Exclusive Interview: Aradhana Lal, Lemon Tree Hotels
Founded in 2004, the World Responsible Tourism Awards allow people the chance to celebrate the heroes and share the stories of the most exciting and enduring responsible tourism experiences in the world.
Lemon Tree Hotels were the joint overall winner and also won the Gold award for “Best accommodation for responsible employment.”
The best accommodation for responsible employment is for a hotel, ecolodge, campsite or other accommodation that has an exemplary responsible approach to the employment and treatment of staff. This category was looking for accommodations that create places to work which are supportive, fair and empowering. It is for accommodations which fundamentally believe in fair wages and working conditions, and which celebrate the skills of local people; employing local staff and offering training and progression opportunities. What the Judges wanted was an accommodation with a clear emphasis on fair working conditions. The winner demonstrated a holistic approach to the welfare and skills development of its staff.
Fresh, spirited and youthful, the Lemon Tree Hotel Company (LTH) is India’s fastest growing chain of upscale, midscale and economy hotels. This award winning Indian hotel chain was founded in September 2002 and currently owns and operates 40 hotels in 23 cities with over 4100 rooms and over 4000 employees. This speedy growth has made the group the 3rd largest hotel chain in India by owned rooms, currently.
Lemon Tree focuses on delivering a healthy ‘triple bottom line’ i.e. Planet, People and Profit through its sustainability initiatives.
Planet: Current efforts include energy efficiency and conservation; water efficiency and conservation; use of CNG instead of LPG; use of green building material; planting of trees and shrubs on hotel premises; building hotels in accordance with Universal Design concepts – for greater access for differently abled people and building their hotels to Leadership in Energy and Design (LEED) Gold Standards.
In the medium term to long term, they will focus on wind power; agro power i.e. burn agricultural waste; recycled water for AC cooling tower (target replacement of fresh water by 15-20%); heat pump for energy conservation; solar photo voltaic (PV) system for lighting; extensive use of LED light fittings (post cost reduction); geo thermal energy.
People: They are very focused on their culture and on keeping their people engaged. Lemon Tree Hotels have been ranked six years in continuation (2011-2016) as one of the Top 100 Great Places to Work For in India by the Great Places to Work Institute and Economic Times. In 2016, it was ranked #9 in the Top 100 Great Places to Work. Also, Lemon Tree Hotels was chosen as the Best Company in Workplace Transformation Case Study. LTH is an equal opportunity employer and actively invites job applications from people with disabilities. The company ethos is that persons with disabilities must be provided the same opportunities as others to realize their full potential. By creating an environment in the organization that allows them to deliver their best, LTH is able to play a part, however small, in social inclusiveness and nation building.
Lemon Tree has defined the goal as mainstreaming ‘Opportunity Deprived Indians’ (ODIs) into its workforce.
Currently 13% of the Lemon Tree group employees are Employees with Disabilities (EWDs) who are either hearing-and-speech impaired, orthopedically handicapped or have Down Syndrome; and ~15% are economically or socially disadvantaged. Lemon Tree has developed a structured process to induct people with disabilities and those with an economic/social disadvantage into its entire hotels pan India. They work across different areas of their hotels e.g. Housekeeping, Kitchen Stewarding and Food & Beverage Service. The goal is to grow this percentage substantially over the next 10 years and make ODIs a central part of their company. The work done in this area has been continuously recognized and rewarded at a national level.
Profit: Their main focus is on being best-in-class in their cost structure, both in building and operating hotels. This will enable them to offer the best Return on Capital Employed to their investors, over the long term
We interviewed Aradhana Lal, Vice President of Sustainability Initiatives at Lemon Tree Hotels to find out more.
Lemon Tree Hotels recently won two World Responsible Tourism Gold Awards. In 140 characters (a tweet) or less – why do you think you won such an important award?
World Responsible Tourism Award 2016 is a recognition of Lemon Tree Hotels belief in being an equal opportunity employer & running a sustainable business.
What was the driver for creating Lemon Tree Hotels specifically – what gap does it fill?
Lemon Tree Hotels was setup in 2003 to cater to the mid market segment of business travelers. In India, at that time, there was a well developed five star/luxury hotel segment – where pricing was often unaffordable and then a large unstructured low end guest house/service apartment segment – where cleanliness, quality and efficiency was not certain. There was a big white space in the mid market and Lemon Tree Hotels saw that as an opportunity to develop brands that can fill that gap. Consequently, we were the pioneers in India in the mid market space. Today the group offers three brands to meet hotel needs across all levels:
- Lemon Tree Premier Upscale segment
- Lemon Tree Hotels Midscale segment
- Red Fox Hotels Economy segment
Who is Lemon Tree Hotels primarily for?
Briefly, about the three brands:
Lemon Tree Premier
The plush and spacious interiors at Lemon Tree Premier take the zing up a notch. This chain of upscale business and leisure hotels elevates the Lemon Tree experience while retaining the same freshness, quirkiness and energy that Lemon Tree is well known for.
Lemon Tree Premier pampers the style conscious and upbeat traveler with its personalized services, premium in-room amenities, award winning restaurants and fun experiences.
Lemon Tree Hotels
Lemon Tree Hotels are the only midscale business and leisure hotels that uplift your spirits at the end of a long day. Like the fruit they are named after, Lemon Tree Hotels are fresh, cool and sparkling with zest.
Cheery greetings, a friendly smile and a whiff of the signature lemon fragrance welcome you at Lemon Tree. This stylish business hotel with fresh and bright interiors refreshes you with its witty humor and spirited environment.
Lemon Tree’s ‘close to home’ comfort helps you unwind with its smart in-room amenities, vibrant café, recreation bar, pool and fitness center. All this, at an unbeatable value.
These two brands offer:
- An exciting range of dining options:
- Citrus Café (all hotels) the bright and inviting 24×7 (most hotels) coffee shop offers an eclectic Indian and international menu
- Slounge (select hotels) the recreation bar, offers a fun memorable way to chill and have a spirited night out
- Republic of Noodles (select hotels) the award winning pan Asian restaurant offers the best of popular food from Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, Indonesia and Myanmar
- Kebab Theater (select hotels) brings you traditional mouth watering kebab delicacies from provincial cuisine across India
- A fitness center (Life Fitness equipped), a refreshing swimming pool (where available) and a rejuvenating spa-Fresco (where available) promise to keep you feeling as fresh-as-a-lemon.
- A well equipped business center and meeting rooms make business on the move more productive.
Red Fox Hotels
Red Fox Hotels welcome you with its fresh bold interiors as well as crisp and clean rooms. These economy hotels delight you with its unbeatable value and reliable safety standards. Here friendly smiles and a lively environment go hand in hand with professional service.
The business facilities at Red Fox include hi-speed WiFi, Cyber Kiosk, Clever Fox Café, an efficient meeting room, a well-equipped gym and laundry service.
Hotels that are young at heart, Red Fox let you be yourself whether you are working on your laptop or winning a game of carom in the lounge. Add to this, Clever Fox Café’s scrumptious food and the hotels’ ‘close to home’ environment – these hotels become the first choice for price conscious travelers.
What difference does The Lemon Tree Hotel Company want to make?
Lemon Tree believes that the brand should stand for more than ‘just profit’ and we are therefore driving the brand to become truly Indian and Trusted. In order for us to make these values a part of our DNA, we have focused our efforts on creating a socially inclusive work environment which seeks to bring in people of different backgrounds, abilities and ethnicities and offer them work as a unified team with a common goal.
We believe that persons with disabilities (which can be physical, social or economic disabilities leading to an opportunity deprivation) must be provided the same opportunities as others to realize their full potential and live with dignity. By creating a supportive environment in the organization that allows them to deliver their best, we are able to play a part, however small, in social inclusiveness, opportunity/livelihood creation and therefore nation building.
What are the barriers to making that difference?
Challenges and barriers exist at each step of the journey starting from sensitizing all employees about disability and then about specific disabilities and how they can (as team members) engage with a person with a particular disability. This can get tough as there is a high turnover in the hotel industry and new people join in large numbers every month. Then we do job mapping, to carefully understand (for each role) which tasks can be easily done by a person of a specific disability and for which tasks will his/her disability come in the way of doing the job. This is an important process and can be quite intensive and challenging. A key area to work on is the mobilization of new employees – through NGOs or directly – and create awareness amongst potential candidates and their families that there is an opportunity for the Person With Disability (PwD) to come forward, work hard and maintain a job. As disability is taboo in India and is seen as a social stigma, sometime the debate/discussion with the family can be quite challenging.
Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?
As mentioned, we have NGO partners across India who help us mobilize PwD, do job mapping for each role and disability and help with the sensitization and training process. Also the government departments in charge of disability support our initiative greatly.
Is the tourism sector doing enough to deliver a sustainable travel and tourism?
There is a large opportunity for the tourism sector to create business models centered on Sustainability principles i.e. the Triple Bottomline/3BL which comprises:
People | Fair and beneficial business practices toward labor and the community.
Planet | Sustainable environmental practices
Profit | Economic value created by the organization after deducting all costs
As Lemon Tree Hotels has done, the above can be built into all the operational practices and will then impact the use of electricity/power, replacement of traditional energy by renewable energy, water recycling and reuse, waste management, etc. Also from the people perspective, tourism sector companies can build a culture of inclusion and diversity i.e. hire people with disability as well as people from economically and socially marginalized segments.
All companies in the tourism sector can also do the above and Lemon Tree Hotels is very happy to share best practices and help them make this journey, as we have.
How can people find out more about Lemon Tree Hotels?
Visit us at www.lemontreehotels.com and come stay in any of our 40 hotels with 4100 rooms in 23 cities across India.
Ocean Awards 2017 Winners Announced
The winners of the second annual Ocean Awards, hosted by Boat International Media, the international authority on super-yachting, in partnership with the Blue Marine Foundation, have been revealed.
From the development of whale drones and virtual chase boats to the banning of shark fishing and absolving the Seychelles’ debt crisis, each finalist was celebrated for their outstanding contribution to the health of the oceans from every corner of the world.
Land Rover BAR, the yacht racing team founded by four-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Ben Ainslie, leads the list of winners honoured for their passion for improving the oceans, along with Palau’s former UN Ambassador for the Oceans and Seas, the late Stuart Beck. Professor Daniel Pauly and Dr Dirk Zeller – whose monumental study of the world’s fish catches for the Sea Around Us project took the media by storm – are also among those recognised for their efforts in advancing marine conservation through policy initiatives, new innovation and campaigning.
The awards, which are in association with Y.CO, were judged by an esteemed panel chaired by Charles Clover, executive director of Blue Marine Foundation. Also judging the awards were: Sir Charles Dunstone, co-founder and former chairman of Carphone Warehouse and chairman of the TalkTalk Group; Ben Goldsmith, CEO of Menhaden Capital, a new green-focused investment trust; and Charlie Birkett, co-founder and CEO of Y.CO, the challenger brand of the global superyacht industry.
Sacha Bonsor, editor in chief, Boat International Media, said: “Boat International Media is committed to fixing one of the world’s largest solvable problems – the crisis in our oceans. We are delighted to have built a platform of recognition for the outstanding organisations and individuals working towards improving the health of the oceans. Our inspirational nominees and winners are driving awareness and implementing the change that can save our oceans, and they should all be immensely proud.”
Charles Clover, executive director, Blue Marine Foundation, said: “Studies show that although the oceans are now under serious threat, with decisive action their resilience and carbon absorption can be improved and overfishing reversed within 20 years. There are still huge challenges ahead but the work of our winners is promising, motivating and worthy of celebration. This is one area of conservation where we are winning.”
Adrian Grenier, actor and founder of the Lonely Whale Foundation, who was also shortlisted for an Ocean award, said: “The biggest threat to our oceans right now is non-action. Our oceans are resilient but only if we take collective steps towards protecting and rebuilding them. We need to protect 30 per cent of our oceans by 2030. Today, we’ve protected just three per cent. We have a long way to go but I’m ready for the challenge and the opportunity to engage a new community of environment leaders.”
Helena Christensen, model and environmentalist, said: “I have huge respect and admiration for the sea. There is hardly anything more magical; its power is infinite and ever-changing. Ocean life depends on a thriving coral reef and we are destroying it.”
Full list of winners: Ocean Awards 2017
Seafarers’ Award: Ben Ainslie Racing, Land Rover BAR
Local Hero Award: Dennis Bryan Bait-it, Project Sharklink
Innovation Award: The Nature Conservancy
Responsible Business Award: Industry Group Agreement to Cod fishery in the northern part of North-East Atlantic
Policy Award: Claire Nouvian, Bloom
Public Education Award: Ian Urbina, The New York Times
Visionary Award: Stuart Beck, UN Ambassador for the Oceans and Seas
Science Award: Daniel Pauly and Dirk Zeller, Sea Around Us, the University of British Columbia
The Seafarers’ Award, which celebrates an individual or group from the seafaring community that has made the biggest difference over the past year to advance marine conservation, went to Land Rover’s Ben Ainslie Racing partnership. Known as Land Rover BAR, the movement was driven by Dr Susie Tomson and inspired the British America’s Cup sailing team’s sustainability strategy. The team is recognised for its project to bring back native oysters to southern British water and ‘say no to single use plastic’ campaigns while using technology sustainably via ‘virtual chase boat’.
The Local Hero Award was picked up by Dennis Bryan Bait-it of Philippines-based Project Sharklink. A co-founder of Project Sharklink, Bait-it has worked to enhance the benefits of diver tourism to his local community. He was also recognised for bringing together local fishermen tasked with protecting Monad Shoal, the only place in the world where it is possible to dive with thresher sharks, by patrolling waters and reporting illegal shark fishing activity.
The Nature Conservancy created a groundbreaking marine investment model when it brokered a debt swap between the government of the Seychelles and its Paris Club creditors, restructuring the Seychelles’ debt in exchange for a commitment by the 115-island archipelago to invest in marine conservation. This innovation provides a model for other small island developing states and saw the Conservancy awarded the Innovation Award.
The Industry Group Agreement to cod fishery in the northern part of Northeast Atlantic won the Award for Responsible Business. This follows the statement made by industry bodies including fishing unions, fleets, supermarkets and processors not to trawl for cod in the waters around Svalbard and up to the North Pole until evidence showed no harm would be caused. McDonald’s Corporation played a major role in convening industry stakeholders around the question of protecting vulnerable marine habits in the Arctic. Other members of the group include the Norwegian Fishing Vessel Owners Association, Tesco, Young’s Seafood Ltd and Marks & Spencer.
Claire Nouvian was awarded the Policy Award for her work with the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition, leading to the EU to pass a ban on deep-sea bottom trawling in June 2016. Nouvian founded BLOOM in 2005, waging a campaign to highlight the damage caused by such practices.
Investigative journalist Ian Urbina was selected as the winner of the Public Education Award for his Outlaw Ocean Series, published in the New York Times between July 2015 and February 2016. Urbina travelled across 14 countries and five seas to bring the extent of lawlessness on the oceans into the public eye, encouraging criminal prosecutions and alerting governments to the enormity of the problem. There are now plans for a Netflix film of the series produced by Leonardo DiCaprio.
Following a visit to Palau to study coral reef preservation in 1976, Stuart Beck became a passionate supporter of the island nation, helping it gain independence, and later becoming its ambassador to the United Nations. Beck, who died last year, was honoured with the Visionary Award for his work in establishing Palau as one of the strongest advocates for marine protection on the world stage. Beck is succeeded in his role by his wife Tulik.
On the 19th January 2016, Nature Communications published a study by Prof. Daniel Pauly and Dr Dirk Zeller, which showed that over the past 60 years the global fish catch had been about 50 per cent greater than official estimates suggested. The study, based on 10 years of collecting data, resulted in substantial media attention and is encouraging many countries to improve their monitoring of fisheries, control and enforcement approaches. Pauly and Zeller were awarded the highly coveted Science Award.
Switch2 Energy Awarded Trio Of International Management Standards
Switch2 Energy, district heating specialist, has received the ISO 14001:2015 environmental and OHSAS 18001: 2007 health and safety accreditations, which have been integrated with the company’s existing ISO 9001:2015 quality management system to mark a triple achievement.
The company was supported through the process by FPA Consulting, and LRQA, which recommended Switch2 for the double certification following a five-day audit process.
Kirsty Lambert, Managing Director, Switch2, said: “We have always had robust management systems and processes, but we now have a fully integrated management system that combines the world’s best environmental, health and safety and quality ISO standards.
“We have undertaken a rigorous business improvement and assurance process with professional support from FPA and LRQA and are very proud to have achieved a trio of ISO accreditations. These standards are at the heart of our strategy and operation, and are crucial in supporting the ongoing growth of our business.”
John Barke, Managing Director, FPA Consulting, said: “Congratulations to Kirsty and the team. They have worked hard to maximize the benefits that ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001 can bring, in particular around customer service, satisfaction and managing business risk which is critical to their business resilience.”
Yorkshire-based Switch2 Energy has more than 35 years experience of smart metering and billing for the community energy and district heating sector. The company remotely manages and monitors its smart meters from its UK customer service centre, which offers complete billing and administration services to more than 430 heat networks and 70,000 homes.
Further information: www.switch2.co.uk