Looking into the general perception of businesses giving back to society a bit differently, entrepreneur Aditi Balbir drives by the motivation to build around the needs of the society in which they operate. Her wanderlust across the length and breadth of India made her realise the gap between the new age traveller’s demands for escape while what they got was the same old predictable conception of vacation. This led her to establish V Resorts, a prominent hospitality chain focused on micro-level ecotourism.
The company plugged this gap and standardised guest experiences with a strong focus on its environmental, social and governance responsibilities. Catering to new age travellers who desire a new experience and look to escape as opposed to simply vacationing during their breaks, V Resorts offers experiential stays across a range of themes, from hills to beaches, from deserts to wildlife sanctuaries, from heritage sites to adventure hotspots.
Combined with her passionate advocacy of sustainable development and community inclusiveness, Balbir offered a confluence of cultures to the evolved traveller while boosting the micro economies of the local communities simultaneously.
She has also been closely involved with the United Nations Environment Programme, especially for the plan to launch the Farm to Fork tourism in Andhra Pradesh, tied closely to the innovative Zero Budget Natural Farming initiative. Excerpts from an interview:
What made you choose the path of ecotourism?
We began V Resorts with the idea of managing and standardising small inventory stays and resorts. The thesis resided on the large-scale supply of single owned properties in India that struggled with professional management, trained manpower and sales and distribution. The intent was to standardise the room quality to offer comfort stay and tailor make local experiences to draw tourists to a new destination. As we went about this project, we realised that it was conforming all 12 of World Tourism Organisation’s sustainable development goals, and in fact, we were creating a circular economy in the process.
In what ways are ecotourism different from mainstream tourism?
We don’t think of sustainability or ecotourism as a choice, for us it’s built around the business that we do. Unlike mainstream tourism, eco or sustainable tourism are customised or specially designed with a certain goal under consideration. In the case of V Resorts, we have designed our experiences and SOPs in such a manner that our customers in a very natural way becomes a responsible traveller and contributes towards local upliftment, be it in the form of village tour with lunch, a local guided birding tour or participating in Gangaaarti performed by orphan kids in an ashram.
What unique experiences can travellers expect from your company?
V Resorts is a micro-tourism focused hospitality management company, providing boutique local experiences in the leisure travel space. Some of our special local experiences include village tour with lunch in a villager’s house. Boating with tea service; set out for a boat ride in a beautiful lake surrounded by tall green mountains and while you enjoy the ride, we serve you with tea in the boat.
We arrange for a special experience where guests get the opportunity to enjoy a farm dinner cooked in village style right in front of them. The preparation for the farm dinner begins right in the morning when we take our guests for a guided farm visit where they pick their own vegetables from the farm. Later in the evening these freshly picked vegetables are cooked live in a village household and served in a traditional manner to our guests for dinner. Another adventurous experience that we provide includes candle light dinner in a resort amidst wilderness. Other packages include evening tea service besides a lake and waterfall trek with picnic in the forest.
How does ecotourism help generate employment?
Our recruitment is entirely local. About 90 per cent of the staff is hired from the neighbouring areas. We, thereby, provide training to them at our centralised training centre in Delhi. The idea is not to hire cheap labour, but to train them and equip them with skills, so that they are empowered. To add to the overall experience we also tie up with various local activity vendors, which in the process provide them with better opportunities to increase their income. We follow a 100 per cent local procurement policy at V Resorts. Under this policy we only buy local ingredients and food from local shops and farmers, thereby, helping them earn even from a small produce.
We also contribute towards women empowerment. We have tied up with a group of village women who make 100 per cent natural fruit squash, pickles, spices and essential oils. We package the products and sell them at Pitara (V Resorts souvenir shop) to our customers, the benefit of which directly goes to the group of women making the products.
What is your definition of a new age traveller?
The new age travellers are the immensely responsible ones who want to explore new destinations and live local experiences by interacting with the natives, sharing their food, culture, etc. They are very conscious about the impact they are creating on a particular destination they are visiting, be it by saving water or having a meal in a local’s house.
Enlighten on the company’s farm to fork initiative.
At present time, people everywhere are looking for a more locally authentic experience, starting with what they eat, leading to an increased scrutiny on the origin and procurement of their food. Taking this into consideration, we have been very specific about our food procurement policy at V Resorts. We ensure that all our produces are fresh, naturally grown and procured directly from the farmers.
To take the example of V Resorts Vizag Palms, a beach resort located in a small village called Bhimli in Vishakapatnam, we have tied up with a group of local farmers practicing natural farming under the Andhra Pradesh government’s Zero Budget Natural Farming programme, to supply fruits and vegetable to our resort. At V Resorts RajmahalOrchha, we arrange for an experience where guests get the opportunity to enjoy a Budelkhandi dinner cooked in village style right in front of them. The preparation for the farm dinner begins right in the morning when we take our guests for a guided farm visit where they pick their own vegetables from the farm. Later in the evening these freshly picked vegetables are cooked live in a village household and served in a traditional manner to our guests for dinner
What are your future plans with the company?
We plan to go global and replicate these models in all developing countries.