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Hospitality

Published on: June 27, 2024, 3:38 p.m.
JdV’s shot of success
  • The 'energy pool' is a hub for the resort

By Suman Tarafdar

Shot on arrival! No, no, this isn’t a tragic shootout story, but a welcome ritual at a hotel! As a guest arrives at Ronil Goa, a JdV by Hyatt Hotel, right in the middle of Goa’s busiest tourism hotspot of Baga-Calangute, check in is at the hotel’s bar, with a shot (yes, alcohol-less variant available!) to get them into the Goa vibe!

Hyatt has brought in one of its newest brands to India and experimentation and boldness seem to be intertwined in this hospitality outpost’s experiences. “We will do everything that is unconventional – so check in does not happen at the lobby,” points out Hyatt veteran Pratiti Rajpal, general manager.

“The brand is vibrant and free-spirited, with a lot of roots in the neighbourhood – that’s why we retain the original name,” elaborates Rajpal. Ronil, now 35 years old, has been a landmark in this stretch and was at one point a Keys hotel. The property has undergone extensive conversion, retaining only its Indo-Portuguese architecture – including sloping balcony roofs with Mangalore tiles and the distinctive Goan floor tiles. “JdV is now a 5-star, full-service hotel, part of Hyatt’s ‘Independent Collection’ of hotels," says Rajpal. "Now a lot of owners want to go this route as they do not have to let go of their legacy."

It’s the vibe

With a rather tucked away entrance, entering the hotel is like stepping into another dimension – not just a refuge from the usual bustle just outside, but at once welcoming, chic, cool. For the uninitiated, expect the unexpected. The hotel breaks multiple norms from the way a usual hotel feels. Rajpal describes it as “your rich friend’s holiday home – with common lounges, community tables… shorts and flip flops fit right in”.

The 1.8 acre resort has 135 rooms spread across 12 guesthouses, interspersed by a couple of pools and tucked away gardens. Yes, make time to appreciate the range of design elements and features – vast colourful murals on multiple walls, a palanquin in the lobby, ‘rani’ pink floaties in an azure pool, white walls interspersed with terracotta blocks and a plethora of tropical plants that have seemingly conspired to flower in every vibrant hue known to humans, a slushie counter right by the ‘energy’ pool (there’s a ‘tranquil’ pool too) colourful cabanas and deck chairs… There’s an adorable store full of the most delightful merchandise – creditably a world away from the usual hotel stores. Cuteness is the common, constant denominator here.

  • Ronil Bistro offers innovative dining experiences

    Ronil Bistro offers innovative dining experiences

Even though the hotel is located in a rather busy urban zone, it functions effectively as a resort, with a range of experiences to engage guests. Yes, there is an ‘experience manager’ at hand to help! The immersive experiences include a variety of entertainment programmes. “This is a Goa vibe, so music is an intrinsic part,” explains Rajpal. “There is an international vibe though. We wanted a lot of French inspiration in the music.”

Look out for the DJ host, Maria, who is happy to note your favourite tunes and weave them into the music. Then there is Soul Station, which offers a private space with comfortable seating and noise cancellation headphones where guests can be transported into an inner world. The hotel has ample meeting and banqueting spaces, ideal for DJ nights, intimate celebrations, ideation sessions, brand showcases and after parties.

Nostalgia redux

The F&B offerings are just as differentiated. Ronil Bistro, facing the pool, has transformative qualities. It offers a ‘Farmhouse’ breakfast with a Bloody Mary bar for the languid Goan mornings, while lunch a la carte. The dinner vibe is inspired by a French bistro, with the staff changing from their day-wear T-shirts to shirts, while tablecloths, candles and fancier cutlery seem to magically appear as the lights go dim.

“It’s like when a guest comes home, you do something extra, the music changes – you feel you are at a different outlet.” says Rajpal. Head Chef Karan Kohli points out the special steps the hotel takes to create nostalgia – slushies in the evening, baked delights, ice-cream sandwiches (with Marie biscuits!), soft serves, corn on the cob, marshmallow smores, sourdough pizzas.

“There is a lot of stress on local food during breakfast – from poi to prawn curry, balchao to chorizo.” Incidentally, Patrᾶo’s, the main bar, where you had that initial shot, is open 24x7, and serves a slightly larger menu from midnight. Think mac & cheese, ros omlette, butter chicken…

Rajpal is eager to tap into the nostalgia people have for the hotel’s past. “We knew the repositioning will not be easy,” explains Rajpal. “At Hyatt, we have taken a big gamble. We have taken a chance with everything. Not many brands are so brave.  We want to experiment; we have to establish the brand for people to understand what is JdV. People initially are sceptical as they are not familiar with the brand and book for two nights. And then they extend.”

  • The Soul Station is a comfort getaway zone

    The Soul Station is a comfort getaway zone

Interestingly, the hotel is closest in India to an ‘adult friendly’ hotel from a major hospitality chain. The hotel has no provision of extra beds, no special activities for kids, not even a kids’ menu. “We have been open for just a few months. Once one round of people have come and gone, we will have our core guests, who will come back again and again – for the vibe,” asserts a confident Rajpal. Notably, like the brand globally, it is pet friendly.

If you are still sceptical about the brand, take a ‘day use package’. It offers guests a taste of the hotel by allowing access from 11am to 5pm in the pool for a small fee. Incidentally, the cover charge is 100 per cent redeemable against food and beverages. “We are so confident that once you are inside, and experience the pool and the food, you are bound to book us for a stay. We have seen people come for the day package and check in after two days.” Just to make the experience even more memorable, there’s a departure shot too! Can you resist returning?

  • Arresting murals adorn the walls

    Arresting murals adorn the walls

Breaking the mould

Global hotel chains are increasingly launching brands that trend away from the traditional stay options that have dominated the post WWII decades. US headquartered Hyatt in recent years has a whole range of brands within its ‘Independent Collections’ group. JdV by Hyatt is a part of this collection, and is a group of boutique hotels offering unique accommodations that reflect the vibrant neighbourhoods that they are located in.

As Rajpal puts it, “as a brand, it celebrates the joy of life – whether it is the joy of being with a loved one, taking time out for yourself, having good food, taking a swim at 1am at night…” The brand began its journey as Joie de Vivre Hospitality in 1987 in San Francisco, and was acquired by Hyatt in 2010. Today there are 52 JdV hotels in 14 countries, and apparently looking to rapidly expand its presence.

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