Chennai: After a lull of two years, the tourists are back for some sun-and-serenity in Puducherry and hospitality investments are following them. The city, known mostly for its boutique heritage properties, is on the radar of both national chains and local brands. Some of the investment is focused outside the city, near the blue-tagged Paradise Beach area, but heritage properties in the French Quarter are also in focus.
GRT Hotels & Resorts’s Radisson Resort Pondicherry Bay is a five-acre property comprising 46 chalets and five private pool villas overlooking Eden beach, one of ten Indian beaches to get the coveted Blue Flag status. The soft launch has happened and its banquet venues are booked for weddings through next year. “Our focus is to highlight Puducherry’s Franco-Tamil heritage both through the design of the rooms as well as through food and beverage,” says Shubhangi N, GM, sales and marketing, GRT Hotels & Resorts.
Airbnb search data shows that Puducherry is among the top five destination choices for domestic tourists between December 1 and January 31.
ITC’s Zubin Songadwala says: “We are aggressively pursuing an asset-right expansion strategy of owned and managed properties. Puducherry is on our radar as a unique heritage destination. We will look for an alliance or a management tie-up, which can fit into one of our brands.” ITC’s brands include boutique lifestyle brand Mementos, curated travel brand Storii and Welcomheritage.
The city’s home-grown hospitality brand HiDesign, which owns the beach-front luxury hotel The Promenade and the heritage property Le Dupleix, is also looking to add properties. “We are beginning work on a new property similar to Le Dupleix and lots of add-ons and upgrades to existing properties,” says founder Dilip Kapur.
City hoteliers say Puducherry’s hospitality industry suffered through the pandemic. For nearly 18 months, the tourist flow was scanty and hotels ran empty. But things have changed for the better from September. “We are seeing a rush of bookings from September-October and these are all domestic tourists,” says Lalit Verma, who runs the 22-bedroom Aurodhan Heritage Guest House.
City hotels are already seeing bookings through weekends as the peak rush period of Christmas-New Year approaches. Between July and November, the city received more than 6 lakh visitors. That’s nearly one-third of the 2017 peak when 16.6 lakh tourists visited the city, including 1.3 lakh from overseas.