Rahul Korgaokar, who has taken over as the General Manager, Hilton Garden Inn Lucknow brings with him over 18 years of extensive experience in the hospitality industry. Prior to joining Hilton, he was the General Manager of Aurika Hotels & Resorts, the luxury brand of Lemon Tree Hotels. Earlier Rahul has worked with Oberoi Hotels and Resorts, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts and Marriott International. He has also done an entrepreneurial stint, running a chain of bars and restaurants in Bangalore. Rahul is an alumnus of the Institute of Hotel Management, Aurangabad and the Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development. He is an avid reader, traveler and a self-proclaimed gourmand. He balances his love for food with his affinity to fitness.
What makes Hilton Garden Inn Lucknow stand out from other properties you’ve worked in?
Every hotel that I have worked at is unique and all of them stand out for some reason(s) or another. Despite having traveled and lived in places across the country, I had never been to Lucknow before. But my arrival in Lucknow was made even more memorable by the limitless warmth and love that I received from the people at this hotel, most of who are from in and around Lucknow and the UP area. The genuine care, concern and pampering that I got here was different from anywhere I have worked before and in that sense, the hotel reflects the essence of Lucknow through it’s people.
Who is your typical customer?
We have a healthy mix of business travelers and families who are out for leisure. We even get weekend staycation visits from couples/families from Lucknow as well as the neighboring cities of Kanpur and Gorakhpur. Here at Hilton Garden Inn Lucknow, we have launched a unique initiative called ‘Great Small Breaks,’ specially tailored to young families on staycations. This programme basically takes care of the fun and entertainment quotient that the little ones look for when travelling whilst the parents get to kick off their shoes and take a break.
If you could plan a one-day itinerary for guests looking to explore Lucknow, where would you send them?
Lucknow is the City of Nawabs and is famous for it’s rich and cultural history and it’s culinary offerings. Hazratganj is one place that everyone should visit for ‘ganjing’ (colloquial Lucknow term for ‘roaming around’) while they are in the city. It is a major shopping district in the heart of Lucknow, with tons of elegant shopping centres selling authentic and traditional designs of Chikankari at Janpath, theatres, offices, restaurants, books, cafes and other extravagant little shops.
Lucknow is also the city of kebabs; I would definitely recommend a visit of it’s narrow lanes full of eateries that serve authentic delicacies including the Tunday kebabs, Nihari-Kulcha, Idris ki Biryani and much more. To take a glimpse at the bygone era of Lucknow, there is a plethora of marvellous Mughal and British-era structures like the British Residency, Rumi Darwaza, Bara Imambara and many more that have withstood the test of time giving people an insight into the city’s history.
Building the right team is crucial for a property’s success. What are the key skills you look for when hiring new employees?
Attitude is everything. If you are willing to learn, you have a friendly disposition, love to interact with people and are naturally prone to helping out, then you are suited for the industry. Everything else can be taught. And yes, something very important, not just in hospitality but in general, one should have the humility to say sorry when you’ve made a mistake, it doesn’t make you a smaller person. And finally, be honest, always.
What is the USP of your hotel?
Hilton Garden Inn Lucknow is located in the trendy and well to do area of Gomti Nagar. Surrounded by corporate hubs, plush residential complexes as well as shopping districts. Nearest to One Awadh Center, Chaudhary Charan Singh Airport is 24.3 KMs away with direct connectivity and the nearest Metro Station is just 8 minutes away from the property.
Having said all this, the one inimitable and most important part of our hotel is its people.
What is the one dish that guests have to try when at your hotel?
Galaoti Kebab or Awadhi Mutton Dum Biryani
On special Request – Pumpkin and Ricotta Casoncelli
2020 was a challenging year for the hospitality industry. In your opinion, how will travel trends change in the 2nd half of 2021?
We are hoping that the current positive sentiment will remain and in fact get buoyed by increased vaccination in the country. It is possible that business related international travel may open up in the last couple of months of the year (barring any third wave). However, for now it looks like an almost purely domestic market game, whether in the leisure segment or business.
Was a career in hospitality something you always dreamt of? What is your advice to aspiring hoteliers?
Not really. I had aspirations to appear for the UPSC exams and then get into IFS and serve the country in various foreign offices across the world. I even learnt French and German for this by attending classes at Alliance Francaise and Max Meuller Bhavan. However, by the time I was almost done with XII class, I was pretty clueless as to what I should do next (UPSC was a lofty goal somewhere in my head with no concrete means to achieve it). It was my mother who recommended that I give hotel management a shot and I appeared for the various entrance exams and interviews of hotel management colleges across the country. I got through to my top two choices of colleges and chose IHM Aurangabad. There’s been no looking back since then. I don’t see myself enjoying any other job as much as I enjoy hotels.
Which cities are your favourites for: 1) food 2) history 3) fashion?
For food and even night life, I love New York City – I felt completely at home there and totally safe walking around the boroughs and visiting bars at 3 am. Moreover, I found literally every kind of food on the planet available in NYC.
For history –In India I would say it is Aurangabad, for the abundant examples of Mughal history as well as from the bygone era reflected in the beautiful Ajanta and Ellora caves. Outside India, it would be a tie between Rome and Petra.
You have worked in several cities, which is your favourite city for work and play?
Amongst the places I have lived in, for work I love Bangalore. I also worked in Bombay which was my foundation (and I also belong to the city) but I found hotels to be more cosmopolitan in Bangalore and over time I have come to love this city as my own, having spent a number of years there. For play, it’s a tie between Panjim in Goa (where I lived for three years) and Udaipur (where I lived for almost three years).
When are you happiest?
I am happiest when I am with my wife and our two dogs. Their presence instantly lights up my mood, my day and everything else.