Business Traveller

Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodphur, India: TripAdvisor's No. 1 hotel in 2016

Michelle Cohan, CNNPublished 12th April 2016
(CNN) — There's nothing like the royal touch for bringing in tourists -- or for providing the glitz needed to be named number one.
It certainly hasn't hurt the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodphur, India, listed by TripAdvisor as the best hotel in the world in 2016.
As in the UK, where the royal family in 2015 brought in tourism revenues of $760 million, India's regal past is also proving profitable.
That's a relief for the palace's founding family, who turned to tourism after India's government de-recognized royal titles and ended their privileges in the 1970s.
Stripped of an official income, they decided to turn the palace -- originally built between 1928 and 1943 as a private residence for Maharaja Umaid Singh -- into a hotel.
But not before almost losing it.
"It was considered wrong for a king or royal family to indulge in business," Gaj Singh, Umaid Singh's grandson, tells CNN.
"You enforce business and you run the state. When independence came, and we didn't have a state, we had no source of income."

800-year legacy

Originally, Singh's family offered the property to the government "for peanuts."
"That never happened, thank God," says Gaj Singh.
"What worried me the most, at that time, was that this was a legacy of 800 years. And what would come of it?
"To sustain you have to think ahead. You can't stand still."
Built for Maharaja Umaid Singh between 1928 and 1943, part of this palace in Jodhpur, India, now houses a hotel. TripAdvisor ranked the Umaid Bhawan Palace No. 1 on its Travelers' Choice list of global hotels.
With exquisite infrastructure already in place, converting to a luxury hotel was a relatively simple process.
The palace has perfectly manicured grounds, ornately carved gargoyles and charming personal butlers.
Upon arrival at the sandstone structure, guests are met by a horse-drawn carriage, a drumline procession and rose petal showers.
India's Taj Hotel Group now looks after the day-to-day operation of the hotel.
Singh's role is that of iconic figurehead -- he's greeted enthusiastically by guests still enamored with India's royal past.
On living next to a hotel he says, "I've always told all the managers to please remember that this is not just a hotel, it is a palace. It's my home."

TripAdvisor's top 10 hotels for 2016

1. Umaid Bhawan Palace Jodhpur, Jodhpur, India
Average TripAdvisor rate of $734 per night. Most affordable month to visit: July ($390)
2. Shinta Mani Resort, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Average TripAdvisor rate of $199 per night. Most affordable month to visit: May ($171)
3. Bellevue Syrene, Sorrento, Italy
Average rate of $562 per night on TripAdvisor. Most affordable month to visit: November ($364)
4. Hanoi La Siesta Hotel & Spa, Hanoi, Vietnam
Average rate on TripAdvisor of $109 per night. Most affordable month to visit: September ($94)
5. Achtis Hotel, Afitos, Greece
Average TripAdvisor rate of $100 per night. Most affordable month to visit: October ($80)
6. Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Great Milton, United Kingdom
Average rate on TripAdvisor of $1,162 per night. Most affordable month to visit: September ($974)
7. Mirihi Island Resort, Mirihi, Maldives
Average TripAdvisor rate of $1,059 per night. Most affordable month to visit: June ($767)
8. Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts Aruba, Palm - Eagle Beach, Aruba
Average rate of $468 per night on TripAdvisor. Most affordable month to visit: October ($333)
9. Calabash Luxury Boutique Hotel & Spa, Lance aux Epines, Grenada
Average TripAdvisor rate of $806 per night. Most affordable month to visit: June ($538)
10. Hotel Ritta Höppner, Gramado, Brazil
Average rate of $185 per night on TripAdvisor. Most affordable month to visit: April ($160)
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