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Wednesday, 12 November, 2014, 17 : 45 PM [IST]

Joerg Drechsel, Founder & Director, Malabar Escapes

A German designer who travelled across the world as a young man, fell in love with the Queen of Arabian Sea, Kochi, bought over a Dutch mansion to live in & converted it into a beautiful heritage hotel when he found it to be too spacious for his family. One who became a hotelier by default yet managed to create niche getaways under Malabar Escapes, Joerg Drechsel is a true mascot for Incredible India & God’s own Country. P Krishna Kumar tries to unravel a day in the life of Joerg
The curiosity to know more about Drechsel and his hospitality ventures in my native state, Kerala, was quite intense ever since I met him five years ago at the national tourism award function in New Delhi.  In the last couple of years, the frequency of our meetings grew as he became active in Relais & Chateaux. His flagship hotel, Malabar House, is the first Relais & Chateaux member in India. Recently, Drechsel was nominated as the Chairman of French hotel association for the Asia delegation. It was not a trade journalist’s eagerness, but any layman would perhaps pose a question to a German who chose to settle in an alien land and promote that destination to the world – What lured you there? “The love for the place, its people and its rich diversity! Kerala with its ancient composite culture is a role model for the modern globalised world. The historic Fort Kochi, the magnificent backwaters and the tropical diversity and the hospitable people of Kerala offer a unique blend of experiences,” stated Drechsel without a second thought. Drechsel is more Keralite than me, I felt.

It was in the early 70’s that Drechsel as a young traveller explored Kerala.  He came back with his Spanish wife, Txuku Iriate Solana in 1994 and bought the Dutch mansion at Fort Kochi. He renovated and transformed it into boutique heritage hotel with 17 rooms and suites. Malabar House was the first hotel to get the ‘heritage classic’ status in Kerala and won many awards and accolades thereafter.  Drechsel didn’t stop with Malabar House. He went on to establish a circuit of boutique properties such as Serenity at Kanam Estate, Purity at Lake Vembanad, Privacy at Sanctuary Bay Kumarakom, Trinity at Fort Cochin, and Discovery, a backwater cruise under the Malabar Escapes umbrella. In the last 20 years, he has been awarded several allocates including three state awards and four national awards for excellence in tourism.

Drechsel’s success is his ethos – Do in your life what you want to do, but do it with passion.  People like Drechsel are not into the business of selling rooms, but into delivering unique and memorable experiences to guests.

Drechsel’s day starts quite early.  He gets up around six in the morning and goes for an hour long morning walk through the “historical by-lanes” of Mattancherry.  An espresso lover, Drechsel’s likes to have cereals or upma for breakfast.  He starts work at around 8.30 with normal office routine like checking mails, answering those require one and meeting people.  Post lunch he follows a flexible office regimen. “I spend most evening with my wife where we meet clients over dinner at the hotel or our friends in town,” he said. If at home, Drechsel prefers to taste the “inventive and innovative” menu of the Malabar House chef, or equally “inventive” menu of his wife at her kitchen.   

Drechsel, now 67, has two daughters who are married and settled abroad.  He has four grand-daughters as well.  “We all spend time together during vacations,” he said.

Fast Five
Favourite holiday destination:  Greece
Favourite drink:  Red wine
Favourite restaurant:  The Malabar Junction at The Malabar House
Favourite car:  Un-affordable
Favourite book: Hanif Kureishi’s ‘Something to tell you’

Turning point in Life
Drechsel compares his life to a river where every bend is a turning point. “Meeting my wife in Italy, becoming a father,  finding Malabar House in Kochi, becoming a member of Relais & Chateaux, designing ‘Purity’ on Lake Vembanad as my dream come true place in the backwaters, all of those and more have been decisive moments,” he mentioned.

Drechsel’s aspiration to broaden the Malabar Escapes circuit is unrelenting.  He wants to expand the footprint gradually to deliver “enriching experiences to both his guests as well as to his hospitality team.” However, while doing so, he wants to draw a balance between return on investments and return on emotions.
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