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Taj in wildlife tourism venture

By BS Corporate Bureau in Mumbai
August 05, 2004 08:36 IST
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Indian Hotels Company, the Tata group's hospitality chain, has entered into a joint venture with the Conservation Corporation Africa and Cigen Corporation to promote wildlife tourism.

Cigen Corporation is a part of the Nepal-based Chaudhary group.

The partners will equally invest Rs 30 crore (Rs 300 million) in the venture and will initially set up three lodges. The new company intends to roll out 15-20 lodges in a phased manner across key wildlife locations in the Indian subcontinent.

The Chaudhary group is the largest business groups in Nepal and has equity interests in Taj Asia, the vehicle through which the partners own and operates properties in South Asia and Asia -Pacific markets.

Says Raymond Bickson, managing director of Indian Hotels Company, "Eco-tourism is the fastest growing tourism in the world. With the immense global interest generated about India in the recent past, we believe there is tremendous opportunity to promote abundant wildlife offerings in this country."

In this initiative, The Taj group and CC Africa will work with the central and state governments to promote wild life tourism.

The new company will set up a wildlife advisory group comprising of environmentalists, forest officials and non-government organisations to advise the company's foray into wildlife tourism.

This body will also serve a certification body endorsing the authenticity of the experience. The company is yet to decide on the brand name for its lodges but will be supplemented by the Taj and CC Africa name.

Currently, the Taj group's leisure division operates four jungle lodges -The Gir Lodge, Sasan Gir in Gujarat, Taj Garden Retreat, Thekkady in Kerala, Sawai Madhopur Lodge in Ranthambore National Park in Rajasthan and Ramgarh Lodge, Jaipur in Rajasthan.

Says, a senior Indian Hotels executive, "We may look at bringing some of the lodges under the new venture." The venture will provide a mix of game sightings, nature walks through the jungle and expert guides. It is estimated that India has approximately 485 sanctuaries and 87 national parks.

Says Steve Fitzgerald, CEO of CC Africa said, "We have experience of over 30 years of safari planning in Africa and this is our first venture outside Africa. We are delighted to work with the Taj group to explore the wildlife tourism opportunity in India."
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