Mr. Mushtaq Ahmed Chaya

Meet Mushtaq Ahmed Chaya, a Kashmiri entrepreneur who kept his cool and expanded his hotel network even when Kashmir wasn’t considered an attractive destination. Today, both his optimism and risk-taking spirit have been rewarded as Kashmir emerges as India’s most preferred destination
for individual travelers and corporate groups alike.

Q. From the one hotel in Gulmarg in 1988 / 1984 to over 14 hotels and more than 450 rooms in J&K and Delhi, you have come a long way Mushtaqji. What was the vision that drove an expert at forest leasing into being a powerhouse in Hospitality?

Love for Kashmir and its people, affection for tourism & hospitality and support of friends and fraternity, all these things paved way for my success. The grace of Almighty comes in different forms. Forest lease was the business of the past that worked well at that time, though it was a big task and my family business, somehow, I was not made for it as Almighty had made my destiny in hospitality sector. Starting with first hotel in Gulmarg as Grand Mumtaz turned to be most productive and showed us the way to outfit to the tourism infrastructure. This led to our introduction in the industry and creating robust relations with the tourism players across the country.

Q. Even at times when the valley was disturbed by conflicts and business was down, what gave you to confidence to continue investing in creating hotels across multiple locations in Kashmir?

Potential of Tourism and assurance given by the travellers across India who continued to travel to Kashmir in every situation, all friends and tourism players who supported my business / hotels and brought tourists to Kashmir in great numbers. This has been a key force behind our confidence and success, without this faith among travellers in Kashmir we would not have prospered in our mission. Expansion of business is must irrespective of conditions, in some way we got the right team to look after each property which is a must in service industry, that made it conceivable for us to focus on other innovative projects/properties.

Q. Having built and run the Grand Mumtaz chain of hotels, what was the main reason for aligning with hotel chains like Radisson, LTH and Bloom?

Improving the quality of product and services and aligning with international standards to boost the high-end Tourism in J&K state and offer various price range for travellers. The brand association in service industry helps to maximize the customer loyalties and membership. Industry today is all about larger customer base and existence across the world. While we focus on expanding the hotels the chain/brand safeguards the management and embedding of accurate service standards.

Q. What are the plans that the Mushtaq group of hotels has for new projects in the years to come?

New projects are there as the tourism is thriving in Kashmir, more hotels of international standards would reinforce the industry, we are keeping our fingers crossed for this. In next 3 to 6 years, we will be able to showcase more properties, you will have to wait for that for few more years. At present we are converging on the training and development of the manpower in the group, we need to create professional atmosphere in every hotel in every department. The fundamentals of service industry and polishing the service standards is equally important for setting up any top end hotel to meet the guest expectations.

Q. Having met you on the Radisson FAM, you seem like a very hands-on involved hotel owner; how does that go with the operating hotel group?

On toes every time for every guest, that’s what hospitality is all about. Getting right people to do right work at right time is a big challenge in industry and teaching and training young boys and girls to achieve success and professionalism of service standards. Brand may be managing the hotel operations but the owners have to ensure the implementation and also the cost control, as well. Today’s hotel industry is spreading mainly due to the management tie ups and franchisee agreements. In these cases, the owner’s involvement in managing and ensuring the smooth operations is equally important, besides the young generation from the business families get groomed and prepared for the new challenges. We are getting our young members in family to be proficient in the industry and business matters to meet international standards.

Q. You seem to be quite a patron of performing arts- how have you used your influence in the sphere of hospitality and tourism to patronize and benefit the performing artists of Kashmir.

Art and crafts are essential part of Tourism Industry it is our culture and traditions that tourists want to feel and experience, hotels rooms have no value if there is no touch of local culture. What else can be better than Music and performing artists and craft of the local area. At most of our properties we offer experiences full of local culture which includes local food, artifacts, creative art and the traditional music. The visitors are amazed by the local touch in every area, be that cuisine, accommodation, clothing, souvenirs, poetry and language.

Q. Given the massive resurgence of Kashmir and huge demand for the destination, what are the possible pitfalls of catering to the huge influx of tourists that Kashmir now sees and how can the destination prepare itself to continue being as attractive even for years to come?

More destinations, better flight connectivity and affordability, standardize the rates, quality manpower and most importantly sustainable tourism flow to each destination. These things will make a tourist destination stay ahead for a longer period of time else the places get negative feedback from travellers if the quality of the infrastructure is not maintained along with the environment of the region. As hoteliers we have many responsibilities for destination development which includes the environment protection of the region. Ultimately in a place like Kashmir the tourists are attracted more by the nature of the place than the hotels. Right from the design of the buildings, construction and colours of the building need to go with the surroundings, eco-friendly steps have to be implemented in every small and large construction in hilly areas. The people of area are all the more important, the living conditions, healthy living and economic upliftment can be ensured by the hoteliers by providing the employment to the local youth from the senior most to the junior most positions. The training, growth and making dreams come true for the young boys and girls is just what real business establishments have to emphasis on, this is vital part of every business project.

Q. Apart from your passion to build high end hotels, what else drives you as an individual?

Success of all co-entrepreneurs and ease of business in every industry is what I personally follow with all organisations and govt bodies. I have seen the hardship of establishing business at various places that too in most difficult times in Kashmir, today the business scenario is changing and change needs to brought by senior entrepreneurs like us for our future generation. At the same time the future generation has too adaptable for the changing service standards and technology impacts in hospitality sector. Introducing new technology, new designs and creating better work culture for the teams is essential to make sustainable business projects in today times.

Q. Since you were born and live in the paradise on earth, where do you like to go away for your holidays?

Pahalgam is my favourite pace for the holidays in Kashmir, it’s a comprehensive outdoor destination where everyone gets a share of nature and adventure to experience. There are many more adorable destinations in valley like Srinagar city and its heritage sites, Sonamarg, Yousmarg, Doodhpathri and renowned meadow of flowers Gulmarg – everyone has own choice and palate. Today travellers prefer a luxurious stay during the entire holidays as a hotelier I sense the same way for other the way I feel for myself and that helps me to produce a better-quality product for the better holiday experience for the traveller.

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