When it comes to setting trends for the hospitality industry, the India based ITC Hotels are at the cutting edge of innovation. ITC, which once stood for India Tobacco Company, has established a program catering to a frequently overlooked segment tourism: Women.
Launched in 1975 the company ventured into the hotel business to support new avenues of foreign exchange earnings and to boost tourism. Beginning with the Sheraton Chola in Chennai, ITC has redefined Indian hospitality. Today it operates four distinct brands ranging from ultra-deluxe to legacy hotels. ITC is the country’s second largest hotel chain with more than 100 properties in over 90 destinations that are setting new standards in the areas of accommodations, cuisine, environment and guest safety.
ITC Maurya, a landmark luxury property in the capital of New Delhi, has been the preferred residence for visiting heads of state and business leaders for a quarter of a century.
Other brands include WelcomHeritage, WelcomHeritage/Sheraton and Fortune Hotels. WelcomHotel properties are a joint venture between ITC and Jodhana Heritage representing the best of India’s ancient traditions and cultural heritage as exemplified by WelcomHotel Dwarka in New Delhi.
Fortune Hotels cater to mid-market travelers with more than 40 business or leisure properties.
Anyone who has ever traveled to India knows the country is a land of extremes beyond imagination. India is a lively colorful destination that is rich in history and covered with magnificent temples, vast fortresses and exotic palaces. But it is also a seemingly infinite sea of humanity where thick walls frequently offer only a thin line of separation between reality and luxury.
Realizing there was a rising number of global business women as well as single female travelers with different requirements than other guests, such as a need for added security, ITC developed the EVA Program which is now having far-reaching implications for other areas of tourism.
Historically India has often offered separate tourist quarters for women. For example, since its inception, the rail system, which is the largest in the world, has always provided women’s only compartments on trains.
ITC’s top of the line “Luxury Collection” has ten super deluxe premium hotels throughout India that are architectural masterpieces located in strategic business and leisure locations.
Grand Chola Hotel, ITC’s newest property, replacing the original 1975 hotel, opened in Chennai last year. Once known as Madras, Chennai is now India’s fourth largest city and, at 4,380 square feet, the Raja Raja Presidential Suite is the largest room in the city.
The suite was inspired by Emperor Raja Raja the Great, one of the greatest rulers of the Chola Dynasty. Among the amenities, the suite includes a private VIP lounge plus a dedicated business center and swimming pool.
To accommodate female clients, each ITC EVA property designates at least one entire floor with access by special keys for women only. The floor is staffed entirely by female “Welcome Divas,” 24-hour security and room attendants.
EVA floors are generally located on the bottom to middle floors of a hotel so they are closer to the lobby. Each property features between 12 and 14 EVA rooms on one floor including a few smoking rooms.
In addition, EVA floors provide exclusive feminine luxuries such as an array of high-end personal care products ranging from a selection of bath soaps, combs and brushes, perfumes, lotions and make-up. Personal valets are on call to assist with dressing, wrapping a sari and preparation of clothing for any occasion, business or leisure.
Conveniences such as multiple full-view mirrors, ambient lighting and high-end entertainment systems are standard in every room. There are also signature services on each EVA floor offering everything from special dietary options, spa services and business facilities.
In addition, EVA floors have elaborate tea-trays with a variety of herbal teas and a chef’s tray of light snacks in the evening.
ITC is so dedicated to the program, that sometimes men may be turned away because a property is full, but rooms remain available for female EVA guests.
Another ITC innovation is something called Concierge Tours, which are not only popular with women travelers, but with first time visitors to India as well. Hotels in each city can organize escorted shopping trips with one of the concierge staff leading the trip. Normally a minimum of two to three people is necessary for a reservation.
A chauffeured limo, usually an air conditioned Mercedes, travels with a knowledgeable guide to markets and other sites. The guide will also assist with negotiating prices and warding off hawkers. Lunch is usually included. Prices vary by location and the amount of time of the tour.
ITC’s also pays attention to “green” issues and has been awarded a Platinum certification by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
About the Author
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com