The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Stars fade in hotels’ homely heaven

New Delhi, April 2: Move over Oberoi and Taj, the boutique hotel concept is finally here. Aman Resorts, which spawned the revolutionary global trend for boutique hotels, is bringing its simple philosophy in hoteliering — small is beautiful and less is more — to India.

The philosophy, which was shaped by Singapore-based visionary Adrian Zecha, will find expression at a new hotel that SilverLink Holdings, Aman Resorts’ holding company, is building in Delhi.

Last year, SilverLink Holdings acquired the four-star Lodhi Hotel for Rs 76.22 crore when the government put a string of ITDC hotels on the block.

SilverLink Holdings officials in India are cagey about the details. But the decrepit and the now increasingly eerie Lodhi Hotel will be pulled down and replaced by a spanking new one that is being designed by two Australian architects — Kerry Hill Architects (makers of Aman Resorts worldwide) and Ed Tuttle. Mohit Gujral, nephew of former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral and son of Satish Gujral, is the Indian architect associated with the project.

“Our attempt will be to largely use local Indian material for the boutique suites. However, everything now is at a conceptual stage,” said Mohit Gujral.

SilverLink has already filed an application with the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to pull down the Lodhi Hotel, which stands on 5.8 acres of prime land in Delhi.

“We have applied to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to permit the demolition of this property. Hopefully, the order will come through in 2-3 months' time,” a senior official from SilverLink Holdings told The Telegraph.

“The company will invest more than Rs 200 crore to build the new hotel. The project is likely to be completed in about three years’ time,” sources working closely with SilverLink said.

Officials say they intend to bring a “first of its kind” hoteliering experience to India but are reluctant to spell what these are or even if the new hotel will carry the Aman prefix.

SilverLink Holdings, promoted by Adrian Zecha and Shroeders, has 12 luxury properties comprising 430 rooms spread across Europe, Africa, Asia and North America.

Aman is Urdu for peace and Aman resorts all over the world are “designed to provide its guests with the sense that they are staying in the elegant and comfortable home of a close personal friend.” So instead of being opulent and luxurious, it is minimalist and combines stark design based on local materials with loads of attentive, but unobtrusive service.

However, in India, where the boutique hotel concept is considered too new fangled, SilverLink Holdings will probably have to blend the trappings of a traditional five-star deluxe with the boutique hotel concept.

The company is planning to have a separate wing constructed within the hotel that will lead on to approximately 60 suites built on the lines of the boutique hotel concept that Aman resorts is so famous for.

“The new five-star deluxe hotel will be built on the lines of our resort hotels,” said a SilverLink official. Indian travellers haven’t been able to shake off their fascination for stars — the more the better, which is why SilverLink Holdings will probably seek a “star” rating. A boutique hotelier like Aman would normally recoil at the very thought, but in India it’s par for the course.

The mish-mash may mar the true-blue boutique concept: but it’s driven by some hard-nosed business sense. That’s something Aman has plenty of. Not for nothing do people like Naomi Campbell or Pierce Bosnan stump up $ 500 a night for a tent with a jungle view — which is what you pay at Amanwana resort at Moyo Island near Bali. Prices in India probably won’t be as steep — but who knows it could be just a step away.

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