Orange County to expand beyond Coorg.

By Gayatri Vijaykumar

About Orange County
Orange County, the brand name of Orange County Resorts and Hotels, a public limited company is part of the Ramapuram Group. Orange County, Coorg is the flagship property of the group. From 2002, Orange County, Coorg has consistently achieved the “RCI Gold Crown Award” year after year for surpassing international standards of excellence in Resort Quality and Hospitality.

An epitome of luxury, Orange County luxury resorts continue to attract guests in search of an experience which is true to the spirit of the land they are located in. George T Ramapuram, managing director of Orange County Luxury resorts speaks about the company’s future plans as well as his vision for the hospitality industry.

The Orange County luxury resorts function around a core theme which is clearly stated in the words of its managing director, George T Ramapuram, who says, “Our vision is to be the most sought after ‘true to the land of origin’ experience in every product we offer. Our mission is also to provide an exquisite holiday experience, while preserving the purity of nature and culture of the land.” Focusing on the high end luxury segment, Orange County luxury resorts has grown from a single property in Coorg, Karnataka. In 2007, the group set up Orange County, Kabini, its second property.

Focus India

The group has already chalked out its plans for Karnataka. According to Ramapuram, Orange County Resorts and Hotels plans to set up three more properties in the next four years. “We have already acquired land in Hampi, Karwar and Bangalore and plan to set up properties in these areas by 2012,” he said. Eco friendly operations are a core value for the group. “We believe in operating in an eco friendly manner, hence we mostly use eco friendly material wherever we can. We have discarded plastic as much as possible and avoid plastic carry bags, using paper carry bags instead as much as possible.” According to Ramapuram, Orange County promotes eco friendliness amongst the guests and have taken this up as a campaign. The properties use wind-generated energy from their own windmills. Solid waste management is also practiced.

Orange County Luxury resorts has almost frozen on its future plans. “We wish to have five resorts by 2012 and seven by 2020. However, the locations have not been finalised as yet,” Ramapuram reveals. The group is planning to invest approximately Rs 160 crore for the three properties. According to Ramapuram, the properties will be renovated and upgraded on a regular basis. “As the years go by, requirements change. As time goes by and more eco friendly technology and automation comes in, we will be forced to review all our projects and upgrade them.” Orange County, Coorg is already undergoing renovation and the work is expected to be completed by October 2008. “The look and feel of the properties will change and will be more in tune with the spirit of the land,” explains Ramapuram.

According to Ramampuram, the Orange County brand vision is aimed at the luxury resort segment. “However, we might start some ancillary services to cater to the luxury segment. The high end clientele that we cater to do not want to go through the hassle of arranging their travel plans; thus, we might consider starting ground handling, airport transfers and tour operations for our guests,” he reveals.

Way ahead

Ramapuram believes that the travel industry is growing in leaps and bounds and will continue growing at a tremendous pace in the years to come. According to him, the inbound market has grown to 4.3 million last year from 2.6 million; this segment is expected to grow at least six times by 2020. Ramapuram also envisages that the high end segment, in particular in the inbound market and more so in the domestic market is expected to grow. Ramapuram also foresees a growth in the mid-market segment. “More people have access to disposable income and do not have any hassles in spending this income on leisure activities,” explains Ramapuram. He also predicts that more hospitality players would migrate into the high end segment. However, he adds that there is a shortage of supply to meet this growing demand.

“If demand keeps spiraling up and prices in the high end segment keep increasing, people would prefer travelling abroad. Hence we would have to focus on developing more properties to cater to this demand,” cautions Ramapuram. This would also mean that there will be an increased demand for personnel.

“At the current rate of attrition, there will be a shortage of manpower. However, by 2020 most hospitality organisations will have their own trained pool to pick from. We have training programs for our staff too,” he states.

Ramapuram feels that as one climbs higher up in the luxury resort segment, trends will focus more on exclusivity with lesser requirements. “Higher up the ladder one climbs, people look for quietness and wish to experience the spirit of the land. As we go into the higher end segments, we find that there are more FITs who practice responsible travel. People in this segment are generally more eco conscious,” explains Ramapuram.

Achieving the vision

“I believe that people who appreciate the ‘true to the land experience’ of a destination should be focused on the niche segment rather than the masses. Goa is a classic example of the negative effects of mass tourism. We have to assess the carrying capacity of any place and arrive at a balance to avoid any problems. We stand to lose out on our culture if we do not control the numbers,” cautions Ramapuram. Opportunities should be given to those tourists who wish to experience and enjoy the feel of a place, believes Ramapuram. He feels that in order to tap the potential of the country without harming its culture, foreign visitors should be able to experience India in its natural form. “I have noticed that people who have travelled a lot go for experience rather than thrills and that is what I would like to target. Our country has a vibrant culture and we should be able to tap that and work on the potential. Our art forms are a wonderful experience to foreigners and we should showcase it in its originality,” explains Ramapuram. In order to achieve this vision, Ramapuram said that Orange County luxury resorts will focus on providing its guests with the true to the land experience and will ensure that the environment is not tampered with in the process.

Source: Express Hospitality

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