Real Marigold Hotels: Looking at Retirement Hotels In India

Since the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel hit cinema screens in 2011, there’s been a flood of interest in the idea of packing up in old age and living a life of leisure in an Indian ‘retirement hotel’. A second film followed suit and the second series of a BBC reality series- ‘The Real Marigold Hotel’ premiered last night, so at Recoleta Guest House we thought we’d investigate the reality of these Indian retirement hotels, what you can expect and whether we ought to call these communities hotels at all.

Retirement Hotels – A Misnomer?

The first thing to note is that the hotels in question aren’t necessarily reflective of that featured in the film. This took a traditional hotel format, and although unfinished (it wouldn’t have won a place on our best hotel lobbies list last week) it’s still a spacious living space with all the hotel services you’d expect. The reality of these retirements is closer to a retirement community, a collection of supervised housing in many cases, than to what we’d call a ‘hotel’.

Paying for your ‘Retirement Hotel’ Stay

Those retiring to India will typically find themselves in a facility that’s closer to a UK retirement home than to an exotic hotel, but you can forgive the creative licence in the name of cinema. These retirement homes and communities in India aren’t exclusively for those emigrating to India in old age, but also serve the local populations.

However, for those in question, the buy-in price is somewhere around $100,000 per person. This prices much of the Indian population out of the market and means that those moving from the UK are some of the only few that can afford this premium. It is expected that the growing Indian economy will lead to more of the local population to be able to afford these facilities in the coming years however. This factor combined with an ageing Indian population might spike demand for retirement homes, pushing up prices for both the native Indian retired population and the UK and US population who are looking to make the move.

Another distinct difference from the model of hotel operation that we’re familiar with, is the income stream approach of these retirement communities. There are a few ‘monetisation’ options available for the owners of these retirement spaces. Prices can be paid up front to ‘buy’ a room or house in a community, or a deposit can be paid along with monthly payments. The buying option at current has the downside of the fact that homes can’t be passed on to descendants in a will, as only those of retirement age can hold property at these facilities. As such for many this is a large expenditure which is essentially irredeemable, rather than an investment in old age. On the other hand however, the deposit format of payment allows for a deposit to be passed on as part of an inheritance, which is worth bearing in mind for those considering an Indian retirement hotel.

Given the large pool of labour in most major Indian cities, the cost of support staff is far cheaper than in the UK or the USA for example. This is one of the reasons that these communities have come to be considered as closer to hotels. The level of service typically experienced, and often the ratio of staff to residents (which is considered a marker of quality in many parts of the hotel industry) is better than experienced in some equivalent communities in the UK.

A Retirement Holiday

A further consideration, and perhaps another reason that these retirement homes and complexes are thought of ‘hotels’, is the fact that for many it feels like a holiday. The phenomenon of wanting to experience something new in old age is widely recognised, particularly amongst those in good health who still feel a sense of intrigue and adventure that would be ill-suited to life in a traditional UK retirement home. An extended vacation to an exotic location whether in a retirement home or not, allows for fresh experience, which is what the travel industry and the much of the hotel and hospitality industry is geared towards providing.

Whilst the excitement of a new environment might have its charms, its worth noting that many of these communities are in the cities and that India is still part of the developing world. Guests or residents don’t need to stay far outside their ‘retirement hotels’ to experience the realities of Indian cities and the conditions of many of those with whom they share a city. Just as a ‘retirement holiday’ in a ‘retirement hotel’ can be seen as a great adventure for many, the culture shock is a factor which does deter many who consider it from making the change.