India’s royalty is laying down the red carpet and how. Resplendent regalia and commoners, it now seems, makes good business sense.
So much so that now royalties from other parts of the country are catching with what was until now a domain of the Rajputs from the desert state of Rajasthan.
Medieval fortresses, palaces and havelis peppered across Bhopal, Varanasi, Allahabad, Haridwar, Gangtok, Puducherry, Gangtok, Jammu and Mussourie have thrown open its confines for `commoners’ to stay a take a trip down history.
Sector analysts say the tourists have always been curious to experience the “royal lifestyle.”
“Unlike business hotels, which are very static in their outlook, heritage hotels offer wide range of colour, plurality, and vibrancy,” Vibhas Prasad, Director (Business Development) of Leisure Hotels Ltd that owns several heritage sites in Uttaranchal, said.
For long heritage tourism in India was largely limited to Rajasthan.
“There is a great business opportunity in the smaller states and this is beginning to show,” said Arvind Sagar, CEO of Hari Niwas Palace Hotel in Jammu.
Mud Fort village in Kutch, De L’orient and Calve in Puducherry, Kasmanda Palace in Mussourie, Noor-Khill and Netuk House in Gangtok, Fort Unchagaon in Uttaranchal and Haveli Hari Ganga in Hardwar have all been converted into hotels to cash in the boom.
Dinkar Singh, owner of Kasmanda Palace, a heritage hotel in Mussoorie, said: “Tourists are greatly attracted to the heritage sector and that every State has to make a concerted effort to promote tourism, which he feels could be a big booster to the already growing economy”, said Parmar.
Other industry experts echoed similar opinion.
“People come to India not to see our five star culture but to come to India for an experience,” Vijai Lal, Vice President of Indian Heritage Hotels Association, which has over 150 heritage hotels as its members, said.
“The tourists in India, both domestic and foreigners, want to visit places which have characters”, Lal said.
Many states have begun to notice the potential in this line of business. The Gujarat government recently announced a "Heritage Tourism Incentive Package – 2007" scheme that granted exemption to prospective developers, that opted to convert heritage properties built before 1950 into hotels.
But industry experts feel the government needs to do more to promote such tourism and heritage hotels should become an integral part of the “Incredible India” campaign.
“Except Rajasthan and, may be, Gujarat no other state was doing enough to promote heritage tourism,” said Singh. Prasad said there was a strong case for granting easier approvals for setting up these hotels.