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“High Prices - Low Quality”

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The Leela Kovalam Beach
Ranked #4 of 52 Hotels in Kovalam
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 1 February 2009

By pure chance I ended up at the Leela whilst traveling around Southern India ... I was intrigued to witness one of the branches that I've often read about but not experienced. In short, I think The Leela in Kovalam, India, must rate as one of the most inconsistent and infuriating hotels I've had the displeasure in staying at.

You arrive at The Leela and undergo a security check at the entrance to the hotel which makes you feel as though you're back at the airport - and two feet inside the doorway you undergo a further security check where weary travelers have to unlock all their luggage and a security man pointlessly passes a 'bleeper' over your belongings yet again - and even when the 'bleeper' bleeps alarmingly he does nothing about it, so why bother? I'm not exactly sure what I was going to smuggle in from outside the door to inside the door with an army of security watching over me? I fully understand heightened security after the Mumbai attacks, however I don't recall any Caucasian Westerners who have just arrived from flights from the USA and Europe attacking India. And I very much doubt I resemble someone who's just undergone a 6 month stint at a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.

First impressions: the large foyer is attractive, though more Thai or Balinese in design. But it is airy and bright and you think you've arrived somewhere special, though the large 'SMOKING IS AN OFFENCE' signs stuck on easels rather destroy the Zen ambiance. And then you're further made aware of the clientele by the Thomas Cook tour itineraries posted on boards. So, this is a package holiday hotel?

Whilst checking in we were offered the usual cold flannel, though no welcome drink. And then as a ruse to waste time and disguise that our room wasn't ready (even though it was 17.30) we were asked to further undergo another security check. Once all that pointless nonsense was out the way we were shown to our room. Enroute to all the rooms on each level you enter the elevator and exit at each floor that looks exactly like a shopping mall car park. Modern ugly dark concrete - and security guards. In the back of my mind I expected to see a barrier requiring my parking ticket.

This so-called 5 star establishment provided me with a Superior Deluxe room ... I've yet to work out what exactly was Superior or Deluxe. The room was quite claustrophobic, and the finish to the decoration shoddy and amateur. And heaven knows who decided mustard would be a good colour scheme for the bathrooms which one regularly has to sit in whilst dealing with the dreaded Delhi Belly ... mustard being a colour too close for comfort.
A strong word of caution - the old or disabled should stay away - and I'm sure children should not be left alone in the bathrooms. It's too hard to explain, but the bathrooms are of an accident-waiting-to-happen design with marble floors and a sunken round tub which it would be so easy to slip in to. And you have to gingerly navigate your way from wash basin to shower, circumnavigating the sunken bathtub, taking small cautious steps. And be warned, Kerala has evening powercuts everywhere every day - so god help the person who's in the bathroom during one. Which reminds me: this is the only hotel in the world where I have witnessed several people on crutches, and others with knee bandages. Either they had accidents whilst at the Leela, or the hotel offer discounts to recuperating outpatients?

Although this is not solely an issue with The Leela, it really irritates me to pay approx. GBP 10 / USD 18 for Internet access in Indian hotels ... and that's an Internet access that's slow and continuously fails to connect - and when you do manage to send an e-mail it can arrive at the recipients inbox 18 times (yes, that really did happen to me on more than one occasion). Indian hotels really need to stop this milk-the-tourist practice and get their IT services up to a decent standard. And at the Leela should you require anything the staff tell you the charge before anything else, making me feel like a visiting cash-cow. Nothing seemed to be done with grace.

A further irritation - The Leela restaurants do not take bookings, so people can wander off the streets and get given priority. Guests can be left to mill about waiting for a table. Also - something in common with other Indian hotels - anyone can come in from outside and pay to use the hotel pools and loungers, often leaving guests without a place to sit. One afternoon I had the pleasure of lounging next to some backpackers with their rucksacks by their side who'd dropped by for a lazy afternoon. Very chic!

As is typical of many a Indian hotel there's too many staff trying to serve you at meal times, so that you get different waiters asking if you want water or drinks which you have already ordered. Why not delegate 2 or 3 staff to attend 4 to 6 tables instead of wandering all over the restaurant trying to serve everyone and muddling everything up? I think the overwhelming problem is that staff are so petrified of losing their jobs that they try to appear over-efficient in front on their managers. However, they'll also snatch a plate from under you once you've taken your last mouthful and you still have knife and fork in your hand - or they'll forget all about you and you'll have your dirty plates sat in front of you for the next half an hour. It's always one or the other.

Although I fully appreciate a buffet is good for many a travelers pocket, I think a breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet does lower the tone of an establishment, as does playing middle-of-the-road American rock music in the main indoor/outdoor restaurant all day. Who comes to India wanting to listen to Western music on a poor sound system which could just as easily be heard back home on a poor quality transistor radio?

For some strange reason we were introduced to Mr. Menon the House Keeping Executive (?) who informed us we must contact him if we had any problems or issues. However, when by chance we did have a problem, and called him, he never returned calls or came to see us. So what's the point of him?

The best part of the Leela is the beach - though not the 'private Leela' beach, but the public beach. Here you will encounter many a joyful local who will be eager to speak to you. And midday hoards of school children come to run back and forth from the crashing waves screaming with joy - it being a
wonderful experience to watch. My only memories of the Leela will be about the locals I met on the 'public' beach. However, the sea is filthy and polluted, and you will come out of the sea speckled with tar. And be warned that Indian men do use the beach as a latrine - they bury their faeces in the sand and then wash their backsides in the sea. And you will have to step over endless washed-up plastic bottles, polythene bags and flip-flops - and I even witnessed a washed-up dead cat being eaten by crows.

To sum up, The Leela is a middle-market package hotel which welcomes the all-you-can-eat buffet crowd who want to listen to American soft-rock and who don't really have any interest in the real culture of India. However, it clearly wishes it was attracting a more upmarket crowd and pretends it can provide a high standard for them. They have even gone to the effort of creating a very stylish outside bar where to drink cocktails with the beautiful people - the only problem is that this is not a hotel where the fashionable beautiful people come to - so it remains completely empty every night. However, it also has an indoor bar that has a huge TV screen showing 'the football' - I think that always sums up a hotel pretty fast.

It should be noted that there is 'The Club' which claims to offer a more exclusive experience, however there were no rooms available when I tried to book. Though in hindsight I very much doubt this hotel could justify the higher prices or offer a higher standard of service to stay in that part of the hotel so I'm glad nothing was available. And from what I could see it offered nothing out of the ordinary, especially for around 600 GBP a night.

One my trip to India I stayed in 5 hotels, yet only at the Leela was I continously bitten by bugs ... I wonder if this has anything to do with the sewage outlet it spews all day into the sea?

Interestingly, one morning I read the Hindu Times and there was a large article about how the high spending tourist has almost become absent from India - in particular Kerala. Perhaps the high spending tourist has become absent because not enough Indian hotels are able to offer a high enough standard to justifty the Western prices they charge?

  • Stayed: January 2009
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
3  Thank Serial_Traveller
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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2,701 - 2,705 of 3,015 reviews

Reviewed 28 January 2009

For a 5* hotel we were disappointed by the Leela. It was a large hotel and felt impersonal. It lacked the exclusivity and the charm of somewhere smaller and more individual like the Taj Green Cove.

The private beach wasn't private - anyone could wander onto it. The bedrooms were a good size but were ready for refurbishment even if only to replace the rag-rolled type dated decor.

On the plus side, it had excellent sea views, a good sized pool and an attractive Sky Bar. On the minus side - the evening buffet was only quite good. Service at the beach bar was excrutiatingly slow service and food was mediocre.

We upgraded to the more contemporary Club section of the hotel for the last night. This was quite a bit lot more expensive but had contemporary decor plus a very nice complimentary afternoon tea with various snacks. The pool and the bedrooms were smaller in the Club section.

Not sure it was worth it for us. Others on this site have enjoyed what the Leela offers. Next time in Kovalam would definitely stay at the Taj Green Cove.

Stayed: January 2009
Thank Limeturquoise
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 27 January 2009

Amazing.. last minute booking and got the last room at this hotel, in the club section, you pay a little extra but it is WORTH IT! the views, the space in the rooms, newer, own pool and services like afternoon tea, breakfast. 21,000 rps per night, but high season. first 1404 is just above the breakfast patio so could hear knives and forks in the AM so moved to 1505 which was one floor higher and much better.. 1414 and higher would be great as well. Breakfast nice and intimate in the club, but more selection to stroll over to the main part of the hotel. from this hotel you can walk 10 minutes and then be at a whole bunch of fun little stores, walk along a beach to a line of restaurants with smaller hotels filled with Europeans.. so a little cleaner.. For new year they will full so hot to move to the Taj, we paid a lot more 29,000RPS and nice, but made us realize how spoilt we were at the leela, at the leela the room was nicer, food, beach access, the taj you were really not 'on' the beach at all, and lacked atmosphere. It was such a let down as being treated like a god at the leela.. i mean REALLY, they greet you with gratitude like you are a god.. it was wierd at first, but we then missed it after. hands down. if you can afford it.. do he leele, the clud section, you will love every minute.

for the guys.. there is a tailor, well many, buit one that was very good a few minutes walk.. if you have a favorite shirt, they will copy it for $6.. amazing details and finish, you pick the materials, wonderful lines and cotton, at norstroms we would have paid easy $80 for each.. we had 20 made for $5-6 each, and they had them all ready the next day! we even made them take a few of them in a little more on the sleeves and down the side, little more tailored and they look amazing! they had elegant wool trouser/suite materials.. again bring something you want copied otherwise might be hard to explain.
I have their names if anyone cares for them. Have fun, and enjoy - we did for sure. beds were jummy.. double showers for two.. breakfast in bed included in price if you want. you will pay 800rps per day for wifi internet extra and taxes add up as well. the buffet at night was only about $15 or so and really great or alacart.

  • Stayed: December 2008, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
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    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
Thank fionawest
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 25 January 2009

The Leela is a good resort hotel, but far from a truly excellent one. We stayed for four nights, and each day had annoyances that exceptional resorts avoid. None of the issues ever caused us to consider leaving, but they each caused us to wonder whether the issue was endemic to Kerala or India, or just a failing of this individual property. After extensive touring around Kerala, we're now certain that these were all hotel-specific issues that need to be ironed out before it gets rated more highly.

Among the little annoyances ----

Every time the electricity resumed after temporary disruptions (several times a day), an electronic "privacy" light would be lit outside our door, prohibiting access to housecleaning and other hotel personnel. This resulted in ridiculous outcomes...a plumber starts to fix a leaking pipe in the bathroom, steps out for a special wrench, and then doesn't finish the job because when he returns a few minutes later he finds the "privacy" light on (despite no-one being in the room). Unless we were present or left the door propped open, no housecleaining was ever performed.

Wi-fi Internet access is highly unreliable, but is being charged at astoundinngly high rates.. No bill adjustments were offered on the $20 daily charge despite continuous outages (once of over 12 hours during our stay).

Laundry was returned incomplete (i.e. a pair of socks mssing). No-one on staff other than the duty manager dared to call the laundry for an explanation, and even then no explanation or apology was ever offered, and no discount or reparations made. I couldn't lower myself to argue the payment of $1.25 for laundering a pair of socks never returned to us, but be forewarned that they don't bother returning a completed inventory slip with the returned laundry......

All in all we had a very pleasant time at the Leela ---- especially at the Skyview Bar and the Cafe restaurant (perhaps available only for those in "Club" rooms), but forewarned is forearmed about all the small "nigglies" you may encounter here.

  • Stayed: January 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
    • Business service (e.g., internet access)
Thank JeremyNewYork
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 January 2009

For a 5* hotel we were disappointed by the Leela. Because it was larger it felt impersonal and lacked the exclusivity and the charm of somewhere smaller and more individual like the Taj Green Cove.

The private beach wasn't private - anyone could wander onto it. The bedrooms were a good size but were ready for refurbishment even if only to replace the rag-rolled type dated decor.

On the plus side, it had excellent sea views, a good sized pool and an attractive Sky Bar. On the minus side - the evening buffet was only quite good. The beach bar had excrutiatingly slow service and mediocre food.

We upgraded to the more contemporary Club section of the hotel for the last night. This was a lot more expensive but had contemporary decor throughout plus a complimentary afternoon tea with various snacks which were delicious. The pool and the bedrooms were smaller in the Club section however.

Not sure it was worth it for us. Others on this site have enjoyed what the Leela offers. Next time in Kovalam would definitely stay at the Taj Green Cove.

  • Stayed: January 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Location
    • Check-in / front desk
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank Limeturquoise
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about The Leela Kovalam Beach

Address: Kovalam Beach Road, Kovalam 695527, India
Phone Number:
Region: India > Kerala > Thiruvananthapuram District > Kovalam
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Business Centre with Internet Access Fitness Centre with Gym / Workout Room Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Shuttle Bus service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
#2 Family Hotel in Kovalam
#2 Business Hotel in Kovalam
#4 Spa Hotel in Kovalam
#4 Luxury Hotel in Kovalam
#6 Romantic Hotel in Kovalam
Price Range: $296 - $645 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:5 star — The Leela Kovalam Beach 5*
Number of rooms: 183
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
The Leela Raviz Kovalam - Indulgence is an art you will perfect at The Leela Raviz Kovalam while staying in any of our 183 rooms and suites. With a seamless blend of modern technology and traditional grandeur, the soothing décor of each room whispers warm aesthetics. Each room opens out to a breath-taking view of either the ocean or garden. All rooms are provided with luxury amenities to cater to discerning tastes. Unwind with exquisite facilities like an HD LCD television and a broadband connection for hi-speed internet. The Club rooms offer valet services, a gourmet corner with a fine selection of spirits, softdrinks and snacks and have luxurious bathrooms with a walk-in shower and a private infinity pool. Awake to auburn sunrises in the horizon or soak in the sun under azure skies at the infinity pools. Get a taste of the vacation of your dreams at The Leela Raviz Kovalam. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
The Leela Kovalam Beach Hotel Kovalam
The Leela Kempinski Hotel Kovalam
Hotel Leela Trivandrum
The Leela Kovalam Beach Kerala

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