When Ben Baars, CEO of the Netherlands-headquartered Windmill Hotel Group, told me of the decision to enter different cities of India for luxury, premium and comfort brand hotels, I asked him what his specialty was. “Cross culture,” he explained, “That’s our philosophy introducing European touch in terms of design, service and atmosphere into India, just as introducing Asian touch in Windmill’s properties in Europe. This is in pursuance of Windmill’s mission to establish hotels in Europe and Asia. The group is interested in taking over existing hotels or projects fit for development. It can own hotels or enter into joint ventures with its equity or go for management and franchisee agreements.”
Baars was in India in January when he did surveys for e
stablishing owned, managed and franchisee-partnered hotels. “In our meetings, we emphasize cross-culture – our hotels will reflect the European flavour, modern outlook and high quality of building with eco-friendly construction. Our quality checking system will ensure that our guests and partners receive value for money, while the partners will get the support of senior management to maintain the cross-culture presentation,” he said.
Since cross-culture gives variety which is the spice of life, there is definite patronage among the change-seekers. In Europe, I have seen strong booking in Asian restaurants and hotels by Europeans, even as Asians go for Western hotels. “It is not only the food but the entire hospitality is different and interesting,” some of my European contacts tell me about Indian and Japanese hotels.
In line with this, Baars said, “Our hotels will eminently suit the Indian guests who appreciate European service with the Indian touch. Supported by our strong connections with the European travel industry, we will bring in European guests as well. In India, we see ourselves growing in the next five years to 10 luxury, 40 premium and 50 comfort hotels. Our thrust on comfort hotels is due to the increasing demand for affordable accommodation within India. In effect, this will help us spread the cross-culture benefit in hospitality.”
On cross-culture promotion, Windmill is a new group having been formed in August 2007, but it has already established a 159-room luxury hotel in Berlin and a 210-room luxury hotel in Amsterdam. It has main offices in Amsterdam and Hong Kong, satellite offices in Berlin, Kuala Lumpur and London and branch office in Delhi. Interestingly, Windmill is offering opportunities to invest in Europe in leisure-related real estate projects like hotels, serviced apartments and holiday homes with assured returns. Its subsidiary, Windmill Buying House, provides tailor-made procurement solutions to hotel owners for renovating their properties. Interior designers and architects are also finding the service useful.
Cross-culture policy arises as an off-shoot of globalization which the hospitality industry cannot afford to ignore. At a time when Indian institutions have emerged as MNCs by setting up wings abroad, cross-culture hospitality is the in-thing in Indian management. This is more than being continental in the dining hall; it is about the whole gamut of hospitality management – appreciation of mixed culture, ambience, service, tariff, menu, cost-effectiveness, value-addition and increased business. So, there is a need to create a breed devoted to cross-culture. On this, Windmill group is making an effort to establish a hotel management school in co-operation with a Dutch university.
In India, cross-culture spreads even across the states. For international visitors, there is surprise in every state; for new Indian visitors, foreign culture is shocking. That’s why cross-culture management gains significance in modern hospitality business.