A good clean room with proper service — that is the least one expects while staying in a hotel. But there are some unusual ones that go beyond one’s expectations and compel you to travel just to stay there
Ever wondered why you like to stay in some hotels more than others?
Probably the ambience in a particular case, the services it offers, the views, or perhaps its very theme. A hotel in Kerala, for example, may be popular for its wellness programs, while one in Rajasthan for its heritage value. Various creative ideas of people across the world have translated into a range of unique hotels. These have created niche market for themselves and resulted in imitations in other parts of the world born from appreciation and admiration. Over the next few pages we explore some of these unique ideas.
|ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden|
|Photo: Big Ben Productions|
Hotels in jails
Some jails are not reserved for criminals; rather, you will have to pay, and in some cases quite a lot, to experience these jails. Hotels in jails may sound bizarre, but this has been turned into reality at quite a few places. The Jail at Mount Gambier in South Australia is one such example. This hotel is meant primarily for people wanting to stay on a low budget. Rooms are available at as low as US$ 22. France has an ambitious program to raise 44 billion Euros by selling off nine jails to private hotel chains.
Britain’s oldest jail in Oxford has been converted into a boutique hotel by the Malmaison hotel chain. The most famous of the jail hotels, however, is the Four Seasons Istanbul. This luxury hotel started in 1996 at a venue that was known as Sultanahmet Jail till 1969 and was used for detaining writers, journalists, artists and dissident intellectuals. Initially, the Four Seasons played down the infamous history of the place, but they soon realized that the murky past was rather good for business. Liberty Hotel in Boston also has 18 of its rooms built in what was once a prison.
Can such hotels be built in India? Cellular Jail, which is in shambles, can probably still be saved from complete ruin if sold to a hotel chain with the rider that its historicity will not be compromised and that it will be kept open for public viewing. There are various other jails falling apart in the name of preserving historical monuments. Perhaps a leaf out of Mount Gambier’s The Jail or Malmaison in Oxford will prove more handy on this front.
Tribals have used tree houses for ages, but of late these have emerged in the form of hotels in different parts of the world, as luxury for some and as eco-friendly for some others. Germany, South Africa, USA, Vietnam and also India boast tree house hotels. For various reasons tree-houses have caught the fancy of travelers. In India, one can find these type of hotels at quite a few places, particularly in the vicinity of jungles. This is more popular in the south Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala where tree resorts like Green Magic Tree House Resort (Vythiri), Carmelia Haven Resort (Idukki), Tranquil Tree House Resort (Wynad), B-six Holiday Resort, and Safari Land Farm are in operation. Usually these tree resorts have regular kinds of rooms as well.
The exteriors of these tree houses have a primitive look, but they are well-equipped with modern facilities such as electricity, telephones, television, running water and Western-style attached bathrooms. Rooms are furnished with bamboo beds, colorful sheets, blankets, carpets and a verandah is usually present. Prices range from Rs 4000 to 11,000 per night, depending on the facilities available. In a resort in Panna, Madhya Pradesh, for instance, a tree house costs nothing less than Rs 10,000 a night during peak tourist season.
Setting up tree house hotels translate into an investment of Rs 15 to 20 lakh. (See the July 2008 issue of DARE, or visit http://www.dare.co.in/opportunities/services/mainstreaming-tree-house-resorts.htm.)
How did you conceive the idea of the Floatel?
What were the difficulties you faced while starting the hotel?
What was the total investment?
Did you buy the ship on which hotel is built?
How many rooms does Floatel have? What are their tariffs?
Have you been affected by the slowdown?
Certain prehistoric dwellings, mines and caves have been converted into hotels in various parts of the world. The UK-based newspaper Independent has, in fact, made a list of five best cave hotels in the world. They include: Les Hautes Roches, Rochecorbon, France; Cappadocia Cave Suites, Turkey; The Caves, Jamaica; Alexander’s Santorini, Greece; and the Desert Cave Hotel, Australia.
In the Jamaica-based The Caves, there aren’t any rooms built in the caves, as Monique Griffiths, Executive Assistant Manager, explains. She says, “The caves are actually below the hotel and we have special dining areas and a bar that are in the caves. The caves are natural; we have only developed the areas to make them more comfortable for use.”
However, Cappadocia Cave Suites claims on its website that all its rooms incorporate original cave structures, cave bedrock, unique lighting, antiques and local handicrafts. Restoration works are ongoing and expected to finish later this year. Once completed, the hotel will have 38 suites. Desert Cave Hotel, on the other hand, has 19 underground suites to give people the experience of living in what used to be mines at one time.
India has also many abandoned caves in the Deccan and Malwa plateaus, the Vindhyas, and the Aravalis. It remains to be seen if anyone is up to the challenge of constructing similar hotels, yet taking care not to disturb their historical significance.
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