Last month, the latest ibis hotel in India was launched with a deafening Chhau performance by the Shiv Shakti Dance Academy, the likes of which Virginie Corteval, the French consul-general who was in attendance, had probably never witnessed before. The guests were welcomed by dhaakis, who otherwise make an appearance only during Durga Puja. There was a traditional Baul singer of Bengal for Insta-friendly photo-ops. A local artist with a peculiar talent delved into the sands of time to deliver a Snapchattish (the visuals could not be saved) history of Kolkata. The message could not have been clearer. Going forward, ibis was going to be unashamedly local, flaunting a strong sense of place, rather than retreat into cookie cutter comfort and formulaic offerings. It’s also good for business.
The third Accor hotel in Kolkata—the others are Novotel, which is across the road, and Swissotel, India’s only—it’s also ibis 2.0, the next generation of a budget chain that is popular all over the world. Some points worth noting: the colourful you-can’t-miss-it facade, which is a departure from the standard monochrome exterior of the past. Wider windows (which actually bring costs down). Sustainability at the core, with eco-friendly building materials, energy-efficient glazing and water-saving fixtures. Larger MICE facilities, with a capacity of over 250 guests.
The innovation extends to the food too. At Spice It, the restaurant, which also offers healthy (‘swasthya’) options, the focus is on home-style international comfort food and regional cuisines. At the launch, we were duly plied with local delicacies like kumro chhola, alu jhinge posto and dhokaar dalna. Some of the culinary experiments were a bit outré perhaps, like the vegetable jalfrezi lasagne, although it’s in line with the new ibis philosophy of serving international dishes with an Indian twist.
The launch follows close on the heels of the relaunch of Ginger Hotels, another budget chain, so an industry-wide change is clearly underway. Its millennial-driven, and ibis is betting big on this segment, burgeoning in India. Both guests and staff are on the radar, and ibis is keen to not restrict the pampering to the former, as was evidenced by the funky back-of-the-housefacilities. The guest rooms are spacious, with ergonomic surfaces and more storage, and the pre-fab bathrooms, equipped with larger showers and ceramic basins, will no longer send you scurrying to TripAdvisor with a catalogue of quibbles.
The hotel is decidedly millennial itself in terms of styling and orientation. Speaking of which, if the promo film playing on a loop at the launch was anything to go by, ibis is LGBT-friendly too.
The location is great, right where the action is in the now well-established IT, commercial and residential hub of New Town. Finally, the test of any hotel is the bed and a good night’s sleep. In this, ibis’s trademarked Sweet Bed scored full marks. This will definitely give those five-stars some sleepless nights.