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The Sustainability Champion At Tamara Leisure

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Shruti Shibulal, 

CEO and Director, Tamara Leisure Experiences, Tamara Leisure Experiences
age: 37
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For Shruti Shibulal, CEO and director, Tamara Leisure Experiences, offering ‘sustainable holidays’ has been part of the business model ever since she launched her first property way back in 2012. Be it using eco-friendly building materials and designs, or growing organic vegetables and fruits at all her properties, sustainability has been central to Tamara. The 37 year old is particularly excited about the new-found significance of sustainability post Covid. “The dialogue for sustainability is much richer now,” she says. “Earlier it was niche. Of course, service and product are still the topmost concerns of guests, but if they are choosing between two properties, sustainability matters. Earlier it mattered to just 1% of our audience, today it matters to a larger percentage, and that is so heartening.”
The hospitality industry, says Shibulal, has been historically associated with excesses and wastes. “The indulgence of luxury travel often came at the expense of the local landscape and sometimes local economies. We saw an incredible opportunity to effect widespread change by rethinking conventional formats of hospitality because it remains a highly interactive and collaborative sector. Sustainable changes implemented at one property can filter down to impact a significant number of employees, vendors, auxiliary markets and guests,” she adds.
But how do sustainability and luxury go hand-in-hand? “We emphasise well-crafted and high-quality services associated with luxury, but ensure that they are inspired by local history, created in collaboration with local communities and integrated with local landscapes. This includes green building practices and resource conserving infrastructure such as rainwater-harvesting tanks, in-house water filtration plants, wildlife preservation, and community engagement (including disaster relief efforts, clean-up drives and tree-planting activities),” she says. “In this way luxury remains a rare and beautiful experience, as well as a thoughtful one that draws an immersive connection between guests and their surroundings.”
Adopting sustainable practices also helps to run a leaner business. One of the biggest takeaways for businesses in the middle of Covid-19 has been cost efficiency, and the hospitality industry is no different. Shibulal claims Tamara has been able to bring in significant cost efficiency in its business by setting a goal of reducing its food waste, water and electricity consumption by 15-20%. She cites the example of water pressure. Guests don’t like to compromise on water pressure in showers especially when they are on vacation “We did an experiment by putting in aerators (small attachments fitted at the end of water taps which control the flow of water), and not a single guest complained. This meant that although their water consumption was 30% lower, they didn’t even realise it. There is innovation available through which you can reduce your water consumption significantly.”
Though the pandemic did cause widespread disruptions for Tamara, Shibulal claims her privately funded venture has been able to bounce back faster than the industry at large. “Rising cases have had a negative impact on business travel, but despite this we catalogued 132% growth between 2020 and 2021 at our upscale business property, O by Tamra, in Thiruvananthapuram. When compared with FY20, we saw a 57% rise in total revenue in Q3FY22. All the group’s hotels and resorts operated at full inventory throughout Q3 of FY21, which is comparable to Q3 of FY20.”
Tamara Leisure Experiences operates three brands in India — The Tamara Resorts (luxury stays), O by Tamara (business hotels) and Lilac Hotels (a mid-segment chain). There are currently three Tamara Resorts (in Coorg, Kodai and Alleppey), two O by Tamara hotels (in Thiruvananthapuram and Coimbatore) and three Lilac Hotels (all in Bengaluru). It has also acquired The Holiday Inn Express Gutersloh and Prizeotel in Hannover, Germany. “We added three new properties in FY21 — an Ayurvedic resort in Alleppey (Amal Tamara), a 147-room hotel in Coimbatore (an acquisition that will be re-opened under the O by Tamara banner) and a 128-room hotel (Moxy Bremen) in Germany,” says Shibulal. The group is also launching new properties in Guruvayoor (Kerala), Kannur (Kerala) and Kumbakonam (Tamil Nadu).
Shibulal says the trend is towards building not just sustainable hospitality brands but responsible destinations as well. “I am on the sustainable tourism council of the World Economic Forum and we are putting together a document which will help create responsible destinations. It’s the responsibility of the administration of that location as well as the industry to focus on sustainability,” she explains.