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Lifestyle: Catch Them Young

From cooking classes to kids' menus, hotels are laying down the red carpet for families with children. After all, today's young guests are tomorrow's customers

Photo Credit : Smita Tripathi

On a hot sum-mer morning, the lobby of Gurgaon’s Courtyard by Marriott hotel is buzzing with a bunch of kids aged 7-15 excitedly babbling away. They are there for a cooking class to be undertaken by executive chef Amit Dash. During the one-and-a-half-hour class the kids learn to cook a three-course Mexican meal. As they proudly present their creations to their parents they are already planning on coming for the next class where they will be taught to roll sushi.

On a Sunday, at Pullman at Aerocity, New Delhi, children eagerly run to the kids’ corner which has various activities to keep them occupied. The kids’ corner is actually the connectivity lounge on all other days of the week. But on Sundays it is magically transformed to make it and the hotel more attractive to children. The computers that are usually used by professionals to check email, or complete pending work are now gaming zones. Kids can watch movies or engage in activities like balloon art or tattoo making, art and craft and colouring.

There was a time when hotels turned up their noses at children. Not any more. Today with more and more people travelling with families, hotels are going all out to keep the young ones entertained. So on offer are classes for cooking, art and craft, towel art, etc. And it is not restricted to only leisure hotels in holiday destinations such as Goa, but even business hotels and those specialising in MICE (meetings, incentives, confrencing and exhibitions) have become more kid-friendly. Says Kanika Hasrat, General Manager, Courtyard by Marriott, a business hotel in the heart of the millennium city, Gurgaon: “Organising cooking classes during the summer holidays is our way of attracting not only in-house guests but also children from the city. Last year, we did it for 20 kids and the response was overwhelming so this time it’s for longer and for more children.” Adds Saleem Yousuff, Area Director, Taj Chennai & General Manager, Taj Coromandel: “We find that today, in an effort to spend some time with their families, particularly children, a lot of business travellers are being accompanied by their kids while travelling on weekends. An imperative in the present scenario is for us to be able to cater to the needs of this significant travelling population.”

Big Meals for Small People

They say a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, well hotels seem to believe the same is true for children. Kids menus are all the rage and chefs are doing all that they can to offer healthy and appetising fare to their young guests. “Designing a kid’s menu is fun but we also need to be mindful that the food is both healthy and appealing to the little munchkins,” says Grzegorz Odolak, Executive Chef, Park Hyatt, Chennai.

At Westin Hotels and Resorts, a group of dieticians and chefs are dedicated to educating kids on the importance of eating right. “We use a lot of superfoods such as salmon, spinach, oats, strawberry, etc. in our kids menu. The focus is on nutritious, healthy food with no-added sugar, low fat and absence of processed foods,” says Deepak Bhatia, Complex Executive Chef, The Westin, Gurgaon and the Westin Sohna Spa and Resorts. While designing a menu for children, it's not just the ingredients but the style of cooking also focuses on healthy, nutritious food. “Apart from baked cakes, pies and cookies, children like French fries, chips and other fried stuff and we make all these in a healthy manner by preparing them in an air fryer where the consumption of oil is less. We also offer fruits and nutritious salads which are a healthy part of the meal, by adding colourful sauces and vegetables,” explains Ajit Bangera, Senior Executive Chef, ITC Grand Chola, Chennai.

“Thanks to the exposure to international travel and food shows on television, many children are ‘master chefs’ by the time they are 10! Therefore, a lot of research goes into creating the right menu to delight our little customers with interesting choices, which are flavourful as well as healthy,” says Yousuff. On offer are rabbit-shaped dimsums, Mickey Mouse or butterfly dosas, chocolate pizza, etc.

Young Guests
“These children are the future customers and brands today have woken up to the opportunities this segment provides, given their ability to influence purchase decisions of their parents,” says Yousaff. Net result: hotels are laying down the red carpet for children. Take for instance, the Le Meridien Hotels that have entered into a global partnership with Lego. Children checking into any of their more than 100 hotels and resorts worldwide are greeted with a complimentary Lego set that they can take back as a keepsake from their travels. At The Taj Falaknuma Palace at Hyderabad, a sword and tiara ceremony is done at the entrance of the palace for the kids on arrival. They are also dressed in traditional attire to make them feel a part of the royal heritage. Others such as Novotel Goa Spa and Resorts and Westin Sohna Spa and Resorts have dedicated kids play areas. The Gateway Resort Damdama Lake in Gurgaon has an adventure sports zone offering zorbing, zip line, wall climbing, etc for the young and the young at heart.

Brands have come up with kid-friendly policies to make the hotels more attractive to families travelling with children. Novotel, for instance, offers two children below the age of 16 to stay free of cost in their parents’ room. An extra room can be hired for the kids at 50 per cent of the cost. “Families are travelling more together, hence catering to young adults is the need of the hour and cannot be neglected. We strive to strike a balance that manages to satisfy both the grown-ups and the kids in equal measure,” says Tristan Beau de Lomenie, General Manager Delegate, Pullman & Novotel New Delhi Aerocity.

With hotels adding to the fun, holidays for kids have never been better.