India’s first planned hill city, Lavasa, sticks to its ambitious target of becoming a tourism hub in the coming years, though of late it has been mired in controversies related to environment clearances. It plans to have 1,000 hotel rooms by 2012, about 2,250 by 2015, and 4,000 by 2021.
A Lavasa Corporation (it is an arm of Hindustan Construction Company) official confirmed leading national and international hotel brands had either signed up for these projects or were in advanced stages of negotiation. Lavasa has just a couple of hotels presently and some serviced apartments, with a total capacity of 250 rooms.
For 2,250 rooms, the investment is pegged at Rs 1,100 crore, according to Nathan Andrews, executive vice-president (business development). This excludes the land and financing cost. The new hotels that were planning to check into Lavasa, included Accor group’s Novotel and Pullman Novotel, Hilton’s DoubleTree, Langham Place, Langham Eaton, Choice Inn, Holiday Inn and Days Inn, Andrews told Business Standard.
These are a mix of five-star, business, four-star, three-star and economy hotels.
Once Lavasa, an hour’s drive from Pune and three hours from Mumbai, meets its target of 4,000 hotel rooms, the city would have up to 10,000 people on weekends and 5,000 during weekdays, according to Andrews.
Around two million visitors, including day visitors, in a year is being planned. Himachal Pradesh, which has several popular hill stations, including Shimla, attracted 13.29 million tourists in 2010. India had five million foreign tourists last year.
When asked whether Lavasa was trying to model itself on any foreign tourist spot or hill station, Andrews said, “It will create an example of its own.” Projecting it as a destination for nature tourism, adventure tourism, educational tourism and health/wellness tourism, he said Lavasa was in talks with several international groups for setting up convention centres, country clubs and theme parks.
Saying the biggest challenge was “the speed with which it can be created”, he chose to remain quiet on the controversies surrounding the project. In January, Lavasa moved the Bombay High Court, challenging the environment ministry’s order preventing further construction.
The ministry wanted Lavasa to file its development plans, based on which an environment clearance could be granted to the project. Subsequently, Lavasa applied afresh for the first phase of its project. Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh had said the matter was being considered by an expert appraisal committee.