Heritage buildings attract hoteliers

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By BIBHUTI BARIK
  • Published 18.11.10
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(From top) Fort Mahodadhi, the historic building developed by KHIL in Puri after renovation work; Bar On, the bar inside Fort Mahodadhi with its British colonial ambience; Old world charm, the entrance to the building with old architectural structure and a room with its old look. Pictures by Sarat Patra

Bhubaneswar, Nov. 17: The heritage buildings in Orissa have finally managed to draw the attention of the hospitality industry that plans to turn some of them into tourist destinations.

While a historic property in Puri has already been given a makeover, two royal palaces near Chilika are likely to be renovated soon. Mahodadhi, a historic building owned by the Orissa Tourism Development Corporation (OTDC) on the Puri beach, has been renamed Fort Mahodadhi and given a colonial look. With such a majestic ambience, this property with 16 rooms, a spa, multi-cuisine restaurant, conference hall and coffee shop is set to rake in the money as a tourist spot.

Developed by Kamat Hotels (India) Limited (KHIL), Fort Mahodadhi retains its old world charm with a colonial style bar called ‘Bar on’ and a restaurant with local, pan-Indian and continental food.

“For Fort Mahodadhi, the promoters have signed a long-term lease agreement with OTDC. But the original look of the property will not be changed. The original property belonged to a royal family of West Bengal but later the State Tourism Department became the owner,’’ said a senior OTDC official.

“Orissa has plenty of resources to promote tourism, especially eco-tourism, and has the potential to earn copious foreign exchange. Apart from doing business, we want to promote the state as an international tourist destination,” said Venkatesh Krishna Kamat, chairman and managing director of KHIL, adding that after Fort Mahodadhi, Rambha Palace near Chilika lake and Parikud Palace on an island in the lake would be developed as tourist sites.

“In fact, a ‘Ga’ (meaning village) restaurant and a continental restaurant at Rambha Palace have already started functioning. Like the tourist sites in Orissa, even Oriya cuisine needs to be promoted. So through our restaurants we want to promote them,” Kamat said.

“Rambha Palace will be renovated into a 24-room facility. In this hotel, there will be an exclusive bird library that would stock reference books on birds. We expect many tourists to watch birds in Chilika Lake from here. We are also planning a dolphinarium to educate people on conservation aspects of the endangered marine animal, which is also seen in Satapada region of the largest brackish water lake of Asia,’’ Kamat added.

“To retain the original grandeur of the palace and its interiors in some of the rooms, we will leave the original paintings. All suite rooms and bathrooms with their old fittings will not be altered as they would hamper the aesthetics,’’ added a senior manager from KHIL.

V. Sugnana Kumari Deo, MLA from Kavisuryanagar and heir of Rambha Palace said: “The old palace was famous for holding the first session of Utkal Sammilani. The KHIL people have assured me to promote the building with its original structure and also beautifying some other aspects through value addition, but restoring the old form.”

“Chilika can be promoted with a 50-100 year futuristic plan, targeting people who are interested in migratory birds and dolphins. By creating one room in a good hotel you can give jobs to 35 people and more than 72 get indirect employment. So promotion of tourism with the help these heritage buildings will also add to creation of more jobs for local youths and professionals. We have 50 quality hotels in India abroad, so we can bring in over 2 lakh tourists to Orissa in a year for eco-tourism only,” the KHIL promoter said.

“Post renovation, Parikud Palace will have similar features like its Rambha counterpart. Both the places will not only cater to the needs of the high-end travellers, but special events including educational tours for students, children staying with grand parents with concessional rates will be announced later so that more people from the states can participate in our activities,” he said.

City-based travel consultant Debasish Mohapatra said: “The efforts put by KHIL is encouraging. But the local hoteliers and OTDC in partnership with private small-time players should plan to develop other royal palaces across the state for tourism promotion. This effort will add to Orissa’s tourism potential in the international market.”