HYDERABAD: Food delivery apps, entertainment apps on phone and of course, the air-conditioners seem to have spoilt us and taken all fun out of going outdoors. Going in the sun, sweating it out, battling the mosquitoes and comprising on food are what most outdoor trekking and camping holidays are about. But Shrikant Wakharkar, General Manager of Marriott Hyderabad, said he was all set to disprove that with the hotel chain’s concept of “The Great Outdoors” last month. The destination was Vikarabad, a three-hour drive from Hyderabad and the duration was 12 noon to 12 noon of the next day. The hotel had already given Hyderabadis a taste of its #GreatOutdoors last February with a day-long picnic to a farmhouse on the outskirts of the city. This year, they are going a step ahead to make it a full-day affair with "The Great Outdoors Marriott Hyderabad Vol. II”.
“The idea of this trip is to demonstrate how the team can pull off whatever the guests have in their ‘I want it’ list. The GM’s brief was simple. Carry sport shoes, comfort clothing for the trek (tracks, jackets), night wear and a fresh pair for the next day. What Marriott promised was basic toiletry kit, washroom facility (no shower room), bedding, food and fun. But when we finally arrived at our destination after a fabulous buffet spread at the hotel and then a three-hour bus drive, we found 40 gorgeous green tents for each of the 40 guests that day. Even before we could sip the sangrias, we checked out the tents. The most flattering part was the guest name written on a little wooden marker next to the tent. It felt like we owned that piece of land for the day. A high in these days of skyrocketing real estate prices.
The inside of the zip-up tent is nothing short of a boutique hotel. A cosy bed with soft white sheets, a wooden ledge that doubles up as a night stand with some gourmet chocolate and a trekking kit comprising everything you may want when you trudge up a hill. The kit had a rechargeable electric torch, sports water bottle, cap, a tube of mosquito repellent cream, hand sanitiser, moisturiser, tissues, granola bar and what not. However, the little soft toy in my tent, a black and white puppy who I promptly named Duo, stole my heart. The other being a photograph of mine from my social media feed, neatly printed and framed and kept in my tent. “Going the extra mile always help us build the connection that lasts,” says Shrikant. This is part of the hotel brand’s #BonVoy campaign to showcase what they can offer to guests, in the hotel and outside of it too.
In line with this credo was Executive Chef Aungshuman Chakraborty and his team put ting together a gourmet session for the guests. The evening snacks had a line up of burgers, pizzas, mains, and desserts. As the barman refilled the glasses, the team set out for a trek after a briefing. Volunteers from the local adventure club guided the guests while on the trek.
Although the trek to the hill was an easy one, city couch potatoes like us needed something to relieve our feet ache. Marriott thoughtfully ropes in two spa therapists who give us an express foot spa right there. The outdoors were lit up with rope lights and as live music began, the guests started unwinding with food and drink. The music made the evening memorable and the easy camaraderie made us all forget where we were. Dinner was on low tables and floor seating with soft cushions and bamboo decor with fresh flowers and sparkling cutlery. “The team had to carry literally everything all the way up here as we wanted to make sure we left no stone unturned for the comfort of the guests,” Shrikanth adds.
Incidentally, the bioloos were a godsend as most of the city dwellers barely had an idea how we would get by in outdoors. The night ended with guests choosing to tuck in their tents. The hospitality got carried onto the breakfast the next morning with Chef Aungshuman’s team serving us everything from masala tea to meter coffee and a wide spread of eggs and toasts for breakfast. Before the sun could beat us down, we bid goodbye to Vikarabad. “This was our attempt to give a glimpse of what all can be arranged outdoors. Corporates who want to hold an offsite in the outdoors – from a team-building workshop to a serious technical training session, we can arrange for it all – food, drink, music, DJs, bar counter, tour guides, live performing artists and all with a touch of Marriott Luxury,” he informs.
— Manju Latha Kalanidhi