Planning to go sight-seeing on the Ganga? You might soon get to spend a couple of days and nights on it. As part of the Ganga rejuvenation scheme to boost tourism on the sacred river, the Narendra Modi-led central government wants to float hotels on it. This was discussed at an inter-ministerial meeting on Monday and the first such project is likely to start near Patna.
The concept is similar to Floatel, a floating hotel - it did not move, though - which was set up in Kolkata in the 1990s on the banks of the Hooghly river.
"The floating hotel will be different from a cruise in that it will not sail from one point to another. And, unlike a houseboat, it will travel only short distances and offer sightseeing tours on the Ganga," a senior government official informs.
According to a senior hotel company executive, "at a time when real estate procurement is a big challenge, not having to scout for land is certainly an advantage for these hotels."
The project will be anchored by the tourism ministry, which is part of the inter-ministerial committee on Ganga, in partnership with private operators. The ministry had earlier taken luxury hotel chains like Taj, Oberoi, ITC to Varanasi for a recce before setting up units there; it will now seek private-sector participation for this venture as well.
Though the concept of a "floating hotel" is still in the ideation stage, hospitality experts are critical and question economic viability of such a project. "Such hotels will be solely dependent on leisure travel. These won't have a mix of clientele which goes against the principle of running hotels. The Ganga experience might be an advantage, but there will be a big seasonality factor involved," says
Achin Khanna, managing director of HVS India, a leading consultancy.
The state governments of Maharashtra and Goa, too, have in the past toyed with the idea of starting such hotels on their shores, but the idea hasn't moved forward. P Srinivas, director (hospitality) at Cushman and Wakefield, another international consulting firm, says: "Unless a big brand comes forward to manage these hotels and provide a huge distribution network, it will be a challenge."
The tourism ministry, however, is confident that the floating hotels will find traction among both domestic and foreign tourists. A host of other measures to make this an attractive proposition for tourists are also in the offing. From the upkeep of waterfront buildings to recreational activities like 3D light-and-sound shows on water, etc, are being planned to make the Ganga plan work.
AN IDEA FLOATS
The 'floating hotels' on the Ganga will be built in partnership with private players
These hotels are likely to be anchored around Patna and Varanasi
- Tourist attractions on the river and along the banks are expected to promote these floating hotels and help boost Ganga tourism