Overnight, the Covid-19 pandemic halted businesses, stalled economies and put the world on an extended quarantine. Countries shut their borders, putting the aviation industry on a standstill. And by default, the hospitality and tourism industries paused for a period of time.
It was towards the end of March that the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a national lockdown, shutting shop for many (permanently for some) in India. Towards the end of June is when the first phase of Unlock India was declared; and thereafter, phases of “Unlocks” were announced on a monthly basis, offering respite to the economy gradually.
Domestic aviation restarted in May, however travellers were only seen flying for emergencies and essential reasons.
Phase four of Unlock India announced in late August is when domestic tourism and hospitality sectors finally breathed a sigh of relief. “There shall be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods. No separate permission/approval/e-permit will be required for such movement,” announced the statement by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
People, starved of travel, began planning road-trips and domestic holidays that would let them out of their homes, almost instantaneously. Since the Central Government essentially rescinded the power from the State Governments to impose lockdowns and close borders, domestic travel officially reopened.
With disappearing e-passes, flights open to almost all major cities in the country, tourist attractions opening doors and hotels ready for guests with idealistic sanitisation measures, domestic tourism is making a slow but steady come-back.
Here’s a state wise analysis of how Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Maharashtra and Rajasthan are now welcoming tourists in Unlock phase five.
Steering the Survival: Goa
The Covid-19-Era Update
Goa was one of the first states to open its borders for tourism back in July. It was no surprise since the state is heavily dependent on tourism for its economy, with an annual tourism footfall of approximately eight million. However, it opened with certain restrictions — if you were driving to Goa, travellers required to present an e-pass issued by the Government of Goa or the state you were travelling from, at the Goan border. A negative Covid-19 test result valid 48 hours before your arrival at the border, was also required. If you were travelling via road or air or sea, similar rules of a negative Covid-19 test result applied.
Following Unlock phase four, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant announced that travellers would no longer require an e-pass for their Goan visit, following the Central Government’s order of opening borders without any restrictions. A negative Covid-19 test is also not needed anymore. This is subject to conditions stated by the government — “People can travel to Goa as long as they follow mandatory precautions, including social distancing, use of sanitisers and wearing of masks.”
With the Indian Super League (ISL) event scheduled to be held in Goa this month, over 650 hotels in the state are currently welcoming guests with heightened safety and sanitisation measures.
“Susegad”, derived from the Portuguese word sossegado (means quiet) describes the relaxed, laid-back attitude towards life that is said to have existed historically in Goa, a former Portuguese territory.
For anyone who’s ever visited Goa, “Susegad” is a mirror of how the locals perceive life in this relaxation capital.
While Goa also translates to the party hub of the country, it isn’t advisable to dive into large scale gatherings and happenings when the country is still in the midst of a pandemic. Our advice is to keep it low, and stray towards the tranquil or the Goan way of living on your trip to the beach capital of the country.
It would be advisable to choose a property that has a private beach or has one at a walking distance from it. Spend your evenings gazing at the magical colours of the sunset while you breathe in the fresh air of the ocean, even if it is through a mask. Some of the beaches that we recommend are in the south of Goa, as they’re relatively lesser crowded and cleaner with white sand, are — Candolim, Colva, Benaulim and Varca Beach.
For your meals, there’s plenty of authentic Goan and global cuisine restaurants serving varied international flavours in the state. Head to Baba Au Rhum for a traditional English breakfast alongside some freshly brewed coffee; for lunch, visit Burger Factory, a quaint burger eatery that serves up heartwarming and homely burgers in a casual setting; to catch the sunset from a bird’s-eye-view with a glass of wine, Purple Martini is ideal. Fisherman’s Wharf in Cavelossim is highly recommended for authentic Goan dishes like fish rechado and chicken xacuti.
Where to stay
Located at Vagator Beach, W Goa transforms you into the world of glitz and glamour, synonymous with the W brand. The resort boasts of cottages, suites, chalets and villas as its accommodation types. F&B at the property includes The Kitchen Table, a poolside restaurant; WOOBAR, the in-house bar; and its all-day dining establishment — Spice Traders. Meeting spaces at the hotel spread across 366 sqm. A fitness centre and Spa By Clarins are also present. marriott.com
ITC Grand Goa, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa
Nestled in South Goa beside 45 acres of landscaped gardens, ITC Grand Goa, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa houses rooms and suites in — Garden View, Lagoon View, Pool View and Sea View — categories. De-stress with Ayurvedic rituals at Kaya Kalp – The Royal Spa. Its impressive F&B establishments include Kebab & Kurries (Indian cuisine) and Ottimo Cucina Italiana. The hotel’s meeting spaces span over 1,241 sqm. itchotels.in
Novotel Goa Dona Sylvia Resort
This Accor Hotels’ property located in south Goa, attached to Cavelossim Beach, spreads across 20 acres of lush lawns. Premium Villa, Boutique Villa, Executive Villa and Premium suites are its accommodation categories. For dining, head to Mama Mia, its speciality poolside grill and Kebabs and Kurries, a fine-dining Indian restaurant. Guests can enjoy water sports at the nearby Mobor Beach. The hotel houses three meeting rooms and that can host up to 200 guests. all.accor.com
The Leela Goa
Situated along the Cavelossim Beach, The Leela Goa is nestled in lush surroundings, with swaying palm trees and expansive lawns. Lagoon Terrace rooms, Lagoon suite, Lagoon Deluxe suites, Club Pool suites and Royal Villas are some of its accommodation categories. The Leela’s signature Indian restaurant Jamavar, Riverside (Italian cuisine) and Susegado (beachside grill) are some of its F&B offerings. Guests can enjoy onsite activities like tennis and yoga; or indulge in treatments in its Ayurvedic spa. Its meeting spaces span 929 sqm. theleela.com
Alila Diwa Goa
Alila Diwa Goa blends contemporary Goan architecture with a landscape of rice plantations. Some of its categories include Terrace rooms, Loft rooms, Family suites and Alila suites. The property features Spa Alila for some indulgent therapies, a fitness centre and a swimming pool. Spice Studio (Goan cuisine), The Edge (poolside bar) and Courtyard Bar (a speakeasy bar) are some of its restaurants and bars. Diwa Club is designed as a “resort within a resort” with a lap-pool, an open-air Jacuzzi and a private all-day dining Bistro. alilahotels.com
Fostering heritage: Gujarat
Despite being one of the worst Covid-19 hit states in the country, Gujarat government has been bolstering visitors’ confidence in travelling to the state by launching several new initiatives. From actively promoting domestic tourism with safety guidelines, creating short travel itineraries to announcing the new Heritage Tourism Policy 2020-2025 — all during the pandemic — the state is evidently focusing on tourism development.
Home to a variety of sacred sites and incredible attractions, Gujarat scores brownie points for its breathtaking safaris that include the Gir National Park (which is the only place in the world where you can spot lions roaming free in the wild, besides Africa). Highlighting Gujarat’s sloth bear population, the government has unveiled its plans to offer tourists a whole new safari experience revolving around the majestic animal. As reported in The Indian Express, “The Gujarat government plans to focus on the “sloth bear corridor” covering the stretch between Banaskantha district in the north, where the density of the animal is the highest, and Narmada in the centre-south of the state, aiming at its conservation and potential for tourism.”
In the Dekho Apna Desh webinar series on Mahatma Gandhi, Ahmedabad and the Salt March, Jenu Devan, managing director and commissioner, Gujarat Tourism spoke about the initiatives taken by the state government with the Ministry of Tourism. These include identifying places associated with Gandhi and development of tourist infrastructure in the Gandhi circuit covering the Ahmedabad-Rajkot-Porbandar-Bardoli-Dandi area. He said, “Gujarat is focusing on youth participation promoting philosophies of Gandhiji through activities like the cycle yatra, spiritual live concerts, and a video show in Dandi.”
As a part of the central government’s Swadesh Darshan (see your own country) scheme, prominent tourist sites such as Dholavira and Somnath known for their heritage temples would be developed into iconic tourist destinations.
The aforementioned initiatives highlight that Gujarat is now more determined than ever to show the world, the several hidden gems that it houses, other than the already popular ones such as the Rann of Kutch; Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad; Statue of Unity, Kevadia (the world’s tallest statue, dedicated to Indian independence activist Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel); and Dwarka, a Hindu pilgrimage site.
To boost international as well as domestic tourism, chief minister Vijay Rupani has recently announced the Heritage Tourism Policy 2020-2025. According to the policy, historical monuments, palaces, forts built before 1950, can be now converted into hotels, heritage museums, heritage banquet halls and restaurants provided the “basic heritage” structure is not altered or damaged. Under this policy, the state government will provide financial assistance for setting up a new heritage hotel or redevelop an existing one. Similarly, an aid of `45,00,000 to ten million is also available for heritage museums, heritage banquet halls and restaurants.
Where to stay
Grand Mercure Gandhinagar GIFT City
Accor’s new Grand Mercure branded property is located in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT), that connects the business capital, Ahmedabad and political capital, Gandhinagar. This 151-key hotel features local elements that are seen across the hotel’s premium services, food and accommodation. all.accor.com
Surat Marriott Hotel
This Marriott property offers spacious rooms in categories such as Select King, Select Twin and Executive King among others. Its leisure facilities include an outdoor pool, spa and a 24-hour fitness centre. Surat Marriott Hotel is also ideal for hosting weddings as it is home to several event venues and outdoor areas. marriott.com
Hyatt Regency Ahmedabad
Centrally located in the heart of the Gujarat business capital, Hyatt Regency Ahmedabad makes for a preferred destination for business and leisure travellers. This upscale, modern establishment offers 210 well-appointed rooms including 19 luxurious suites overlooking the Sabarmati River. Room amenities include King size bed, a dedicated work desk, exquisite bath toiletries among others. hyatt.com
Lemon Tree Premier, Dwarka
The hotel is located adjacent to the Iskon gate, which is one km from the Dwarkadhish temple. Offering stunning views of the temple, the 109-key hotel features guest-rooms and suites that are a combination of traditional and modern elements. Their F&B offering is a multi-cuisine coffee shop called Citrus. Events can be organised at the expansive meeting spaces including large conference rooms, a boardroom and a fully equipped business centre. lemontreehotels.com
An outdoor playground: Himachal Pradesh
It is time to pack our bags and wander in the hills, as the Himachal Pradesh government now allows inter-state travel without an e-pass after closing borders for over five months. The state is heavily dependent on tourism and has a myriad of places and pilgrimage spots within its borders. Himachal has started welcoming long and short-term guests since August, and with winter approaching, travellers are all set to throng here for adventure activities and snowfall views.
Authorities in Himachal Pradesh have been taking several initiatives that will encourage people to consider spending holidays in the state later this year. To boost the state’s infrastructure and connectivity, the Atal Tunnel, deemed to be the highest altitude tunnel in the world, was inaugurated in Rohtang last month. The 9 km long tunnel connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley throughout the year. Earlier the valley was cut off for about six months each year owing to heavy snowfall. This tunnel is said to reduce the road distance by 46 km between Manali and Leh and the duration for travel by about four to five hours. “Atal Tunnel is going to be a lifeline for a large part of Himachal Pradesh as well as the new Union Territory of Leh-Ladakh and would reduce the distance between Manali and Keylong by three to four hours,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his recent address. He added that now parts of Himachal Pradesh and Leh-Ladakh will always be connected with the rest of the country and would witness speedier economic progress.
Though most of the areas in the region are fully opened for tourism, Himachal Pradesh’s popular Spiti valley is likely to remain shut until the end of this year. Official notice by the Spiti Tourism Society says, “The decision to close down tourism and keep Spiti and tourists safe has been taken unanimously after multiple meetings with the native population which include all stakeholders like hoteliers, homestay owners, guides, travel associates, cab drivers and the local committee. Tourism activities such as jeep safaris, package tours, trekking and camping will not be allowed.”
WORK FROM MOUNTAINS
Himachal Pradesh is emerging as one of the workation destinations in the country considering the current Covid-19 scenario. Business travellers looking to escape the monotony can travel to some offbeat locations within the region. Homestays, Bnbs and hotels have curated specific packages for such type of travellers. Spend your time working in Jibhi, a lesser-explored Himalayan village located in Banjar Valley or set up your work desk at Chamba, Naddi or Kasol. Corporates looking for long-term stays can choose Palampur and the neighbouring areas of Bir Billing as well.
ROADMAP TO RECOVERY
The Himachal government stands with hospitality in the tourism sector in the time of crisis. Jai Ram Thakur, chief minister of Himachal Pradesh said, “To help the industry stay afloat, we are introducing “a scheme for interest subvention on working capital loan for hospitality industry”; whereby loans will be provided to tourism operators as working capital for their immediate financial needs.”
Where to stay
Hyatt Regency Dharamshala Resort
Hyatt’s first mountain resort property in India is inspired by Dharamshala’s unique heritage and culture. Situated in the Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh, Hyatt Regency Dharamshala Resort offers 80 elegant guestrooms, including Regency Club rooms and three suites. All rooms feature modern amenities, overlook the lush gardens, cedarwood trees, or the snowcapped Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas. The property offers bespoke experiences such as yoga sessions, meditation in a Buddhist temple, guided photography walks among others. hyatt.com
Taj Theog Resort & Spa, Shimla
Located at a convenient distance from Shimla and Chandigarh, Taj Theog Resort and Spa, Shimla features colonial architecture. Each guestroom offers wooden furnishings, traditional rugs and French windows. Guests can enjoy local and international cuisine at Tragopan. Other F&B options include Peony serving oriental delights and Theog Junction, the pub which pays a tribute to the classic toy train that goes from Kalka to Shimla. tajhotels.com
Ramada by Wyndham Kasauli
Ramada by Wyndham Kasauli offers guestrooms with breathtaking views, soothing spa treatments, and an outdoor pool for rejuvenation. The hotel also features flexible MICE venues to host business meetings or weddings. This is the perfect destination for all the travellers looking for a beautiful escape in the hills. wyndhamhotels.com
Wildflower Hall, An Oberoi Resort, Shimla
Located 8,250 feet above sea level in the Himalayas and adorned by acres of fragrant cedar forest, the resort houses spacious accommodations offering garden and valley views. Guests can enjoy experiences such as biking, indulge in a five-course meal at the Gazebo, a private nature walk, and The Sanctuary Experience — a guided walk to a secluded location in the forest. oberoihotels.com
Empowering locals: Kerala
It is safe to say that Kerala, with its quick and efficient response, has been a model state in the fight against Covid-19 right from the beginning. Active surveillance, risk communication, strong community participation and addressing psychosocial needs of residents are some of the noteworthy measures that the southern Indian state is adopting to tackle the crisis.
On the tourism front, Kerala is utilising this relatively restricted travel period to support local tourism groups and raise awareness about their indigenous offerings.
Ayurveda is seen as a key factor in Kerala’s tourism revival, considering the increased importance of healing and wellness in the pandemic. For a holistic wellness sojourn in Kerala, we recommend Beach and Lake Ayurvedic Resort in Thiruvananthapuram; Somatheeram Ayurveda Village and Niraamaya Retreats Surya Samudra, Kovalam among others.
Eco-tourism and adventure tourism are also set to be promoted extensively. Beyond the serene beaches, picturesque backwaters, scrumptious culinary selection and illustrious culture, Kerala boasts locations that are drenched in nature and replete with adrenaline-pumping activities.
Few eco-tourism sites that you must add to the itinerary for your next trip to Kerala include Silent Valley National Park; Parambikulam Tiger Reserve; Shendurney; Nilambur – Nedumkayam and Chembra Peak. Adventure junkies can try out river rafting at Bhoothathankettu, Ernakulam; surfing in Kovalam; and paragliding in Vagamon hill station.
Realising the importance of a collective approach in this reopening phase, Kerala has announced that it will work in tandem with tourism boards of other states to boost domestic travel. Plans are afoot to prepare itineraries that include destinations in the neighbouring states as well.
The state tourism board has also assured full support to the unified guidelines and protocols issued by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, stating that “these would serve as a road map for the states to revitalise domestic tourism and reinstate India’s position as a high value destination”.
Furthermore, the tropical paradise will make its presence felt on the Incredible India (the country’s official tourism campaign) digital platform by providing distinct and relevant content.
Kerala government’s Chief Minister’s Tourism Loan Assistance Scheme (CMTLAS) is expected to provide major respite to the travel and tourism stakeholders in the region. The schemes rolled out to support local travel groups and communities include:
Tourism Working Capital Support Scheme: Tourism entrepreneurs/establishments can apply for working capital loan up to `25,00,000 at a rate of interest as per the approved policy of respective banks.
Tourism Employment Support Scheme (TESS): Employees engaged in the travel and the tourism sector can apply for short-term personal loans up to `30,000 from Kerala Bank (Kerala State Co-operative Bank) at an interest rate of nine per cent.
Tourism Houseboats Support Scheme (THSS): One-time financial assistance up to `1,20,000 to the houseboat owners for maintenance of houseboats.
Tourism Guides Support Scheme (TGSS): One-time financial assistance of `10,000 to licensed tourist guides – approved by Kerala Tourism and India Tourism – working in the state’s tourism sector.
Where to stay
Coconut Lagoon, Kumarakom
Located on Vembanad Lake, this CGH Earth resort is accessible by boat. Each accommodation at Coconut Lagoon has its own distinct charm and is characterised by traditional and nature-inspired elements. Their dining facility features Vembanad Grill to enjoy fresh catch of the day; Ettukettu serving a variety of cuisines along with a rustic environment and Aymanam, the lakeside restaurant for a delectable Kerala feast. Experiences that you can enjoy during your stay here include bird watching; canoe riding and traditional art forms. cghearth.com
The Malabar House, kochi
A Relais & Châteaux property, The Malabar House is an ideal pick for those looking for a heritage stay experience in the vibrant city of Kochi. The rooms and suites adorn stunning colour schemes and striking artworks. While Malabar Junction offers innovative Kerala and Mediterranean cuisine, Divine, the wine lounge creates the perfect atmosphere to unwind with drinks. Exploring Fort Cochin and de-stressing with Ayurveda treatments are a few leisure offerings to enjoy. relaischateaux.com
The Raviz Kovalam
The Raviz Kovalam boasts being India’s only clifftop beach resort. All accommodation categories like Duplex suite, Club suite, Presidential suite, Club room, Beach View Superior and Garden View rooms have Kerala-style interiors complemented by state-of-the-art amenities. The F&B outlets include The Terrace, a multi-cuisine restaurant; The Tides for seafood; The Sky Bar for drinks and tapas with gorgeous sunsets; and The Bar for nibbles, cocktails, classic single malts and bourbons. The resort houses some interesting indoor and outdoor venues for corporate affairs and wedding celebrations. theravizkovalam.com
Taj Bekal Resort & Spa, Kerala
The villas and rooms at this Taj resort resemble the Ketuvallam houseboats. The luxurious abodes open to stellar views of the sea, swaying palms, lush greenery and the backwaters. Enjoy coastal delicacies at By The Bay; local Keralite dishes at Backwater Cafe; Barbeque at Grills N More; and premium spirits at Ivory Bar. tajhotels.com
Port Muziris, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, Kochi
This Marriott property is located in Nedumbassery, directly across from Cochin International Airport. The rooms aesthetically blend local and contemporary design. Savour local food at Lilas Kitchen and head to The Kettle for a fine selection of drinks and quick bites. Owing to its strategic location, the hotel is well suited for business meets and events. marriott.com
The new era of Indian tourism: Maharashtra
THE LATEST ENDEAVOURS
“In these turbulent times, where we find ourselves confined in our living spaces, I have realised how important it is to fulfil the urge of travelling,” writes Aaditya Uddhav Thackeray, Cabinet Minister of Tourism and Environment, Government of Maharashtra, in his travelogue on World Tourism Day that is held on September 27.
While the world gradually opens up its borders, slowly resurrecting the economy, Maharashtra Government has been seamlessly working towards widening the horizons of tourism in the state. The 29-year old Tourism Minister, Aaditya Thackeray, can be accredited for the same. Under his leadership, the Maharashtra tourism department has sent at least five major policy decisions to the state cabinet since the advent of the pandemic, all of which have been approved.
This includes the Beach Shack Policy which will encourage locals living on the coastline of Maharashtra to open beach shacks that would serve as local hangouts/eateries for tourists. They would much resemble the famed shacks of Goa that have become synonymous with a Goan holiday. The policy also allows local companies to offer water sports to travellers on Maharashtra’s coastline, elevating the beachside experience of the state.
The government has also passed the Agri-Tourism Policy that will facilitate homestay in farms and encourage villages to open their lands to tourists who want to engage in organic lifestyle experiences like strawberry picking and mango plucking.
In addition, keeping up with the trend of road-trips that has gained momentum recently, the tourism department in association with Motohom (Moving hotels on Wheels) launched caravan services. “Flagged off MTDC and Motohom’s caravan vehicles for those who love their holidays in the outdoors and independently. Inviting those who want to spend their “me time” in the wilderness, exploring the beauty of Maharashtra,” said Thackeray in a Tweet following the launch. This move has significantly simplified local travel for travellers who not only wish to maintain a level of safety during their trips but also explore Maharashtra through a different lens.
The next move capitalises on India’s fervour for cricket; and the Maharashtra Government plans to position Mumbai as the heart of this sport in the country. The department will be working with the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) to give all cricket fans a unique guided tour experience at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. Along with the stadium experience tour, Thackeray also plans to open a museum of “Indian Cricket emanating from Mumbai.”
Sindhudurg, with its beautiful coastline; Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve, a wildlife sanctuary; and the beach town of Alibaug, Maharashtra’s very own “Hamptons”— are also on top of the list for this tourism makeover. The department has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Taj Group, to develop five-star tourism centres in Sindhudurg and Tadoba. Simplifying travel between Mumbai and Alibaug, the department has relaunched the Ro-Ro car ferry service that first started back in March 2020 but had stopped following the pandemic. This service allows travellers to drive into the ferry that transports them in their own vehicles to Alibaug in 60 minutes.
“That’s only the beginning. Our department is working 24/7 to ensure that Maharashtra shines on the tourism map of India soon, creating jobs and revenue for the state,” said the minister in one of his Tweets.Summits, Sunsets and City Life
From concrete jungles like Mumbai and Pune to beachside locales of Sindhudurg and Alibaug; from treks to the picturesque summits of the Sahyadri hills to the vineyards of Nashik — Maharashtra can be pegged as the one-stop-shop for tourism in India. If you are keen to explore the state in depth, here’s what you should have on your list.
Explore Maharashtra’s rich maritime history in Sindhudurg, at its sea forts that date back to the 12th century. Visit Suvarnadurg, literally translating to the “Golden Fort” to transport yourself to the era of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, who conquered the fort from his enemies in 1660. There are also a few dive spots at this coastal town that allow you to scuba dive alongside the marine diversity of the state.
You could also plan a trip to Maharashtra’s oldest and largest national park, Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve that reopened for eco-tourism from October, after being closed due to the virus. Tadoba is home to a sizable population of the Bengal tiger, along with Indian leopards, sloth bears, striped hyenas and jungle cats.
Big cities like Mumbai and Pune need no introduction, and if you’re travelling to these metropolises for a flavour of the “city lifestyle”, check into one of the many five-star hotels for a staycation experience. The concierge teams at the hotels would be happy to draft itineraries for you depending on your preferences. From architecture to colonial style pubs, both of Maharashtra’s financial hubs have much to offer.
From waterfalls to mist-filled mountain peaks, the Sahyadri hills of Maharashtra are lined with spots that satiate the nature lovers’ quest for exploration. Some of the trekking routes we recommend are — Rajmachi Fort, Kalsubai Peak, Peb Fort and Torna Fort treks. Climb to the top of these forts for glorious vistas of mountains, while being serenaded by majestic birdsong that echoes through the hills.
For wine connoisseurs, Nashik may be the closest alternative to the vineyards of Tuscany and Champagne in India. Sula and York are some of the Nashik-based Indian wine companies that not only offer tours of their lush vineyards but also house resorts that blend the indulgence of the grape with a relaxing stay.
NEW LAUNCHES BY MTDC
Maharashtra Tourism has inaugurated two new properties in the state — Grape Park Resort, Gangapur, Nashik and Youth Hostel in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai. The launch of these two establishments will contribute extensively to Maharashtra’s leisure and MICE tourism segment.
Where to stay
Coco Shambhala, Sindhudurg
Coco Shambhala is a boutique luxury hotel brand that has an outpost in Sindhudurg. The property features a collection of four bespoke luxury villas that are set in a tropical garden, overlooking the beach. Each villa has a stunning sea facing living area, two large bedrooms also facing out to the sea, a well-stocked bar in the living pavilion and its own infinity pool. There is no restaurant on the premises. Every meal is a specially curated private dining experience in the villa. The spa is equipped with a steam room and two massage rooms. cocoshambhala.com
The Ritz-Carlton, Pune
The Ritz-Carlton, Pune is an uber luxury address in the Maharashtrian city. Featuring 198 rooms including 35 suites, the accommodation features the signature Ritz-Carlton sleep experience including a pillow menu, a marble bathroom with soaking tub and Asprey bath amenities. Enjoy modern Japanese cuisine at Ukiyo and all-day dining at Three Kitchens Restaurant and Bar. The Ritz-Carlton Spa is known for its modern treatments and ancient healing therapies while its outdoor temperature controlled pool is ideal for any season. The hotel’s meeting spaces span 3,251 sqm. ritzcarlton.com
The St. Regis Mumbai
Marriott International’s The St. Regis Mumbai is located in the heart of the city attached to Palladium Mall in Lower Parel. The accommodation offers scenic views of the city and the Arabian sea. Grand Deluxe rooms, Premier rooms, St. Regis suites and Caroline Astor suites are some of the categories. The hotel is known for its impressive F&B offerings that include Yuuka for authentic Japanese dining, The Sahib Room & Kipling Bar for innovative Indian fare, and By the Mekong for Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese flavours. Iridium Spa, an outdoor swimming pool and 22 spacious meeting rooms are some of the other facilities at the hotel. marriott.com
Beyond by Sula, Nashik
Beyond by Sula, Nashik is Sula Vineyards boutique luxury hotel that features seven exclusive lake-view rooms and one lavish Sky Villa. The rooms overlook an infinity swimming pool that offer a stunning view of surrounding hills and the Gangapur lake. Rooms are stocked with Sula wines and the hotel offers curated tours of the Sula Vineyards. The hotel houses a multi-cuisine all-day restaurant on site and also offers bikes for rental. If a spa treatment is on your mind, Beyond by Sula can have that arranged for you at The Source at Sula, a partner hotel at Sula Vineyards. sulawines.com
Regal revival: Rajasthan
Rajasthan has always managed to grab the attention of the domestic as well as international travel community with its incomparable hospitality, vibrant cultural history and magnificent architecture. Even during the Covid-19-induced lull phase, the royal state managed to keep a connection with travellers across the globe via virtual tours of some of its most popular spots such as Mehrangarh Fort, Jaswant Thada and Umaid Bhawan Palace.
With travel limping back to normalcy, Rajasthan is now coming up with new means for tourism. One amongst these is bicycle tours — the state tourism board is urging travellers to see the city whilst pedalling away. This will contribute towards a more sustainable transport future that we aim to achieve soon alongside following social distancing.
Short stay is another travel trend that Rajasthan is promoting. If you are a frequent visitor on Rajasthan Tourism’s social media platforms, you must have come across their enticing posts regarding weekend and short stays in Mount Abu, Udaipur and Pushkar among others.
With a focus to reposition Rajasthan as the preferred tourist destination in the domestic and global travel sector, the state has rolled out a new tourism policy. Strengthening and diversifying existing tourism products; expanding tourist accommodation infrastructure; giving priority to lesser-known destinations; facilitating tourism specific skill development to generate self employment; encouraging private sector investment in the state and improving tourist grievance redressal systems are a few objectives of Rajasthan Tourism Policy 2020.
As per the five-year policy, two to three prominent monuments or sites in each of the seven administrative divisions of the state will be developed as “iconic monuments” or sites. Best practices in ticketing, tourist amenities, guides/audio guides and augmented reality service will be adopted to offer a well-rounded travel experience.
Many villages in the state house prominent heritage hotels or sites and are home to popular art or craft forms. The policy aims to identify them in each district and declare them as a “Special Heritage Village” (SHV) or a “Special Craft Village” (SCV).
To expand and support experiential tourism products by private stakeholders, the state government will compile a database of all such offerings and publish an e-brochure for dissemination through web portal and social media platforms.
Pristine locations with beautiful sand dunes in untapped areas such as stretches around Sambhar, Pushkar, Nagaur and Bikaner will also be identified and promoted as new desert destinations.
In the adventure tourism sector, special incentives will be given to promote aero-, aqua- and land-based activities. To nurture wildlife and eco-tourism, the policy seeks to develop new sites and introduce eco certification schemes for hotels, restaurants, and similar tourism related establishments.
For MICE and wedding tourism, measures will be taken to identify, grade and list such facilities. “Promoters intending to establish integrated MICE facilities comprising convention centres, exhibition rooms, hotels with more than two lakh square feet carpet area will be exempted from stamp duty,“ reads the official document.
The policy also lays out detailed efforts that are in the pipeline for strengthening cultural, religious, wellness, crafts and cuisine tourism in the state.
Where to stay
The Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur
Spread over thirty acres on the banks of Lake Pichola, The Oberoi Udaivilas, Udaipur effortlessly sets the tone for an opulent stay. The accommodation showcases an amalgamation of Mewar inspired motifs, elegant furnishings and modern amenities. Relish the best of Indian and western cuisines at the all-day dining restaurant Suryamahal. The al fresco dining terrace, Chandni and fine-dining restaurant, Udaimahal further elevate the F&B experience. oberoihotels.com
Mihir Garh, Jodhpur
This boutique Relais & Châteaux property features nine suites, each emitting a regal aura. Recreational amenities include The Spa and infinity edge pool offering breathtaking views of Thar wilderness. A range of local delicacies are served amidst scenic settings. In addition, Mihir Garh is an interesting pick for intimate wedding celebrations. houseofrohet.com
ITC Rajputana, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Jaipur
ITC Rajputana celebrates the grandeur and spirit of Rajput palaces. Accommodations are spread across categories such as Rajputana Chambers Pool View, Rajputana Royale and Thikana suite to name a few. Visit Peshawri to taste authentic flavours of the north west frontier or Jaipur Pavilion for multi-cuisine à la carte. Grand indoor and outdoor settings are available for gala dinners and cocktail parties. itchotels.in
Alila Fort Bishangarh
This majestic establishment is one of the most sought after addresses in Jaipur for leisure holidays. The rooms are well-equipped with high-end amenities that are tastefully placed across a luxurious space. Madhuveni, Nazaara and Amarsar, spoil guests with their fine hospitality and sophisticated decor. alilahotels.com
This boutique hotel in Jodhpur houses everything that you require for an uber-luxe vacation. The hotel has lavish rooms and suites blending traditional and modern style sense. Flatter your taste buds with local and international cuisine at Baradari or check out Darikhana for al fresco dining. The hotel boasts several charming sites, required for a gram worthy travel. raashotels.com