly inspiring. We set the tone for EO Noida in its launch year and we are thrilled with it.

You and your wife Alka Ladhani are bringing the iconic Hard Rock Cafe back to Delhi, we hear.
We have always wanted to manage a wide range of hospitality sectors under one roof. F&B is also a very important arm in this regard. With the hotel generating decent revenue, venturing into food and beverage was a natural progression for us as a brand extension exercise. With local restaurant chains collapsing or facing mounting losses, walking alone was too risky. Leading a popular international brand made great sense. And what better than the Hard Rock Café. The resto-bar has been there in India for over a decade now. For rock lovers, the restaurant has always been their Mecca. We noticed the brand’s absence in the city and so partnered with the brand to open their three-story resto-bar in Connaught Place.

How did Agra shape itself as a tourist destination?
Agra is primarily an inbound tourism driven market. The city depends mainly on tourists and less on business travel. However, post-pandemic, we are seeing good traction in domestic FITs and some noticeable traction in MICE, after Covid fears and restrictions started to recede. We have hotels like the Taj Convention Center and a few other decent properties that mainly attract people from other cities in UP and a bit from Delhi for conferences and launches. Pre-covid levels can only be completed once the world opens up as before. The ball started rolling. We are confident that we will soon reach this scale. Then MICE restarts and foreigners around the world begin to visit one of the world’s most celebrated wonders, the Taj Mahal. We are looking at a combination of domestic FIT (Frequent Individual Travellers) and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences & Exhibitions) verticals to gain traction. It is the only tool for survival and growth.

What about the wedding market?
Agra is now considered a favorite wedding destination and that works in our favor. The Taj Hotel & Convention Center Agra features a large pillarless banquet hall, Mansion, with high ceilings that can accommodate up to 2,000 people. Besides Mansion, we have ballrooms and Infini, our rooftop poolside space where various functions can be held. So, from pre-wedding functions to large weddings, we are well equipped to capture the growing wedding market in Agra.

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