One can experience a less explored India through resorts, hotels and luxury camps across some of the most beautiful and spectacular locales of Uttarakhand through Leisure Hotels. The hotel group offers leisure, adventure and spiritual experiences in the mountainous North Indian State’s tourist and scenic destinations.
EGlobal Travel Media talks to Vibhas Prasad, Director, Leisure Hotels, on the group’s role as a major player in the re-emerging Uttarakhand tourism after the state’s recovery from floods of 2013.
Can you give us a little background on Leisure hotels?
The journey started when our ancestor’s summer home at Nainital got converted to heritage hotel in 1989, named as The Naini Retreat. The majestic building once the home of the Maharaja of Pilibhit is now among the best holiday resorts in Nainital. Our flagship Naini Retreat has received many accolades and stands on the picturesque Ayarpatta slopes, with a breathtaking view of the Naini Lake.
Since then, the company has expanded throughout the state and has had the opportunity to serve the largest number of tourists in Uttarakhand at much sought after locations of Nainital, Corbett National Park, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Ramgarh and Rajaji National Park
As a leading hotel chain in Uttarakhand, what growth do you foresee for the state’s tourism?
Tourism industry has bounced back well after the calamity of 2013. Most of destinations have started receiving domestic as well international travelers.
Though Uttarakand is less known and less explored by international travelers so far, it has all the ingredients and a great potential to be a special holiday destination for discerning travelers who look for peace and tranquility. The Himalayan state has a great diversity of nature with snow-clad mountains, green hills, fertile valleys, flowing rivers and thriving lakes.
Uttarakhand is known as the Abode of the gods for its many revered pilgrimage places of Hindu and Sikh religions at Kedarnath, Badrinath, Hemkund Sahib, Gangotri, Yamunotri, Jageshwar, Bageshwar, Rishikesh and Haridwar. Each hilltop is known to have a temple, big or small, which is considered sacred by locals.
It has many popular hill stations like Almora, Bhimtal, Munsiyari, Mussorie, Nainital, Pithoragarh, Ranikhet, Chopta, Valley of Flowers, Joshimath and Lansdowne. Its a region with several natural lakes that are the center of attraction of the town and render good for sporting activities.
Uttarakhand is also ideal for several adventure sports because of its geographical attributes. Trekking, ice-skiing, white water rafting, sailing, boating, kayaking, canoeing, yachting, water-skiing and parasailing are popular with tourists.
What is your USP?
Prime locations, excellent homely food and warm personalized services are our forte. Leisure hotels also promote experiential holidays across the state. We have launched skiing at Auli from the base camp equipped with luxury cottages at Joshimath, with an exciting whitewater rafting trip on the way back. Stay at Aloha beach camp in Rishikesh includes rafting trip on river Ganga. Wildlife jeep safari, bird watching, nature walk and village walks are offered for a guest at The Forrest, Rajaji National Park.
The Bungalows is a convenient getaway for family and friends with personalized service exclusively devoted to small groups.
How is the support coming from the Government?
Uttarakhand Government has initiated many programs & campaigns to place Uttarakhand on the tourism map of the world & also to develop multiple tourism related resources of the State in an eco friendly manner, with the active participation of the private sector and the local host communities.
What are your expansion plans?
Leisure Hotels has land bank of properties in Uttarakhand & outside the state and is also planning to expand through an asset light model with Management & marketing of properties of Hotels, Resorts & Villa’s (Bungalows) across North & Central India.
Leisure Hotels has built two resorts for Club Mahindra in Naukuchiatal & Corbett National Park. Club Mahindra is looking to expand its presence further in Uttarakhand and have aligned with us to expand its base in the state.
We are about to announce a landmark association with Taj Hotels & Resorts for a property in Corbett National Park in the next couple of months.
How are you marketing your hotels beyond India?
We had a marketing association with Claridges Hotels for a decade (1995 – 2005) that helped us build a brand in Uttarakhand. A large part of our client base has been from India for most of our properties.
However, almost half of our business at our hotels in Haridwar and Rishikesh comes from across the world. With the new property is association with Taj Group, we expect Corbett national park and Uttarakhand to be visible on the world map.
Leisure Group portfolio of 18 luxury hotels, resorts & camps:
- The Riverview Retreat, (Corbett National Park) – Resort, total rooms 62
- The Hideaway River Lodge (Corbett National Park) – Camps, total camps 5
- The Naini Retreat, (Nainital) – Hotel, total rooms 46
- Sun N Snow Inn (Kausani) –Hotel, total rooms 13
- The Bungalows Snow View, (Ramgarh) – Bungalows, total rooms 6
- The Bungalows Lighthouse (Goa)- Villas, total rooms -4 Bedrooms
- The Bungalows Lake Side (Naukuchiatal) – 2 Bungalows, Total rooms- 4 bedrooms
- The Haveli Hari Ganga, (Haridwar) – Hotel, total rooms 20
- Ganga Lahari (Haridwar)- Hotel, total rooms 16
- The Forrest (Rajaji National Park)- Camps, total camps 20
- Aloha On The Ganges (Rishikesh)-Resort, total rooms 50
- The Manor Kashipur- Hotel, total rooms 45
- The Manor Bareilly-Hotel, total rooms 25
- Five Chardham Camps; each one at Badrinath, Kedarnath, Uttarkashi, Gangotri & Yamunotri) –luxury tented camps
Interviewed by Anand & Madhura Katti