What Does An Iconic Hotel Look Like?

Part 2 – The ‘Soul’ Of A Brand

Moving up their own Maslow’s Pyramid of “existential” Hierarchy, hotels have been differentiating themselves from each other, some famously growing to rise to the top of the competitive heap to become the finest, the best, and the iconic.


The Raffles in Singapore, The Peninsula in Hong Kong, the Oriental in Bangkok, The Ritz in Paris, the Beverly Hills Hotel in California, Copacabana Palace in Brazil, Hotel Cipriani in Venice – are all icons and legends. So what makes them so?

In Part 2 of this feature, we look at elements that form the soul of a brand.

  1. Iconic hotels are in Step with the Universe

In today’s maniacal times of rampant growth, global warming is unleashing havoc on our lives. Every individual and organization is carrying a cross stemming from all the bad things we have done collectively to our environment. We have begun to regret the good things we did not have the good sense or better planning to bring into effect so as to undo the bad.

As people or companies, we can be easily put in the dock for incessantly leaving warning levels of huge carbon footprints on the Universe whose sole purpose is to nourish and nurture us. And for that, we just have to pay the price, as we already are beginning to.

Each step we take towards reducing our carbon emissions counts. When I was working with the local Hyatt in India’s Capital City back in the mid-90s, we formed an ‘Environment Brigade’ and as cause espousing crusaders went about strategizing to save different forms of energy and resources wherever we could, without short-changing guest comfort. We also looked outside and started participating in larger societal issues.

There have been other chains who take on matters that deal with tree plantation, management of green islands around, water effluent systems, harvesting of solar energy or the rainwater. The possibilities are countless.

As companies that deal essentially with people – both on the inside and outside, hotels have a huge role to play in striving to curb the menace and wind the clock back on the damages done.

No wonder, prominent hotel chains are attempting to be in unison with the Universe by going green and trying to increasingly be more environment-friendly.

  1. Iconic hotels have a sense of humour

Having a sense of humour helps in several ways! It saves your skin on a bad hair day, gives your brand personality an edge, becomes a conversation starter with the guests and leaves a nice after-feeling with them.

Rob Palleschi, global head, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, not only oversees Hilton Worldwide’s flagship brand and leads a portfolio of more than 550 hotels and resorts across six continents, he is also a master strategist. In a case study done by Bulldog Reporter, Palleschi shared how his Group employed humour to change the mindset and grow the client base from business travelers to include leisure. The idea was also to grow sales as a leisure travel destination. “We used humour to create a campaign around ‘vacationitis.’ We worked with our internal and external partners to create a funny campaign that featured the tongue-in-cheek interactive microsite, ‘Hilton Urgent Vacation Care Center.’ The site featured a vacation diagnostic test that determined how “sick” visitors were and gave them custom prescriptions that involved stays at Hilton Hotels & Resorts properties around the globe,” reveals Rob Palleschi.

When you do things with a zing, you manage to suffix extra to the otherwise ordinary and carve a little niche for your brand. The humour helps alleviate many a hairy-hoary situation, leaving guests feeling more forgiving should you have erred or relaxed should the heat – circumstantial or climatic – be on a high. And like in the Hilton example it helps in creating more business too!

  1. Iconic hotels challenge themselves

In the continuously evolving world of hospitality, change is the only constant. The guest profile is changing, they are becoming more discerning. Our co-players are devising new methods to play the business game. The infrastructure and technology are always in the shake, rattle, refresh and renew mode. With so much going on, the solution lies in challenging yourself and upping your antenna for upward growth.

When I moved on from an established brand to an old hotel that had been languishing in a decrepit condition for long, we had a huge mandate on hand. As part of the Change Agent Team, the big challenge staring back at us was to turn around the Brand completely. We had to restructure, reposition, redevelop and thereby rebrand the hotel company. The task was monumental for each of us. As integral cogs in the wheel, we all had to be well-oiled to deliver beyond briefs and expectations. From redoing the look with new construction, new upholstery, uniforms, linen, flatware we took a comb through the way things were done and brought in up-to-date policies and procedures, wrote new manuals and put in place benchmarked new best practices.

Having done all that, a bigger challenge lay ahead of us. We had to reshape mindsets and change our guest profile. In its earlier avatar, the hotel used to host a mix of old, retired Government officials who dropped in for tea or dining and East European backpackers who kept the tariff down. The need-of-the-hour was to tell the world that we were now there to be spoken of in the same breath as the world’s finest. That, we were ready to host the luxury business and leisure traveler from any corner of the globe!

The end result – each of us who worked on this majorly challenging assignment has shaped into a consummate hotelier. We have been privileged to handle such a wonderful, path-breaking professional assignment and are proud to have left a rich legacy that is talked about with respect in the hoteliering circles.

Whether it is launching a new hotel or relaunching an old one (the latter being a more difficult task), exploring new markets, reinforcing presence in the markets we have existed in, the world of hotels is always poised to present unlimited challenges to us.

Then there are the additional demands on us – that of retraining team on new practices and insights, looking at new ways to conduct business, increasing the bandwidth of our guest profile, introducing new concepts and newer technology and wishing to establish our toehold in heretofore untouched segments. It is in our interest to bite the bullet. We must not only be prepared to turn all the professional handicaps into aces that underline the success but to upset our apple cart, step away from our comfort zone and go out looking for challenging frontiers to put our personal flags on. All the star icons on the hospitality landscape have challenged the basics and evolved into models with exemplary practices.

The iconic hotels, with their distinctive growth passage, show us that this is the only way forward!




L. Aruna Dhir
L. Aruna Dhir
L. Aruna Dhir is a Hospitality & Feature Writer and Columnist for some of the world’s highest-ranked Hospitality publications. Her industry writings are syndicated to the finest global hospitality bodies and used as references in case studies and hotel schools. Aruna runs an exclusive channel on the award-winning media digest, BizCatalyst 360° called “Hospitality Matters” based on her hospitality industry insight and commentary. Aruna is a recognized and national-poll winning Corporate Communications Specialist, PR Strategist, and Writer. A seasoned hotelier, Aruna loves to present hospitality industry watch, insights, case studies, and analysis to her ever-increasing base of global readership. Aruna has over two decades of experience in Hospitality Communications and Brand Management and has worked with some of the best global hotel companies. In her last corporate role, Aruna was the Director – Public Relations at The Imperial New Delhi, where she was part of the core group and was responsible for re-launching The Imperial as one of the finest hotels in India and Asia. Aruna’s hotel experience includes leading the Marketing Communications and Public Relations portfolio for flagship properties at The Oberoi Group and Hyatt International. She also helped launch the Vilases as the uber-luxury experiences from the Oberoi stable. As an industry expert, Aruna has launched brands, developed training modules, created standardization dockets on business communication, written manuals, conducted Image Study & Positioning Analysis, and led media campaigns of Australian Ministers in India. Aruna Dhir’s successful work tenure with Australia’s Diplomatic Mission in India in the capacity of Media Relations Officer, saw her working on a host of never-done-before exciting projects including the hugely rewarding organisation of Australia-India New Horizons – Australia’s largest ever Country Promotion. Aruna Dhir is the first-ever Creative Writer for the Indian greeting cards giant – ARCHIES Greetings and Gifts Ltd. The milestone puts her in the league of Helen Steiner Rice and Amanda Bradley. While with the company she came out with several series of cards sold under her byline – an unprecedented feat that has not been repeated since. L. Aruna Dhir also dabbles in poetry and has to her credit two titles of Anthologies published and marketed by Archies G&G Ltd. Aruna serves on the Board of Association of Emerging Leaders Dialogues (AELD), a front-running Commonwealth Body that works towards developing leaders and influencers of tomorrow, with Princess Anne as its international President. Aruna has been engaged in freelance work for Doordarshan – the Indian National Television, All India Radio, and Times FM. Academically, L. Aruna Dhir topped at the All-India level in her PG Diploma in Public Relations and Advertising. Aruna has been a Ph.D. scholar at Jawaharlal Nehru University, akin to an Ivy League in India. She has earned a Senior Management Course Certification from the Oberoi Centre for Learning & Development in partnership with the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow; V Dimension Management Company, London & Asian Institute of Management, Manila, Philippines. Aruna Dhir has represented India to a select group of opinion-makers in the United States, as a Cultural Ambassador under the GSE Program of Rotary International. She has also participated in the IXth Commonwealth Study Conference held in Australia and chaired by Princess Anne. Aruna is a Life Member of the Public Relations Society of India A Freelance Writer since 1987, with articles that have appeared in India’s topmost newspapers and magazines, Aruna is also a blogger, a memoirist with works published on platforms like Medium and a Book reviewer on Goodreads. In her official and personal capacity L. Aruna Dhir has and continues to work on several social awareness projects – People for Animals, Earthquake Relief, National Blind Association, PETA, WSPA,, Friendicoes to name a few. Born at Allahabad (now Prayagraj), one of the world’s oldest known cities, L. Aruna Dhir grew up and did her schooling in Dehradun, regarded as a prominent seat of academia and literature. After being brought up in the sylvan surroundings of the verdant Doon valley, Aruna chose to make the Capital City of Delhi her second home.

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