GE Hotel likely to reopen in 2007

Indrani Dutta

KOLKATA: Bharat Hotels Ltd (BHL) which recently won the deal for the Great Eastern Hotel (GEH) will invest sufficient resources to transform the crumbling heritage-hotel into a world-class entity, Chairman and Managing Director, Lalit Suri, said.

Talking to The Hindu, he said depending on the assessment of a team which would be sent after signing the pact with the West Bengal government (likely on November 30), BHL would zero in on the investment on GEH. "As of now, we have decided to invest Rs. 70 crore in the first year, followed by Rs. 30 crore the year after and Rs. 20 crore in the third year. This is all tied up — but I am ready to put in whatever is necessary to transform this hotel," he said.

Architect to be chosen

The Rajya Sabha MP, who is the president of the Hotel Association of India and Honorary Chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council-India Initiative, said a soft partial launch was being targeted for January 2007. It takes about Rs. 15 lakh to do up a room.

BHL may also add to the 213 rooms that this 165-year-old hotel has. An architect is likely to be chosen soon.

GEH's fa�ade would be retained although work had to be done to strengthen the foundation of GEH, which was being positioned as a five-star deluxe hotel. "We have done it in Srinagar which is a 1910 structure and the palace residence of the family of Karan Singh. We have also preserved the heritage of the Lake Udaipur Palace while strengthening the structure built in 1911 by Maharana Bhupal Singh," he said.

BHL runs seven luxury hotels under `The Grand' banner having 1,600 rooms in the five-star deluxe segment. Of these, four are Intercontinental Grand hotels and three `The Grand' destination hotels. BHL's 2004-05 turnover stood at Rs. 203 crore with a profit of Rs. 78 crore.

The target for 2005-06 was over Rs. 300 crore. Starting with InterContinental The Grand, New Delhi, in 1988, BHL signed in 2001, a deal to operate and manage (with the approval of the Disinvestment Committee) The Ashok Hotel in Bangalore, an ITDC hotel.

In 2002, BHL successfully bid for two more ITDC properties — Laxmi Vilas Palace Udaipur and a 40-room hotel in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh. Its other properties are located in Goa, Mumbai and Srinagar. A greenfield venture in Dubai was now on the anvil.

Referring to the many tenants (some a 100-year-old) running mostly ragtag shops from within the GEH premises, Mr. Suri said: "We will have to examine the legal position," he said.