Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Zorba CafeSpeak Travel

Zorba CafeSpeak Revenue

Are you visible on Page 1 of Google and Yahoo...
Understanding the markets source for your business…

Zorba CafeSpeak Hotels

When Five Star ‘International’ Hotels in India start charging for a Cup of Cappuccino…
The Middle East Peninsula – Every Architects dream come true but inhabitants nightmare come home
Taj Bookers – Watch Out!
Dinning at the Taj in India – as a single woman
Hotels - Are they the biggest Price Fixers in the market today?
Hotel - A Stroll in the Lobby...

Zorba CafeSpeak Culture

Incredible India - How does it compare with China

Zorba CafeSpeak Sailing

A Prayer for Life ... in the Still of the Night

Zorba CafeSpeak Lifestyle

Oops … Uncle Sam is watching…

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

When Five Star ‘International’ Hotels in India start charging for a Cup of Cappuccino…

You are on a bed and breakfast package and being a lover of Coffee, decide to order the Cappuccino rather than the normal fare at the Breakfast table. Before the steward has even taken the order, out pops the ‘Its chargeable’.

Wikipedia describes a Cappuccino as an Italian coffee-based drink prepared with espresso, milk and milk foam. It describes coffee as being made from coffee beans, milk and water. Basically, the same only different preparations. So then why is one free with the breakfast buffet and the other chargeable. Oh I say, perhaps we are paying for the ‘Imported’ Italian beans in the Cappuccino. Well I can tell you one thing - Coffee beans in India are anything but imported. Then we must be paying for the ‘Oh so expensive’ machinery that makes the Cappuccino. Ha ha! I wonder how many cups of coffee that would take. Maybe hotels should charge for the Marmalade and butter too. Just something extra to add to the ‘coffee machine kitty’. And finally, labour costs are so expensive and its so hard to find good people these days – so perhaps every little bit counts towards getting that perfect cup of cappuccino.

The experience of sipping a nice cup of Cappuccino beats anything I might eat off the breakfast table. And yes, I admit it – There is an addict hidden somewhere in that statement. So how nice is the ‘experience’ hoteliers keep talking about when with every fresh cup you want to consume, you are first reminded of the ‘C’ word ‘Shhh… Chargeable’. Its actually very kind of the hotel to remind you to check your wallet. Just in case you are running short of money to pay for the cuppa, never mind that the hotel room is costing you close to 15K (in Indian rupees) a night.

Perhaps the fault is ours. There were no protests when the extra bed charges were introduced. Oh the room is the same but the labour costs of getting the wheeled bed into the room have to be taken care of and luckily this is only 1/4th the room charge - usually. No protests, when on an inclusive dinner package, you are told (‘warned’) that you may consume the meat dishes (‘lucky you’) but not touch the seafood on the buffet (‘lest you get charged extra’). Or the liquor package where only house brands are included, whatever that means though I am seriously inclined to believe that this is the hotels innovative way of disposing of old stock (anyone heard of a staff party as a better option). Wow, and doesn’t all this service make us feel extra ‘Special’.

Anyone wondering why leisure travel numbers into India are diminishing. Perhaps the ‘Incredibleness’ of the Indian experience is finally beginning to wear thin amongst all these additional hand-outs required at every turn despite the not so cheap hotel room tariffs …

Zorba CafeSpeak Warning for Travellers going to India - Please carry wallet at all possible times!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Rush… You might miss the bus to Goa

Everyone is going to Goa for the celebrations. Whether its to Anjuna or Baga or Calangute, the experts seem to have the latest hotspots roll off the tips of the tongues as if they are native to this beautiful place. Every travel magazine is writing about Goa, this tiny little place which promises endless days and nights of clubbing, mushrooms and raves. ‘Are you going to Paradiso, No I think I might be going to Titos, Oh no… I think Mambos is the place to hang out’, is a rich one. Whether you have actually been there or not is trivial. For the uninitiated, these are the most written about and visited hang out joints in Goa, party place of the world, in India. I think the best one I like is that all these people go to Goa to escape the mundane lifestyles of their own cities and who do they meet at the Bar counter, lol! The next door neighbour. Ever seen ants climbing onto an ant-hill. Come to Goa for the year end celebrations.

And what is it that these party boppers from across India do in Goa. Jammed streets, blaring horns and never ending traffic dramas. Clothes and jewelry better suited to the hoity-toity five star resorts of metros rather than beaches (or perhaps this is a new fashion statement saying that stilettos should be caressed with sand everyday for that better look and feel) and eccentric fetishes for catching the one ‘happening’ party while forgetting to enjoy current moment. Its become so that you become a social outcast if you don’t make the journey to Mecca (or the party-hoppers Mecca equivalent).

What does this mean for the true Goan, the one who was born here, owns land here and has dreams to support here. The roads are no longer his to maneuver on. Though forget about him, the roads are unmanageable for anybody these days. The beaches are drug, sex and much worse havens, completely avoidable for the god fearing Goan. It is true that the Hippies had made Goa home for many years but even they are now running away. The Hippies were manageable. They wanted to be left alone and did not dream on invading onto the locals world. The true myriad cultures co-habited quite happily actually. About 8 years ago came the Indian desi, who insisted on Punjabi Bhangara or Bollywood music every minute of the day, who wanted Chowmein rather than goan sausages (Pork is bad, you see) and who would visit the beaches fully covered from head to toe (sun makes one dark you see) only to gape at everyone sun bathing in beach friendly attire. And for all those who have had the misfortune of trying Indian Chowmein, I hope you like oil and Cabbage.

And what do all these destination gurus actually know of Goa, you ask yourself. The Goa as it used to be. When people could leave their doors unlocked, or shopkeepers understood the concept of loyal customer and it was completely safe to venture out at night. There were no lounges and clubs but there was music in the air for no household is complete without each child being ingrained in the mysteries of the instruments right from childhood. There were strains of the violin or a guitar or the melodies on a piano, practiced at home and played at the church. No ear drums damaged, no egos hurt, just pure appreciation of good music. Grannies would sit on the pathways, gossiping about this and that and many days would pass without a vehicle in sight.

Ever wondered why we see the Delhites, Mumbaites, Punjabis and the not to be forgotten Malayalis but no Goans at any of these ‘hang-out’ places today. I am not talking of the odd hotch-potch of Goans who work at these establishments or better still have learned how to make the fast buck at these annual dos – the rich and savvy of metros ‘Watch out for the purse strings’. I am talking about the knowledgeable and learned Goan who knows how to have a fabulous family celebration. No loud noise, garish lights for this SauvĂ© Goan (Mumbaites wake up to true living). He goes to Church, comes home, there are family meals amongst many toasts and then when its time to party, the violins and guitars come out and the neighbors visit under the stars, just as it used to be. Call me romantic or whatever, but having had more than my fair share of head banging music, I still feel that its only an unplugged instrument that can make the hairs on your arms stand out in salutation to the musician.

Does the rest of India really have to descend on Goa for the seasons celebrations. Don’t their own cities offer enough entertainment options with each outlet vying with the other for prize of place. What is it that drives people to this peaceful, little, sleepy town year after year. It can’t be the beaches because Indians (black and white) all like to be fair and hence sun is tabboo, it cant be the drinks (nothing exceptional about these) and partying can be as expensive here today as in any metro. It definitely cannot be the food and music (today sorry copies of whatever you get anywhere else). What would the magazines take to stop writing about this over exposed place.

Perhaps its time to give the Goans a break. Let them enjoy their own place on this world without invading it like ants. Let them listen to their own music, eat their own food and most important – have some rights on their roads. Catch a bus for elsewhere. Discover the unbeaten track. Do something different this year. For after all, there is life after the year end celebrations, even if you don’t make it to Goa.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Oops … Uncle Sam is watching…

You can feel the eyes drilling through you and you turn around in trepidation, only to find nobody there. You are certain you have been filmed entering the restaurant and you look upwards for the hidden camera, only to find zilch. Uh huh, not a very good scenario. Are you completely loosing it, paranoia taking on the veil of realism. Is this what the couch doctor meant when he suggested revival sleep therapies three times a day. Or is this a reversal back to the Iron curtain times in my head, when everyone was suspect and nobody trusted. Maybe you should have listened when Mama told you not to read so many World War novels.

You shrug off the jitters. Come on, this is the real world of the ahem… happening people. We are into technology, expansions, peace talks, weather forecasts and global warning rather than the cloak and dagger stuff. Then why the uncanny feeling that you are being watched. Because you are. There used to be a time when Uncle Sam used to be watching. There were clothes to be checked for bugs, rooms to be swiped for hidden listeners and all strangers to be watched for hidden eye lens.

That was the easy part. Now you have Google amongst others watching and surprise surprise you don’t even know it. How is this happening. You have a cell phone, the latest model and all that GPS enabled stuff on it – enough to tell big daddy where you are, down to the last Latitude and Longitude. Easy enough to beat, you smirk – lets forgo the GPS enabled phones. A bit of a lifestyle reversal mind you but what the heck, perhaps well worth it. Ah if it was only that easy. For cell phones without GPS, positioning is determined based on cell tower triangulation and Google Maps, accurate within 10 city blocks.

I remember reading somewhere that parents would be using this technology to keep track off their kids. In todays day and age where parents can be taken to court for physically reprimanding a child for wrong doing, what will be the reaction to this ‘Infringement of privacy’. And that’s only as far as the kids, what about the adults who would like to have the luxury of avoiding the prying eye. To all those, all I can say is ‘All the very best to you’.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The launch of Expedia Corporate Travel in China – And why can’t India catch up

Going into China for the first time, unsure where to stay or what to wear? Call Expedia Corporate Travel’s in-country call center or visit their website. Sounds too good to be true. Well, this is what Expedia is promising with the launch of Experdia Corporate Travel (ECT) in China, a first foray into the burgeoning Asia Pacific Region. Does it sound tempting? .... [Read More]

Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Middle East Peninsula – Every Architects dream come true but inhabitants nightmare come home

Khaleej Times Online recently reported 97 new hotels are likely to be added by 2010 in UAE with a combined capacity of more than 30,600 rooms. In the same period, Qatar is expected to add 39 new hotels (9,835 rooms), Kuwait 19 hotels (4,115 rooms), Bahrain 15 hotels (3,615 rooms) and Oman 4 hotels (766 rooms). The report was based on an interview with Frederic Theux, President of Reed Exhibitions, who will be organizing the prestigious Equip Hotel Middle East in Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre from December 14-16, 2008.... [Read More]

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Taj Bookers – Watch Out!

You called a Taj hotel, bargained hard and made a reservation thinking you had gotten the best deal possible. Correct – No. In fact you could not be further away from the truth. Let me take you through another scenario. You are a corporate with a fantastic not to be matched deal across all the Taj properties in the Indian Peninsula and you make a booking on this special rate. Did you get the best deal? Wrong. You have been cheated. Or you want to make a booking for the Base category room in the Taj hotel and are told that the same category is not available by the Reservation Desk / Sales Desks and you will need to book a higher (translated to more expensive) category. Is the hotel telling you the truth? No they are not.... [Read More]

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

When Travel Agents become Beggars

The phone rings and a voice says ‘ Hello can I speak to you’. You know the voice since you have heard the same many many times over the last 5 years that you have been handling reservations for the hotel. Past experience says that this is not a courtesy call even as you roll your eyes heavenward at the sheer desperation in the voice. Sure enough this is a telephonic appeal to make some non-available rooms appear out of magic. The soft little voice on the telephone begs silently and then more loudly and you groan aloud for the voice is asking for the impossible. Why is it that the Travel Agent never calls with good news, never thanks you at the end of a season for your efforts and never remembers you except when they want a room. The nature of business? Perhaps yes, but then why is it that when things are not going their way, the aspect of business relationship suddenly crops up as omni-important and you are expected to turn the world upside down for the same.... [Read More]

The above are the experiences of a Senior Reservation Manager in the Indian Five Star Deluxe Hospitality business and I am sure shared by many others bitten shy.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006