Himmat Anand celebrates the natural beauty of Ranthambore with Tree Leaf Kipling Lodge
At his candid best like always, Himmat Anand, Founder, Tree of Life Resorts & Hotels and Tree Leaf Hospitality bares it all about the group’s expansion plans and his newest kid on the block – Tree Leaf Kipling Lodge Ranthambore, now open and all set to offer authentic private luxury experiences beyond the Tiger sightings. In this interaction, Akansha Pandey also finds out the value propositions of the property which make it a perfect fit for the travel trade to sell. Read on.
How it all began & plans going forward
The Tree of Life Jaipur was Anand’s dream project since three decades ago. He always cherished the aspiration that one day he would make a ‘different’ property and run it himself. It was supposed to be just one and no more but destiny had it planned otherwise.
He established Tree of Life brand in 2010. However, since it was a mix of owned and leased, building and hardware standards were not consistent. At the same time, the brand had gained a decent reputation in the market – featuring limited keys and delivering a high level of personalised service. Thus, a second brand was formed – Tree Leaf, a notch below the positioning of Tree of Life Hotels. Today, both brands have very clear brand specifications, which he does not compromise on.
Presently, Tree of Life comprises two properties under its portfolio – Jaipur and Varanasi while Tree Leaf has four – Udaipur, Ranthambore, Marari Beach and Binsar. “In the next three years, I am looking at a total of four Tree of Life and 10 Tree Leaf properties. Besides, I see brand Tree Leaf growing faster than Tree of Life, where the latter requires huge investments and has a smaller upmarket segment to tap. But one thing is for sure – both brands will always be away from the hustle and bustle of a city centre and yet at a convenient driving distance,” he confirms.
Value addition by Tree Leaf Kipling Lodge Ranthambore
This latest addition to Tree Leaf’s kitty is five kilometres (15-minute drive) from the Ranthambore National Park’s main gate and 30 minutes away from the Sawai Madhopur railway station. Guests can unwind in 16 private cottages across three categories – 12 Hideaway Cottages and four Junior Suites, each with its own private front and back sit outs. The Junior Suites come with their own outdoor shower. Needless to say, it is pet-friendly.
Instead of buffets, fresh food is served with fixed menus. The preferences of guests’ are swiftly catered by the staff, 70% of whom are locals. A special introductory promotion from Rs. 6,500 upwards on Half Board for a double room is up, post which it will fall under the price band of Rs. 6,000 to Rs. 9,000 for room only.
Undaunted by the competition around, Anand comments, “I am not really there to see what competition is necessarily doing or to counter them. We have over the years created our brand loyalists and are well-positioned as a brand which cares. I plan to continue with the same here too. We have over the years, learnt from our guests as to what they want – not just hardware but also the ‘soft’ touch points and that is what we deliver and score over the others. Approximately 30% of our total business is from word of mouth and repeat clientele and that does speak something meaningful of the brand.”
Ranthambore – More than just the Tiger
This is Anand’s tagline for the newly launched property. Unfortunately, tourism across India is Taj Mahal centric and the wildlife promotion in Tiger-centric, he feels. “Of course we cannot overlook the tiger sightings, but we have driven it to such an extreme that clients go back disappointed if they do not see one. Spotting a Tiger is a gamble – some see it and some don’t but that should not be the key take away from the entire Ranthambore experience,” he urges.
Tree Leaf Kipling Lodge is promoting a Chambal Safari or a walk up to the Ranthambore Fort with the famous three-eyed Ganesh Temple with equal enthusiasm. “In addition to the Tiger, we must promote the destination for its forests, natural beauty, Chambal safari and more,” he stresses.
He also highlighted the misconception that Ranthambore is closed from July to September which isn’t correct. Zones 6 to 10 are open and as long as it does not rain heavily, safaris are conducted. This is the time when nature is at its best.
The hospitality landscape in Ranthambore – Then & now
In the words of Anand, it all started sometime in the late 80’s or early 90’s when late Rajiv Gandhi first visited there. Wildlife tourism was in its infancy then and it has been an amazing story for Ranthambore since. He credits the administration, which unlike Madhya Pradesh, has taken a more pragmatic and balanced view of the growth of tourism and balanced it with protecting the wildlife and the forests.
New zones continue to be opened and Ranthambore will soon have Zone 11 operational, reveals Anand. This will allow for more jeeps to go in and accommodate a larger number of tourists by spreading them around.
On the flip side, he adds that the naturalists are untrained with very little knowledge of wildlife and the forest and local appeasement is given more importance than the tourist’s experience which needs to change. The present 90 days booking window is also very inconvenient for people to book in advance. Most importantly, there must be a cap on the number of new hotels allowed to open there as Corbett is a living example of something which went just so wrong, states Anand.