Luxury travel meets slow tourism in Uttarakhand hill stations


As more tourists, corporate groups and long-term guests make their way to Uttarakhand’s hill stations, hotels and locals are teaming up to promote responsible luxury with slow tourism initiatives

As more tourists, corporate groups and long-term guests make their way to Uttarakhand’s hill stations, hotels and locals are teaming up to promote responsible luxury with slow tourism initiatives

There is a distinct hum in the room. At a neighboring table, a Kannada mother scolds her son for wasting food. In another, a Gujarati family discusses which dish performs better on the palate as they try to pin down a wedding menu. Across the room, other couples and families are enjoying their breakfast while enjoying the views of the Garhwal mountains through the floor to ceiling glass walls.

The offer covers the entire range: from idlis and dosas, the now Pan-Indian staples, to garhwali dishes made from lentils and vegetables, to western breakfast essentials such as eggs benedict and waffles. Appropriately, the restaurant is called the Range (at least for the punster in me, although the name refers to the mountains outside). It’s the all-day diner at the new 263-room Hyatt Regency Dehradun.

The hotel has a spa that champions the herb Tulsi, a rooftop pool, and two bars, one specializing in malt-based cocktails and the other with a heavy gin game. Drinks at both are prepared by Yangdup Lama, whose Sidecar cocktail bar was ranked 47th in Delhi’s 2022 list of the 50 best bars in the world. There’s also an Indo-Tibetan restaurant in the works that will go beyond momos and thukpas. “Our goal is to promote Dehradun as a tourist destination,” says Harkaran Singh, the hotel’s general manager. “Apart from cities like Delhi, smaller business-oriented cities like Ludhiana, Meerut and Saharanpur have well-read and well-travelled people who crave luxury experiences in the neighborhood. We already see them coming here on weekend trips.”

At the Hyatt Regency Dehradun

At the Hyatt Regency Dehradun

Dehradun’s luxury route

The Hyatt presents the latest chapter in the transformation of the Dehradun-Mussoorie-Rishikesh triangle as a luxurious retreat for the affluent Indian traveller. Two Taj properties and one Roseate have opened in Rishikesh in the last three years alone. A Six Senses is scheduled to open near Dehradun later this year. The openings indicate brisk activity in a region that until recently had little in the way of luxury accommodation.

Aside from the riches in the surrounding areas, a key reason for the hotel boom, according to industry observers, is the development of new infrastructure and improved air connectivity. For example, the Delhi-Dehradun Expressway, once completed, is expected to cut travel time from around six hours to under three hours. Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun now has direct flights from cities like Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Hyderabad which has opened up the capital of Uttarakhand and with it the hill stations of Rishikesh and Mussoorie to a whole new clientele.

For the JW Marriott Walnut Grove Resort & Spa, the first of an international chain to open in Garhwal eight years ago, that clientele comes in the form of corporate groups that combine business and leisure. “We see spouses accompanying business travelers, where we arrange leisure activities for the spouse while the other partner works,” says Anoop Pandey, the hotel’s general manager. “Before the pandemic, this mix was a very small part of our business. Now we see that 60% of corporations are incorporating leisure activities into their travel plans.”

Snapshot of a trail from Been There, Doon That?

Snapshot of a trail from Been There, Doon That?

The Local Boom

A number of local businesses take advantage of this “need” and benefit from tourism. Have you been there, Doon That? is a Dehradun-based slow tourism initiative that runs experiences and themed hikes such as: “The majority of our travelers are couples with high HNI who want to offer their children special experiences,” says founder Lokesh Ohri.

The attempt to offer hyperlocal experiences is driven by the Devalsari Environment Protection and Technology Development Society. An outfit founded by the residents of Devalsari village, 75 km from Dehradun, to promote conscious travel. “We didn’t want Devalsari to become another Mussoorie or Rishikesh where mass tourism negatively impacts the environment,” says President Arun Prasad Gaur. “We wanted the conscious tourist to come here and appreciate what we have to offer.”

Tourists in Dehradun's Den of Thieves

Tourists in Dehradun’s Den of Thieves

To that end, Gaur and his housemates have created guided trails around the rich butterfly and moth population and even organize an annual butterfly festival. A rewilded forest is their next venture, where they create trails to spot birds, porcupines, deer, leopard and the always elusive Himalayan civet.

Namakwali, an all-women agency that creates a line of flavored salt mixes sold at the Hyatt Regency, also remains focused on the hyper-local. In her humble home on the outskirts of Dehradun, which also serves as a manufacturing hub, founder Sashi Bahuguna Raturi is quick to demonstrate how salt is traditionally used in the hills to preserve spices. She hosts Garhwali storytelling performances and organizes wedding rituals that can add a touch of local flair to a destination wedding. When she breaks into one bidai Song (sung as the bride leaves), I can’t help but wonder if the Gujarati family at breakfast might be interested.


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