Travel Trade Journal

Justa Hotels: luxury on-budget experience

- Ravi Sharma

Ashish Vohra, Founder and CEO of Justa Hotels and Resorts, began his career with Oberoi Hotels in 1990. His final role with them came in 2005, when he was appointed Corporate Director of Marketing for the Group. By then, he had decided to become an entreprene­ur and pursue his passion for the hospitalit­y business by setting up a business from scratch. Ashish keeps a very low profile. Being in business, he believes that the brand should speak for itself as opposed to the individual. We spoke to Ashish to learn about the brand, business model, and strategies to sustain in the ever-changing hospitalit­y scenario.

Justa Hotels and Resorts was founded on August 15, 2005, and since then, it has been gaining traction. The company currently operates 18 hotels and is set to expand to newer cities in the next few years. They also successful­ly manage banquets and restaurant­s and have proven to be the best luxury boutique product in the mid-market segment.

As one of India’s top luxury boutique resort brands, Justa has years of successful expertise in the hotel business. They have their deep-rooted expertise in the hospitalit­y sector, guiding, inspiring, and briefing architects, interior designing of the hotel, and completely suggesting a particular vision, look, philosophy, concept, space, layout, and financial forecast of a particular property.

Their properties offer the opportunit­ies to experience architectu­ral marvels, authentici­ty, unique accommodat­ion options, and pioneer locations across India. Ashish says, “The differenti­ating features of our hotels are undoubtedl­y their distinctiv­e offerings in distinctiv­e locations. Our hotels are not located in crowded areas but rather in quieter parts of Dharamsala, Mukteshwar, and Mashobra. Second, the interiors and design are the main points of interest. So, most of our hotels are normally tucked away, small and inward-looking, with a serene interior and productive service-driven kind. So far, the boutique concept is working in our favor.”

In this clutter of internatio­nal and local brands, Ashish aims to create a niche for small luxury hotels, allowing Justa to be internatio­nal in every way, with an Indian identity. “The whole idea is that we give you a great room and great product and service at almost half the five-star rates. We are targeting Rs 7000 to 12000 kind of average clientele. I think there’s a

big vacuum in that particular category,” affirms Ashish.

Like everyone else, the pandemic badly affected the company, and they had to relook at their business model. They eventually fine-tuned it, evolved it, and are now in a lot better position than before. “I think every hotel company has made a loss, but what matters is how you coped with the situation and the strategy implemente­d to come out of it. We shifted our focus to the hills. We kind of balanced the portfolios of the city hotels and thought about newer locations, such as Goa, Rameshwara­m, and Munnar. So, we’ve done more leisure in our offbeat destinatio­ns, but it’s not that we are not doing cities,” shares Ashish.

Justa works on a revenue-sharing model and doesn’t own any assets or have any managed hotels. They control the experience. They control the costs and the customers. They manage the hotel in its entirety. Ultimately, they give the owners a percentage instead of charging them.

According to Ashish, in the small hotel space, a lot of business is still transacted in the lease model. However, Ashish believes that over time, the lease model has killed many companies. He has seen three to four decent midsize hotel chains close down. So, one has to be wary about this model as it may not work in the long run.

Most Justa properties have 50 rooms or lesser, but Ashish says it works to their advantage. He mentions, “It’s not only business but also about how you relate to your customers and create a unique stay experience. Also, some of our locations really help you connect with your soul. Connecting to the soul is our key motto.”

Despite having limited rooms, they are also tapping the MICE market. Though boutique, they host a fair amount of small and medium MICE businesses at their properties. They have some properties which can comfortabl­y accommodat­e 300 - 400 people. In their smaller hotels, small conference­s and events are regularly conceptual­ised.

Speaking of strategies for the upcoming months, Ashish says, “As witnessed during the pandemic, you have to balance your portfolio in every form, you will need your city hotel, you need your resorts, you need Rajasthan, you need Goa, you need north and also the south. You need everything that can help you to sustain yourself and also take the risks to the best possible. You can’t say I will only do internatio­nal and not domestic. Nor only leisure and not MICE. I think that’s the only way to survive because, at some stage or another, every business will be under some threat. So, you need to keep fine-tuning your strategy, and it is an ongoing process. Strategy is almost an everyday job because the world and the environmen­t are changing on a daily basis.”

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Ashish Vohra

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