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‘Indian Hotels Are Frightfully Over-Priced’

At 37, Nirvik Singh is the youngest managing director of one of the top 10 advertising agencies in India - Grey Worldwide (formally known as Trikaya Grey). He delves into his journeys, in conversation with Poonam Rathore

With such a high-pressured job, which is your favourite city to let loose?
Undisputedly London, I love the city for its unique melange of culture, sports, shopping etc. The shopping on Oxford Street is mind-blowing, it is a dream come true for any shopaholic. Besides, London is also a very safe city. I make it a point to go at least once a year on a holiday.

With your hectic pace of life, which is the finest getaway to de-stress?
With plenty of corporates frequenting London, I would suggest the Runnymede Country Club and Spa. It is conveniently located outside London Heathrow airport and is irrefutably one of the best spas that I have stayed at. It is ideal for a long weekend. Summer, I feel, is the best time to go to London. Being a hard-core sports addict, it gives me an opportunity to indulge in a variety of my favourite sports. I get to catch Wimbledon, racing and cricket. Its fun all the way.

Which is your favourite airport and name one highlight that you do not miss each time you are there?
Some of the trendiest airports are undeniably Singapore Changi, London Heathrow, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong. Changi offers the most elite business class and first class lounges, besides some amazing shopping. It stocks a number of international alcohol brands contrary to other airports. It also has an interesting collection of cigars and a cute toy store for kids. At JFK, the pre-flight dining facility offered by BA is exceptional. I think more airlines should introduce this concept.

How would you compare the business class offerings of various airlines?
Domestically, I fly Indian Airlines, while internationally, it is Singapore Airlines (SQ ) to the East and British Airways to the West. SQ offers the best in-flight entertainment especially their choice of movies, quality cuisine and hospitable staff. As compared to Jet Airways, I prefer IC because of its larger aircraft, more legroom and better frequent flier programme. Comparing the business class of various airlines is not possible because British Airways’ business class from London-New York has a sleeper and the Mumbai-London British Airways business class has no slumberette. These discrepancies do not allow for a comparison.

With business travellers and companies in a dilemma on who the frequent fliers miles should accrue to, what is your opinion on this issue?
I personally think that it should accrue to the individual because travelling is certainly not fun and you are spending time outside away from your family.

How would you rate the services on offer in India as against hotels internationally for businessmen?
The service standards in India are on par internationally, but I must say that Indian hotels are frightfully over priced. Within India, I stay with the Taj group. Internationally, I don’t stay with a particular chain. In Hong Kong, its The Excelsior, Ritz Carlton in Singapore and St James Court in London.

Which is the best resort for an ideal getaway?
The Hilton Colombo is simply outstanding and offers fabulous service. Some of the other exotic resorts are, undoubtedly, Exotica in Colombo, Westin Golf and Country Club in Macau and Beaufort Singapore in Sentosa. Port Douglas in Australia is one of the most beautiful places for a leisurely getaway.

As a business traveller, what are some of the absolutes that you are looking at to make your travel and stay more pleasant and comfortable?
My vital criterias are punctual flights, 24-hour laundry service and Internet connectivity at hotels.

Any interesting travel experiences (humourous or troublesome)?
One unusually memorable experience was with SQ. It is a lesson to learn on how a crisis can be turned into a fabulous moment. During the ATC strike some years ago, my family and me were off-loaded by SQ on our holiday to Hong Kong. But they turned this bitter experience into an extraordinary one. They checked us into The Leela Mumbai, arranged for our to and fro transfers, put us on the next earliest flight with permission for late check-in, besides upgrading us and giving us a free voucher worth S$ 200 for duty-free shopping at Changi airport. When we reached the Hong Kong airport, we were pleasantly surprised by the meet-and-greet service who apologised for the mishap and presented us beautiful watches and gifts to make up for the inconvenience, besides complimentary transfers to our hotel.

Another tortuous incident that comes to mind is when I was taking the Bangladesh Biman flight to Mumbai from Dhaka (Dubai being its final destination). The flight took off at 6 pm, and ideally if all had gone well, I would have easily been home by 9:30 pm. But suddenly the pilot informed us that we would be taking a detour via Delhi. The flight finally landed in Delhi at 9 pm. Finally after a never-ending wait (close to three hours) at the Delhi airport, we were informed that due to some technical glitches there was an indefinite delay. And if the problem was not solved immediately, the flight would directly head for Dubai. A few passengers and myself got our act together and actually urged the engineers to fix the problem asap. After much deliberations, I finally arrived home at 2 am. To say the least, it was unmistakably a nightmare.