In October 2019, Canada-based Brookfield Asset Management acquired Hotel Leelaventure, bringing to an end its dramatic story of several ups and downs. Anuraag Bhatnagar took over the reins at The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts as its COO in December 2019, to steer the hospitality group into calmer waters.
But within four months, he, like most hoteliers, came up against coronavirus-mandated lockdowns that sent the global hospitality and travel industries into a tailspin. Bhatnagar and his team have been working behind-the-scenes to set new protocols and formats.
Amidst this global pandemic comes the news that The Leela has been voted as the Best Hotel Brand in the world by the readers of Travel + Leisure, the US’s largest print travel magazine and undoubtedly an influencer in the travel writing space.
Bhatnagar is delighted and says the team has been celebrating since.
Ahead is a tough road to traverse: to reopen hotels once the lockdowns begin to lift. But also to reposition The Leela Hotels Palaces Hotels and Resorts and recreate the brand playbook, keeping intact its soul: “An Indian approach towards service, a true representation of home-grown luxury and aesthetics, and global sophistication”, as he says.
The former Marriott International veteran emphasises teamwork, innovation, personalisation and strategic thinking to reposition the brand first in India and then globally, as the group explores luxury markets beyond the country for establishing The Leela as the first choice of discerning travellers.
The career hotelier with three decades of rich experience, an enviable track record that involves restructuring several hotels to show positive RevPar and growth, forward-looking instincts and a calm demeanour is leading The Leela restructuring in some of the toughest times the industry is facing.
Beyond the ambit of his work, Bhatnagar is known to be a whisky enthusiast, an avid trekker and spends considerable amount of his time speaking at academic institutions that are nurturing the next generation of hoteliers.