I was attending a one-day conference organized by my institute at The Radisson, Delhi. A speaker was talking about the HRH group of hotels (Historic Resort Hotels). It usually takes me a minute or two to pay real attention to a presentation. I was not in that frame of mind yet.
Suddenly I heard the words, “When my father decided to convert it into a hotel, all the family members were opposed to the idea, including myself. You see The Lake Palace, Udaipur used to be our summer home.”
Forget about getting attentive, I nearly fell off my chair after hearing this. It has never crossed my mind that the Lake Palace could be someone’s summer home! The speaker was the Maharaja Arvind Singh of Mewar.
After listening to his talk, I was wondering if they monitor what is written about them on the net? I had this vague idea about reading something about bird droppings and ants in a balcony of the Lake Palace Hotel room! But how do you tell this to a Maharaja?
During the lunch, I dared to approach him and said, “Can I ask you a question?” Standard procedure of breaking ice during a conference with a speaker, only I had never done it with some who has Maharaja attached to his name (though he uses the title of Mewar and not Maharaja). He was gracious enough and said yes. So I tried to keep a neutral territory and inquired if they monitor the web and keep a tab of what their customers say about their stay at the various properties owned by them? He replied that they have a website and I could find a lot of information there! I tried again, and said these days many people search the net before planning a trip and many people write about their experiences at various places, a lot of information can come up in these searches. While I was trying to explain this to him in some detail with examples, he suddenly said, “I cannot eat standing, why don’t we go inside the conference hall and continue this talk there?”
So a few minutes later, the Maharaja with a small portion of boiled food on his plate and me with a soup, occupied a table. There were two other people with us and I think they worked with him.
We did a bit of small talk, where I told him I am a hard core budget traveler and though I have been to Udaipur, I do not even dream of staying in the Lake Palace. He added that all kind of travelers have a place in Udaipur and even the hippies are good for the economy. I was wondering if he kept me in that category! Because if he did, it is funny even to try and imagine myself as a hippie! But I did not press the point.
Gradually, I mentioned having read about ants (could not bring the bird dropping part) in the hotel room and the need in today’s world to keep a tab about what is written about a company on the web in general. He became thoughtful and then added; “Maybe my managers block some feedback.” He added to the lady in his group, “We probably need to open a web based feedback from our customers but the problem is if we get to know about it after they have left, we cannot do anything about it.” Then he turned to me and said, “Why don’t you send the links to me that you are talking about and send it directly to me.” I added in a low voice, “In that case, I need your email address.” He took out his card and wrote his email and phone number on it.His card has three lines:
Arvind Singh Mewar
Soon our head of school for the Bengal campus joined the group and we chitchatted about tourism in general. Then I took their leave to grab some food before another session of the conference started.
PS. I have sent the links to him but I wonder if I will ever get a reply?