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Crafts, culture draw for hotel near airport
Also on the cards

A new hospitality address near the airport promises more cheer for the city’s struggling hotel trade, after a couple of star properties launched in Rajarhat recently sought to buck the downtrend.

Neer Kalagram, a “boutique concept hospitality project embedded in Bengal’s arts, crafts and culture”, is set to unveil a 70-key resort hotel alongside a crafts village near the airport at Donnagar, Madhyamgram, in two years.

“We want to showcase traditional arts of Bengal with a contemporary twist. Our project aims to promote village tourism alongside generating employment and economic activities in the area,” said Aditya Poddar, the chairman of Wellside Hotels & Resorts Pvt Ltd, the company developing the project.

The same group has done the Rs 280-crore restoration of Sir Rajendra Nath Mookerjee’s century-old manor at 7 Ho Chi Minh Sarani, “probably the first heritage house to be conserved as a boutique heritage hotel in eastern India”.

The niche resort-cum-crafts village planned next to the airport, the second “back-to-nature” hospitality format on the city’s fringes after the controversy-scarred Vedic Village, will come up on six acres and is targeting primarily overseas tourists and airline crew.

“Our concept is ‘to live in art is the art of living’ and we are looking at a modest rack rate of Rs 3,500 per room night. The project is awaiting land conversion clearance, and we have been assured by Mr Mollah (state land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah) of an expeditious order,” added Poddar, who divides his time between Singapore and Calcutta.

The Wellside rural resort-hotel project has been concept-designed by architect Dharmesh Jadeja of Buildaur, a unit of Auroville Foundation, and will be “executed by local villagers, using more than 95 per cent indigenous material”, said officials of the company which had engaged Singapore-based Arc Studio for the Mookerjee-residence conservation.

“It’s always a commendable concept to try and promote traditional rural arts of Bengal and if local villagers are empowered, it could work for the community. I believe the group’s application for land-use conversion is being looked into,” said Vinod Kumar, the district magistrate of North 24-Parganas.

The Rs 50-crore (minus land cost) Neer Kalagram plans to rotate the artisans and also foster performing arts of Bengal in its crafts village, in tie-up with the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre. The F&B spread will be predominantly traditional Bengali cuisine and the in-house health spa will use indigenous Bengal therapies.

“The hospitality industry in general is still in the throes of the slowdown, since corporate houses continue to cut travel budget. However, a niche format like this might just work, more so with foreigners as Vedic Village has proved,” said an industry expert.

The Wellside top brass is keen to hard-sell its “soul of Bengal” project to an international audience by showcasing it at ITB Berlin, the world’s largest tourism trade fair, and also at forums like the World Trade Mart in London.

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