The last four decades have seen the world go around in so many ways. One wonders that at this pace where the next generation would reach. An ever-evolving technology, needs and demands growing fast, and, innovation offering one surprise after the other. I distinctly recall that in the 60's we had only a couple of hotels, mainly in the metros. Foreign tourists and big corporate guests used to frequent these hotels.
When we compare the scene today, we have hotels in varying types and sizes, the brands are baffling as there are so many. We have resorts, city hotels, luxury hotels, budget hotels, inns, motels and floating hotels, and God knows how many more categories. A couple of years back we had stayed and experienced the joy of a short vacation in a houseboats in Srinagars Dal Lake, these were floating luxuries anchored in the lake for the tourists on a vacation. These houseboats were stationary and normally did not move in the lake.
What amazed me recently in Kerala, a state in southern India, was the sight in the backwaters - the floating hotels. Beautifully crafted house boats with two to three bed rooms, bathrooms, living rooms, sunbathing deck and a kitchen giving a 2-5 nights back water ride to couples and group of friends.
The houseboats are very tastefully furnished with the use of local materials and equipped to take care of the guests as if one is in a 5-star luxury hotel. It is self contained with its own power generation with silencers, split air-conditioners, flat screen plasma TV, DVD players and a wireless internet connection. Mobile phones, I understand, are also available on request although they work only in areas where the net work is available.
Houseboats are manufactured locally in Kerala with fibreglass, an eco friendly material. Traditional houseboats were made with Ainee or Anjili wood. The boats are 75 feet and up to a maximum of 120 feet long. The sides are glazed with clear or tinted glass to protect the air-conditioning and offer a 360-degree stunning view of the lush green backwater shores on both sides of the boat. The glazing has bamboo curtains called the chicks creating the overall ambiance very appealing. Floors are covered with thick coir carpets. All boats are equipped with life jackets and first aid kits. Portable fire extinguishers are also fitted.
The staff on board is trained in many skills. They know the waste management and its disposal and also food preparation and service, housekeeping and life saving techniques in case of an emergency. The cuisine on board is traditional and on request, served in traditional style, "meal on the leaf". Some boats have alternate source of energy through solar panels.
The capital cost of a good boat with three bedrooms would ranges under US$ 175,000. A two night-three days trip, in a deluxe boat, with all meals and taxes would cost around US$ 450 for a couple. That looks reasonably cheap. Investment in a boat hotel venture makes sense as a sound proposition.
What one is left wondering with is the fact that there is no end to creating products and packages to meet the ever-changing demands of the guests. This willingness to innovate a product that satisfies the "needs" helps keep one ahead of the competition.
The best way to enjoy and experience nature is to live in it and becoming a part of it. This is what exactly the experience of a backwater boat ride makes you feel. Good experience makes a holiday perfect, filled with fond memories, and if that experience is in Gods own country, you must be blessed!
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Ram Gupta is a professional hospitality consultant with over four decades of experience in Asia, Far East, Middle East and Europe. He has been associated with over two dozen hotel projects. His web site can be viewed at http://www.bcgglobal.com and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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