PRIYA PAUL

Priya Paul at the entrance of The Park Hyderabad Hotel in India.
  • INDIA

A PASSAGE TO A NEW INDIA

When she was thrust at a young age into the role of a hotelier, Priya Paul followed her heart and not a hotel handbook. The result has been a mesmerizing success.

Born in 1966 to a privileged family, Priya Paul grew up knowing that she would eventually join the family business. In 1988, after she graduated from Wellesley College in the United States, she became the marketing manager of The Park New Delhi. At the time, ...

“Our hotels are not just places for travelers to lay their heads, but happening meeting places in the city that they are in. If you are a guest at our hotels, you are engaging in a local hub.”
PRIYA PAUL
Interior view of one of the guestrooms at Thel Park Hyderabad Hotel in India.
In her hotels, Priya Paul places a great emphasis on contemporary Indian art.

... occupancy at the New Delhi property was down to 10 percent due to a recession, and her father already understood that their three traditional properties (New Delhi, Kolkata, and Vishakhapatnam) had to go through a major reinvention and somehow be streamlined into one consistent hotel group with a unifying design approach and philosophy. “We added fun places to hang out: bars, lounges and hip restaurants that were a bit more experimental in terms of food. We organized cool music and fashion events. It was a successful change from the start. There was an economic liberation in India in the early 1990s. There was a generation of people with money to spend who had no place to go. We were right there at the right time.” By 1995 Paul had mapped out a vision of the properties as a collection of luxury boutique hotels combining five-star service with contemporary design and sought-after public spaces acting as local meeting places. “Our hotels are not just places for travelers to lay their heads, but happening meeting places in the city that they are in. If you are a guest at our hotels, you are engaging in a local hub.” Indeed, in addition to design, food is a personal interest of Paul’s. “I love cooking and I love food. I would say that if I wasn’t doing what I do now, I would have become a chef,” she reveals. “If there’s a new restaurant being planned, I’m very involved. When the chefs are tweaking their menu, I’ll always come by to try it out.” Lately, however, her focus has been on Indian art. “The scene here has been developing rapidly in the last ten years. It’s been really exciting to be here as it’s happening and to work with some of the most talented artists in our hotels.” When she describes what the most interesting of these up-and-coming artists and designers are trying to accomplish, it sounds like she is speaking about herself and her hotels: “It’s about reinventing a contemporary India with its past,” she says. “That’s where it’s at, whether you’re talking about music or design. The most talented artists are taking traditional elements but expressing them in different ways,” she says passionately, and then pauses briefly before concluding, “This is the new India.”

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