Tripadvisor recently announced its Travelers Choice Awards for 2016 and Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur won the best hotel in the world award based on user reviews! Umaid Bhawan Palace is managed by Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces.
I attended the award ceremony and the invite came in a very curious way! They had to invite media/bloggers to the function without revealing the name of the hotel till the award was formally announced! The young PR lady asked me if I would like to visit a very exclusive property somewhere in India? My answer was yes but when asked for more she told me, “Ma’am I can’t tell you anything more at the moment.” I still said yes to the trip and I am glad I did.
The award ceremony took place at the sprawling lawns of the Umaid Bhawan Palace. H.H. Maharaja Gaj Singh ji along with his daughter Shivranjini accepted the award. Nikhil Ganju, country head, Tripadvisor India was there to present the award. Media from Rajasthan and other parts of India were invited to attend the ceremony. Yours truly was present as a travel blogger.
Vincent Ramos, the general manager of the property, introduced me to the Maharaja. He said, “Bapji this is Mridula, she is a travel blogger.” I folded my hands, not sure if I was supposed to shake hands with a Maharaja or not. He offered his hand for a handshake! And then he asked, “So what is a travel blogger?” I tried my best to explain but I am sure he was not impressed!
During the question answer session I asked Nikhil about their methodology for calculating the awards. He said they were completely based on user reviews, there was no editorial element involved in it. They have an algorithm which calculated it. Then I asked if there was a huge difference in the scores, say between first and second place, to which he said no, the scores were quite close to each-other!
The award ceremony was followed by a sumptuous Rajasthani Dinner for the media. Vincent was our host for the evening. Champagne was the choice of the drink! I regulate my alcohol consumption quite closely and I stop by the third glass absolutely, but this party was an exception! I would be busy talking to Nikhil, Suhasini (from Taj), Angad (Forbes India) or Vincent and suddenly I would realize my 1/4 full glass was completely full again without me ever knowing it!
There was excitement in the air, both Vincent and Nikhil were thrilled at the award! Vincent was narrating the phone calls he was getting from the global media and the kind of questions that came up. Someone wanted to know the number of the peacocks within the property whereas another person needed convincing that Jaipur and Jodhpur were two separate places!
For me it was a blessed evening, to sit in the courtyard with the fabulous food, wine and company to enjoy the glorious view of the Umaid Bhawan Palace!