Last week, when I checked in at ITC’s latest property — ITC Grand Goa — I was quick to upload a few pictures on social media. That’s when a whole bunch of Goa regulars, who instantly recognised the beautiful Portuguese-style layout, massive swimming pool and ponds of the former Park Hyatt Goa Resort & Spa, asked me the million-dollar question, “So what’s new? How is the new ITC property different from the Hyatt hotel that it has now replaced?”
At the outset, I have to say that it was a rather unique experience to be among the first media guests to get a glimpse of the newly rebranded property. It is interesting to see this transition — an already established property, known and loved by the travel market, being taken over by another Indian hospitality powerhouse. I found myself in the hotel, barely two weeks after ITC Hotels took over, so I witnessed a flurry of activity in terms of new staff, rebranding exercises, staff training and a general overhaul. I did expect to be the only one in the hotel, in addition to my other media colleagues, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that, even in this transitional phase, about 30 of the hotel’s 252 rooms and suites were occupied with guests booked on ITC’s inventory.
What’s changed, you ask? Well, for starters, I did notice that signature ITC hospitality at every corner, with staff beaming with cheerful namastes. The staff uniforms have been redesigned and they are very much in keeping with the linen, summer vibe of the resort, a far cry from the otherwise suited and sari-clad ITC staff in city hotels.
ITC Hotels as a group continues to focus strongly on its food and beverage offering. The former hotel’s F&B spaces have been completely overhauled and rebranded as new offerings. The hotel now features six dining options. a includes two of the hotel chain’s very own brands, Kebabs & Kurries for Indian food and Ottimo for Italian cuisine. The all-day dining area Pavilion at the Market Place is also great. The highlight, for me, however, is its new Goan restaurant Tempero, where local Chef Sarita whips up a host of Goan little-personalised in a beautiful tiled, Portuguese-inspired decor. What’s most awaited, however, is the hotel’s new beachside grill and barbeque, The Royal Afghan, with its breathtaking location on the beach. The Royal Afghan is bound to be a new hot address for all day dining and cocktails in South Goa.
While the rooms and suites remain largely untouched, with their Mediterranean villa-style design, the little bells and whistles of luxury that are within the rooms have quiet to ITC tastes.
I stayed in a most magnificent Suite with a lap pool — four suites at this hotel feature lap pools, highly recommended if you’re travelling with a big family or a group of friends, who are staying in other parts of the resort but want to join the party by your private pool. Perks in my suite included Forest Essentials amenities in the bathroom (I loved the sunken marble bath-shower concept), a capsule coffee maker and little-personalised touches from the hotel’s housekeepers.
As far as the overall layout of the rooms and suites, designed around a network of canals and ponds, remains unchanged.
There are two big draws for me at this property, the hotel group’s 13th in India — the pool and the beach. The pool is said to be among the biggest hotel pools in India, a fact that I cannot actually confirm but by the look of it, it could well be true. The pool literally spans across a large section of the property, meandering along, so guests from all parts of the property can access it easily.
The spectacular Arossim beach is possibly one of Goa’s most picturesque and least touristy. Those seeking the quintessential “beach party” vibe in Goa might be in for disappointment at this deserted, white sand beach, which seems more appropriate for luxury travellers seeking quiet time away from the madding crowds. That said, the buzzing beach shacks of south Goa are a quick ten-minute drive away, should you wish to enjoy a shack experience.
In conclusion, leisure travellers to Goa will be glad to find a new address to stay at, a mere 30-minute drive from the airport, along a beautiful beach, and packed with family-friendly amenities with a great F&B offering. Regulars at this property, who have seen it in its Hyatt avatar, will be glad to see the rather remarkable changes and signature Goan touches brought about by the Indian luxury chain.