JOY ROY CHOUDHURY – Kolkata
After nearly seven years of restoration work, the erstwhile Great Eastern Hotel (GEH), is now set to open. Now, rechristened ‘Lalit Great Eastern, Kolkata’, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group’s (TLSHG) will open the hotel in phases with the first phase being launched in early 2013.
“We are happy to bring back the Great Eastern Kolkata in 2013,” said Jyotsna Suri, chairperson and managing director, The LaLit Suri Hospitality Group. She was in the city recently to participate in the ‘puja’ conducted by the Group in connection with the opening of the hotel. The ‘puja’ conducted at the hotel coincides with the inception of the hotel on November 19, 1841.
Except for the façade, the heritage building is being rebuilt. The cost of rebuilding and restoration is estimated to be around Rs 260 crore. TLSHG acquired 90 per cent of the Great Eastern Hotels from the West Bengal government for Rs 52 crore in 2005. Till the closure due to the current restoration programme, GEH was Asia’s oldest-running hotel.
The original building — the heritage block — will retain the architectural style of the British era. The new wing, however, has been designed to sport a modern look designed by a Singapore-based designer. The new wing will incorporate contemporary international hospitality trends, enhanced by local Bengali art, craft and culture,” according to a company official.
Spread across 2.3 acres, the hotel in its new avatar will offer 221 rooms, 21 deluxe suites, two presidential suites, besides a ballroom, two speciality restaurants including the famous Maxim’s bakery. Commissioned in 1840, it is said to be India’s first luxury hotel. Although it changed hands many times, it was never closed down till now and its reputation ran across the British empire.
Great Eastern opened first in November 19, 1841 as Aucland Hotel. Located at the corner of the Governor’s House, it got the nickname of Savoy of the East. In the pre- and post Independence era it played host to famous personalities like Queen Elizabeth, Mark Twain, Nikita Khrushchev, Frank Worrel and Nikolai Bulganin.