Atul Khanna, Director, Vivaana Culture Hotel recently joined NewsX for its special segment, NewsX India A-List series. Mr Atul is a conservationist at heart and is extremely passionate about culture and heritage. He has restored a twin haveli into a heritage boutique hotel called ” Vivaana Culture Hotel” in a village of Churi Ajitgarh near Mandawa, Rajasthan.

After a very long and successful corporate career and business leader as well, Atul found his true calling and passion for culture and heritage. Sharing his journey with us, he said “I think anybody living in Delhi area surrounded with all these beautiful monuments and always staying next to the old fort and the abandoned stone. I guess it becomes very natural to love history and to love heritage.” Talking about the inception of Vivaana Culture Hotel and some of his most memorable projects closest to the heart, Mr Atul said “I always loved heritage so when I turned 50 I thought that I should follow my heart and heritage was my calling. I went wandering in my favourite car which is an ambassador, and I wandered all over India especially Rajasthan. We have had fun working in Agra and restoring Havelis in Old Delhi has been a lot of fun. It’s a very good feeling because sometimes, all these buildings are being pulled down so it gives you a great feeling that you have saved the heritage and that’s what I’ve been doing.”

Sharing with us his inspirations while undertaking these conservation works and projects, Atul told us “I got the opportunity to be travelling all over the world and when you go to countries like Morocco or Cuba or discover the towns in Europe one realize that how they are so proud about the heritage. That’s my inspiration and also the small villages of India and the beautiful religious heritage villages sometimes and beautiful hotels, heritage hotels of India they all have been my inspiration.”

Speaking of heritage and conservation and how he ensures to sort of strike the balance that core value of the property is not lost but it also has the sort of modern amenities and comfort as well as sustainability, Atul said “It would start from the sensibility point of view that you have to be very proud of the heritage and you have to make sure that in none of your projects, use that sensibility, but also the traveller whether it is a foreign traveller or Indian traveller, they all are demanding comfort. It’s a difficult task and I think this is one of the most challenging tasks that you have to find the right balance without losing the sensibility, and the hotel is comfortable for your guests.” Talking about sustainability which is a big thing now, Atul said “To start with, I think solar especially in Rajasthan has been a boon. Solar is extremely important and I would recommend all hotels to make sure that they have solar panels on the terraces. That’s a very practical thing to do and the government is supporting you there. The no plastic somehow we are trying our best not to use, not only in the hotel, but we are also educating the villagers. We are doing our bit in terms of sustainability and we are trying our best to not only keep that to attend but also spread it in our surroundings, that message is important to be studied around the surroundings.”

Sharing some of the biggest lessons and biggest challenges from last year. Mr Atul said “This came as a shock to the whole industry. And we especially I think Rajasthan is really affected by that because 80% of our clientele was coming from overseas. There’s been there been a lot of learnings I think one of the most important learning is that even in difficult times, you don’t let go of your core team, because that is the backbone of your, your establishment. In spite of these tough times, the core team remains with you and that’s extremely important. Indian travellers are also very important for your business and one has to think out of the box like we were not looking at weddings. Now we have small weddings at our property which has become an important part of our business. Hence a lot of learnings I think when we go into normal and when things come back to normal. I’m sure we can carry forward some of them.”