The talk show host recalls her two favourite hotels around the globe - Ellerman House in Bantry Bay and Richard Branson's Necker Island
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OT: Can you trace the trajectory that brought you to this point, liaising between media and the travel industry?
Pareina Thapar: I moved out of active journalism to become a media consultant in 2002. I was fortunate to work with brands like Olive from their very inception in the capital. This was the beginning of liaising between media and the travel industry. Olive was recognised by the travel industry as one of the significant hospitality experiences in the city: standalone restaurants are always a reflection of a city’s vibrant culture. I then joined VTY as a partner with Neeta Raheja in 2003 to build on the specialisation of the ‘business of lifestyle brands’ and Olive has remained a client ever since. Over the years our portfolio in hospitality and travel has grown.
OT: How would you say the industry has changed in recent years with respect to its approach to new media and the contemporary customer?
Pareina Thapar: The industry has naturally seen a lot of change with the strong arrival of new media and the Indian customer who is travelling guilt-free far more than a decade ago. The consumer is looking more and more for specific experiences and brands need to offer unique concepts to appeal to this more evolved consumer.
Twitter followings and Instagram handles have a quick reach to a large set of aspiring consumers who are more tech-savvy, very reliant on social media searches and who vocally communicate their experiences. Bloggers with a specialisation are growing in importance but still not quite there in the Indian scenario. Travel guides are becoming more finely defined and segmented so you have to be able to know your strengths and position in those segments instead of trying to mean something to everyone.
OT: What’s the toughest part about selling a travel brand? The most exciting? The most rewarding?
Pareina Thapar: The toughest part of selling a travel brand is that a lot of travel writing in the Indian media follows the paradigm of ‘what’s new’. The most exciting is a behind-the-scenes glimpse into a brand taking shape. It’s like a chef’s table or backstage with an iconic designer. The most rewarding part is reading a good story from a well-regarded journalist and when all the crisis is well handled because no one ever knew there was any!
OT: Your top five favourite clients and why?
Pareina Thapar: That’s a tough one. We take on specific projects each year as per what excites us and some are long-stay clients who are now part of the VTY portfolio — one has learned so much from them.
Each of the following brands we have worked with, I will choose as a showcase to a friend visiting India and looking for nice experiences:
Aman Resorts: It created a paradigm shift in the travel industry and how we experience hotels. I learned the formal systems of representing a global luxury hotel resort from them. Before I knew it, The Aman Way became a way of life from 2008 to 2014.
Abraham & Thakore: They did not showcase their collection on the ramp for 19 years and with their very first runway show, their sari piece made it into the permanent exhibit of the Victoria & Albert Museum. When travelling out of India, whenever I wear A&T, it’s always a conversation starter about design in India today.
Cartier 'Travel with style': The Richemont group and Cartier chose to work with VTY to be a part of one of the world’s best ‘Concours D’Elegance’ — a rare automobile show which takes place in India every two years. We learned the ability to manage scale while keeping it bespoke, wherein each element was personalised and one had to deal with strong experts in their field — be it media, Cartier, the curator or the internationally acclaimed jury with almost each person having a Wikipedia page to them!
AD Singh and Olive Group: AD has been a serial entrepreneur. He thinks like a journalist and questions every assumption. I learnt never to get over-confident while representing the Olive Group.
Sabyasachi: He has been a game changer in the fashion industry with his proud Indian design aesthetic. He is also one of the hardest working people I have ever met.
OT: In India, travel-oriented media is relatively young and sometimes naive. What are the challenges for you?
Pareina Thapar: The younger journalists are often under pressure to deliver on quick deadlines and might have to somehow fit the brand into an existing story template. We understand their challenges but sometimes a little research and fact-checking on their part would be welcome. I guess one needs to be patient and try and understand what happens in an edit room, to get their ear.
OT: What are your own travel preferences? Where do you like to go, what do you like to do?
Pareina Thapar: Long road trips are a weakness. I would love to get the time to be in a city when there is a special festival or an occasion. I visited Thanjavur for the Festival of Sacred Music last year which was truly special. As a family we go on month-long trips to Ladakh and Spiti. Internationally, trips are often short since they are often without family.
OT: How often do you travel on work and how often on leisure?
Pareina Thapar: I travel both for work and leisure a few times a year and over the last two years have focussed on balancing them equally.
OT: What are your travel must-brings?
Pareina Thapar: A good coat, pashmina, good footwear, backpack for ease of travel when browsing the city, a good book/Kindle for the journey, your music on a pen drive and quality headphones. And, um, your preferred brand of skincare basics, perfume and suntan lotion, camera, favourite pair of jeans...
OT: Shortest and quickest trip?
Pareina Thapar: Two-and-a-half days to lovely Istanbul for work, in which I also managed to make time to explore the city, manage an event, and fly back to Delhi just in time for a show here. I never slept!
OT: Destination you never want to return to?
Pareina Thapar: Gangtok — it was a disappointment to see it being converted into a city in the mountains. You need to go beyond Gangtok to get a feel of Sikkim.
OT: Favourite souvenir?
Tiles and pottery from Istanbul.
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