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Rediff.com  » Business » Agra hotel to open after 40 years

Agra hotel to open after 40 years

February 02, 2006 05:36 IST
The Metropolitan Hotel in Agra wasn't an unknown entity till the sixties, which was when, possibly following the owner's migration to Mumbai, it closed down.

So, when a part of it soft-launches in April, it will be a major triumph for promoter (and hotelier) Anil Kumar Agarwal, and partner WelcomHeritage, with which it has a franchise agreement, while a management agreement is under negotiation.

To be called The Grand Imperial in Agra, it becomes the group's 36th heritage property in the country and, following extensive renovations (being undertaken by architects affiliated with INTACH), will be ready for commissioning in two months.

For WelcomHeritage president Rakesh Mathur, who became involved with Agarwal's inheritance long before re-construction started, it marks the group's entry into an important location on the country's important tourism golden triangle.

"We'll catch the peak season, of course," says Mathur, "but before that, we hope to cash in on the weekend summer traffic to Agra, and ride on the marketing strength of Welcomgroup's Welcombreaks."

It is estimated that renovations for the 35-room, 100-year-old hotel (built in 1905) cost Rs 3-4 crore. "The owner could have used the city-centric location to convert it into profitable real-estate," says Mathur, "but was sensitive to the heritage of the building and chose to give the property a renewed lease of life."

Anil Agarwal, who heads a construction business in Mumbai and operates the 100-room Quality Inn Parle International in the city, says his father had purchased the Agra property in 1944 and ran it as a hotel till the sixties, when he shifted to Mumbai, leaving the hotel with family members to run — unsuccessfully as it turned out.

A botched attempt to modernise it in 1964 later, the hotel shut down, and when Anil Agarwal inherited the portion he has once again turned into a hotel, he was initially assailed by "frankly very attractive offers" to sell.

But an emotional attachment led him to have the structure's original arches and high ceilings opened up, while negotiating with WelcomHeritage to market the property internationally.

"They're one of the foremost heritage hotel groups in India," says Agarwal, "and I was drawn to their image and their ability to deliver."

The Rs 35-crore WelcomHeritage brand has been associated with historical properties such as palaces and forts, and The Grand Imperial doesn't lack its share of annals, having hosted the likes of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Motilal Nehru and Dilip Kumar in the past. Restoration has been undertaken keeping the traditional heritage of the building in mind.

The heritage hotel will include a garden barbeque and bar, a swimming pool and an activity room.

Aabhas Sharma in New Delhi
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