CASE STUDY: SURAJGARH FORT—HERITAGE HOTEL
Surajgarh is a town in Surajgarh Mandal, Jhunjhunu District of Rajasthan. Surajgarh is 37.5 km far from its district’s mam City Jhunjhunu, 154 km far from Jaipur and 180 km away from Delhi. Surajgarh is located at 28.32°N 75.73°E. As of 2001 Asian nation census, Surajgarh had a population of 18,857. Surajgarh is famous for the frescoes, which depict different stories. They owe the painting of frescoes to the travelers who came through this region, bringing along with them stories of the lands far away which got its expression by the local populace who started to decorate their homes with frescoes of the tales told by the travelers and also from the mythological scenes. The materials used for painting the frescoes were crushed cowry shells, lime, and vegetable dyes which were produced locally. The cowry shells were used as currency at only once, but since the chipped and broken shells had no value, they were crushed to produce a water-resistant base for the frescoes.
Surajgarh is in the center of Shekhawati’s open-air art gallery and has many havelis. Marwari traders accumulated monumental wealth in their trade of rice, opium, cotton, spices, and textiles. Money was sometimes remade or sent back home for himself or his family. The thriving Marwari families attempted to do the exact opposite of the size and quality of their mansion, the division for fine and lively design within the desert region wherever least expected. Wherever the painting was done, the lime plaster on the walls shaped a fine layer. Although the plaster was moist, outline, and color work was done, it was added for the premature. Tourist walk and camel cart tour are organized for havelis.
In 1778, Thakur Suraj Mai built the fort of Surajgarh. Presently, the fort is closely guarded by Tikraj Aishwarya Katoch and Tikrani Shalia. Tikraj Aishwarya is the son of the aristocrat of Jodhpur and the prince of Kangra. They have converted the fort into a hotel. However, this fort is within the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan, which is a great tourist destination due to the magnificent havelis and frescoes. Surajgarh is a small village, and attracting, recruiting, and retaining staff for Surajgarh Fort is a good challenge.
The Thakurs of the East sold Surajgarh Fort just after independence. It has since changed many hands. The Kangra group of hotels bought it from the developers of the land who were trapped with the locals and the collector stopped them from demolishing the palace. Later in 2018, it was sold to the “royal family of Patiala.”
8.5.1 EMPLOYEE POLICIES
Since it is in a remote area, special attention needs to be paid to employee selection and retention. They appoint trained general managers and departmental heads who then hire and train local people.
Surajgarh is situated in rural areas, where professionals have less opportunities and facilities and will neither like to work long nor settle their families. The management accepts that this is a challenge and goes on to say, “Yes, we do have a problem with hiring well-trained staff, but as Rajasthan is a tourism-driven industry, there are many small hotel management institutes that own Serve Surajgarh with staffing requirements. GM usually comes without his family. As we tie up with marketing and management consultants with a successful record of partnering with some of the leading travel and hospitality brands in the Indian subcontinent, most management-level positions are filled by these consultants. Housing and food are also provided to employees.” But the retention rate is low.
The rural tourism and sustainability require an integrated planning and development approach which takes into consideration all the factors necessary for the long-term growth and development of the region, especially the human capital capacity building and infrastructural developments. Capacity-building activities would develop the knowledge and skills of the rural people enabling them to make a career in the tourism sector. Proper and plarmed investment in infra structural development would facilitate the tourist, talent attraction, and the locals.
The problem of talent attraction and retention is evident at “Surajgarh Fort Hotel.” Although the recruitment and selection process has been outsourced still it is difficult to hire the talent especially at the management positions. One of the reasons for the turnover at management positions is that the GMs do not find the infrastructure appropriate as per their living standards and basic requirements. Since the hotel is located at the remote site of Rajasthan, it lacks sophistication and amenities. If the employee is not the local person, he/she would not prefer to locate his/her family to this remote place, as the spouse and children would not be able to adjust to the rural setting and also the education and healthcare would be a matter of concern. With this kind of instability, the employee would explore the other opportunities where he/she could avail better amenities. The following talent management techniques could help the hotel to retain its employees: edition of “in between” experiences in cultural tourism, encompassing elements that do not belong either in the local nor in the tourist sphere (Richards, 2018).
At the same time, communities have been increasingly outspoken in their opposition to mass tourism, but the majority of destinations seem to have been unable to provide a comprehensive, scalable alternative. The recent insistence by New Zealand and Hawaii on attracting “better tourists,” who would be willing to make real connections with locals— and generate more value to the economy—seem desperate and elitist at the core (Mathews, 2019). What seems to drive the tourist-local divide is a particular misunderstanding surrounding, at the street level, of the value of “the everyday.” The antagonism is also often exacerbated by the relations of dependence created by international tourism (Nogués-Pedregal, 2019).
8.5.3 EMPLOYEE VAL UE PROPOSITION AND EMPLOYER BRANDING
The first strategy should be to propagate the value proposition to the potential employees about working with Kangra Group and Surajgarh Hotel. The gr oup is gr adually becoming a brand in the tourism sector, thus the benefits of working with the hotel should be communicated clearly. This would help in attracting the talent pool.
Further, being a heritage hotel, the concept itself is '‘unique,” yet known. Thus, the passion for working towards its betterment through unique ideas of maintaining it and bringing it out to the public is important. For the lower level administrative and management position, passion to work for heritage site is preferred over a high level of education. Therefore, even the locals of the town could be the most resourceful employee bringing the benefits like: (1) since they are locals they would be aware of the context, (2) they would have a rich thread of history, knowledge, and situations of the place as well as the surrounding, (3) they would get a better source of livelihood and an assurance of work in their own town, which would help in retaining the staff.
For the middle management positions and other professional positions like “Head Chef,” they could tie-up with the hotel management institutions in the vicinity of the town. Also, it would be advisable to have tie-ups with some good educational and healthcare institutions like “Birla School” and “Birla Hospital” at Pilani, which is less than half an hour’s drive from Surajgarh. Even the spouse could be engaged in some activities of the hotel or some corporate social responsibility functions like teaching the rural children or educating about hygiene, which would not only engage the spouse but also give the “sense of accomplishment” and “feeling of respect” for the hotel.
220.127.116.11 CAREER PATHS
Job retention translates into profits only if the career path is clear for the employees. The options to move up the ladder and the requirements of every level should be communicated to the employee and should be allowed to pursue their career path.
8.5.5 PROVIDE FACILITIES
The very first concern for the candidate applying for the job in a small town is a concern for the partner or family. They will have to live far from then family. The family cannot be brought here because of the lack of facilities like school, hospital, banks, malls, and all. If such facilities are provided the employee can be attracted and retained for a longer time period. If facilities in the near surroundings are facilitated, the concern to live in small town will reduce.
8.5.6 SALARY AND BENEFIT PROGRAMS
Working in small cities is a concern nowadays for employees leaving the city lifestyle and amenities. To attract them with higher salary from other organizations of same sector located in city and to provide additional incentive offers along with the salary, the organization needs to offer employees at least life and medical coverage. The company can collaborate with insurance companies for employee betterment so that they offer more inexpensive insurance. Further to give employees a stake in a company’s success, to increase the sense of ownership, profit sharing in form of employee stock option plans could be offered. Partnering with local businesses to offer the team members discounts in the areas of healthcare, professional services, education, home ownership, retail, and entertainment, the hotel goal should be to cultivate an environment of respect and dignity for everyone who chooses to join the hotel’s team.
ROLE OF THE MANAGEMENT IN ACHIEVING SOCIAL AND CULTURAL SUSTAINABILITY
8.6.1 REDEVELOPING THE TOWN
The aim to recruit the local community members for service staff can be done by developing the environment and other facilities in the town. The objective is to use the nonutilized land for development. The standard of living of the conununity and quality of life would increase and would become better. Providing basic facilities like school, bank, and hospital would increase their standard of living. Community involvement is a key to revitalizing the town.
8.6.2 DEVELOPING THE LOCAL PEOPLE
The local people could be trained to take up employment in hotel, which would support the financial viability of the local houses.
8.6.3 OPPORTUNITIES TO THE LOCAL ARTISANS AND CRAFTSMEN
The local artisans and craftsmen could be given opportunity to showcase their art, thus would not only provide employment opportunities to the artisans, but also would help in cultural sustainability.
Collaborations with other organizations dealing with heritage can be done to organize cultural programs and events. Income can be generated through these events. Organizing events during heritage week and programs like music festivals where the local art and artisans can be promoted along with the fort. The local art and craft can also be promoted and financial aid can be generated by developing a shop for local craft and art and involving the local conununity as well. It will also promote and protect the traditional local conununity craft and art. For example, at the Mehrangarh Fort, a music festival is organized for three days at the fort where artist from various places come to perform and visitors from around the world come to see the festival. Apart from regular visiting charges, this is the only major source of income for the fort and organization where they sustain for the whole year. The Corporate events like “ICOMOS General meeting about Heritage and Tourism in Surajgarh Fort” or Yearly conference tie-ups with Institutes could also be the source of income.
8.7.1 MUSEUM OF PERSONAL FAMILY COLLECTIONS
There is a huge potential to turn some of the unused portions of the fort to a museum that could be created to tell the fort stories through the objects and memories associated with the fort and the town. Museum shop can sell the arts and crafts of the local artisans such as reprints of frescos, lac bangles, bandhani and block printed textiles, and other handicraft items of the region.
8.7.2 EXHIBITION AND ART GALLERY
Hotels can let out the rooms to local entrepreneurs, artists, and fashion designers for various exhibitions on rent during the peak tourist seasons.
8.7.3 CENTER FOR DESTINATION EVENTS
Although the tourist activities are at its low, the hotel offers ideal location for film shoots, fashion and other advertisement shoots, events, and weddings, engagements, anniversaries, and school or college reunions. This can be highlighted on many marketing portals. These can be made into attractive packages and be a win-win situation for all, the visitors, the business people, and Surajgarh Hotel.
8.7.4 HERITAGE WALK
Shekhawati havelis are well known for frescoes and Surajgarh also has beautiful 200 to 300 years old frescoes. These can offer a golden opportunity for the hotel to plan a heritage walk around the hotel and town to give a complete collage view to the hotel and town to its visitors. There are other-old buildings and wells which could be included in the heritage walk.
8.7.5 LOCAL ARTISANS, MUSICIANS, PERFORMERS, STORY TELLERS
They can be encouraged to come and perform at the hotel for the guests and this activity can be an ongoing activity with everyone participating in it. This will generate employment opportunity for the village communities and create better economic opportunities for the hotel as well. There could be live craft shows where the artisans explain the audience how they perform then art. Art of pottery, making ornaments of lac, and so on could be shown to the tourists.
The fort palaces are now converted into heritage hotels and majority of these hotels are located in small towns. To run and maintain these forts is a big task for the management and trustees both. The rural sustainability should be the key here. The efforts to develop, support, restore, and revive the cultural as well as the built heritage of the town should be the focus. It is difficult to get employees for managerial positions in these types of organizations because of the situation of the organization and surrounding. Still many small towns in the country are under developed where still the basic facilities are not available to the local community. Government and private sector both should collaborate to overcome these challenges and to develop those small towns and the hotels worldwide. The idea to promote the heritage of India and its culture should be the strategy to sustain the heritage.
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