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Heritage tourism: Hospitality majors eyeing kothis, havelis in UP

9 heritage properties on block for private bidders

The central courtyards of most heritage hotels come with the characteristic architecture of yore

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Virendra Singh Rawat Lucknow

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Prominent hospitality brands, including Taj, Oberoi, Hyatt Regency, and others, are aiming to acquire heritage properties such as kothis and havelis in Uttar Pradesh, under a heritage tourism blueprint.

The state government has unveiled an ambitious plan to offer premium heritage properties to private players in select towns like Lucknow, Mathura, Kanpur, and others.

In this phase, the state tourism department has identified nine palaces and forts for conversion into heritage properties. These will cater to the premium segment of both domestic and international tourists and backpackers.

The heritage properties in question include Chhattar Manzil in Lucknow; Chunar Fort in Mirzapur; Barua Sagar Fort in Jhansi; Kothi Gulistan-e-Iram, Kothi Darshan Vilas and Kothi Roshan in Lucknow; Barsana Jal Mahal in Mathura; Shukla Talab in Kanpur; and Tikait Rai Baradari in Bithoor.

While these heritage sites will be transformed into hospitality-grade properties, meticulous attention will be paid to preserve their original decor, style, and archaeological significance. This will form part of the agreement to be signed with the selected private partner.

As the state tourism department has commenced the bidding process, a host of top hotels, resorts, and hospitality majors have shown interest in the project. Some of the interested parties include Leela Hotels, Neemrana Hotels, Indian Hotels Company (Taj), Mahindra Hotels and Resorts, Oberoi, The Lalit, Hyatt Regency, Sarovar Hotels and Resorts, Accor Group, Royal Orchid Hotels, Ramada, Clarks, Bridgeman Group of Hotels, and others.

UP tourism principal secretary, Mukesh Meshram, stated that more than 40 heritage tourism companies and entrepreneurs had shown interest in various heritage properties and buildings in the state.

Additionally, the state government conducted studies on the heritage tourism landscape in states like Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, and Rajasthan before finalising its heritage tourism norms and standards.

"The successful bidder will be picked on the basis of quality and cost-based selection method," Meshram said, adding that the criteria for the conservation of heritage buildings have been explicitly defined.

The revamped heritage properties will feature modern tourist amenities and services such as wellness centres, resorts, museums, heritage restaurants, boutique restaurants, banquet halls, wedding tourism, adventure tourism, home-stays, thematic parks, hospitality units, and more.

The central aim of promoting heritage tourism is to enhance the overall tourism sector in UP, create local employment opportunities, encourage rural tourism, and stimulate socio-economic growth.

"The emphasis on heritage tourism will restore our heritage assets, spur economic development, and generate employment opportunities," a government spokesperson explained.

Furthermore, the state government has set a minimum investment requirement of Rs 180 crore for the heritage tourism plan.

The criteria and responsibilities for the private partners encompass maintaining the original layout of archaeological buildings, avoiding alterations to the original form of the properties, preserving the building's mythological and historical significance, providing informative signage about the history of the heritage building, and promoting local culture, cuisine, arts, attire, and cultural practices.

The private sector partner will also be expected to develop neighbouring villages under Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), besides ensuring that 25 per cent of employment is offered to the local populace.

In addition to this initiative, the Yogi Adityanath government is developing Mahabharat and Ramayan circuits as part of its broader tourism strategy.

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First Published: Aug 23 2023 | 11:41 PM IST

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