Hotelier Himmat Anand On Making Room For Sustainability
Hotelier Himmat Anand launched Tree of Life Resorts with a 14-villa property with private pools on the outskirts of Jaipur. His unparalleled attention to detail and personalised hospitality marked a turning point in the hospitality industry, and he hasn't looked back. From opening one of the first pet-friendly resorts in India to creating a hotel out of shipping containers, his concepts have been unique. In an exclusive with Outlook Traveller, he shares his journey to the top, what guides him to create an unparalleled experience for his guests, and his approach to sustainability and giving back to the community.
What, according to you, are the key factors for creating an exceptional hospitality experience at Tree of Life?
While choosing a locale to open a resort in, it has to meet with three non-negotiables. The property has to be away from the crowds and noise of city centres and still be easily accessible. Secondly, we steer clear of modern glass and brick structures. It has to speak the language of the location it is in. And finally, it should be of anything under 25 rooms, as we still want to provide guests with an exclusive and intimate experience.
Sustainability has become a priority among hoteliers. How do you approach it, and how has that been incorporated across the Tree of Life properties?
I do believe that the hospitality industry has a long way to go in reaching an acceptable level. But in our small way, we have incorporated some practices to try and do our bit towards sustainability. For drinking water, we only use glass bottles in our rooms. Bath gels and conditioners are in dispensers and not in small plastic bottles; we only change sheets/towels on the third day of the guest's stay unless specifically asked to do so; we only offer a maximum number of towels in every bathroom; most guest amenities in the bathroom are on request; we hardly do buffets unless necessary; we keep our menus limited, without taking away from the guest experience; Sewage treatment plants are put in where ever possible and treated water is used for landscaping. Our objective is to try and implement all we can without taking away from our guests' comfortable luxury holiday experience.
While guests are becoming more eco-conscious, they also want to collect offbeat experiences. How do you strike a balance between the two?
I have always experimented, even at the cost of failure. In Agra, where the Mughal architectural style is celebrated, with the Taj Mahal at the centre of it, doing something with shipping containers was unique and had been on my mind for years. The pandemic brought about a change in mindset, and "eco" suddenly became the buzzword. I felt there was no better time to launch this concept. The Tree of Life Ecotainers, Agra, came into being around 18 months back. It also fits our commitment to sustainability perfectly, as we used every part of discarded shipping containers to build it.
However, the process came with its own challenges. The containers were fabricated in Delhi and had to be transported on trucks to Agra. The low-lying tree branches and electricity lines were a huge challenge, as did placing them correctly at the site. I also had no previous experience in doing this sort of a model, but finally, it turned out to be an amazing experience.
How important is it for you to positively impact the local community?
I feel I have done my bit if I can change a few lives in my entrepreneurial journey. Nearly all our resorts/hotels are located on the outskirts of cities, and we engage very strongly with our local communities. Our first endeavour is to hire and train some of them in departments where we can. We contribute towards their functions and ceremonies, run a Balika Foundation which takes care of the education of the girl child, look after a local school in terms of providing computers, etc.
How can guests experience the local culture and engage with the community while staying at one of your resorts?
Depending on the location, we also encourage our guests to visit the local homes and engage. There is an activity called "Teach a While," where guests can visit a neighbourhood school and teach the students in any subject for an hour. Cricket or football matches are organised between guests and the students. We also offer experiences like tractor rides and tilling the fields, which help one better understand rural life and the surrounding community.