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Taj group forays into wildlife tourism — Ties up with CC Africa, Cigen

Our Bureau

The target audience would comprise pure wildlife tourism enthusiasts, circuit tourists and the high-end domestic travellers keen on such an experience.

Mr Steve Fitzgerald, CEO, CC Africa (left), and Mr Raymond Bickson, Managing Director, The Indian Hotels Company Ltd, at a press conference in Mumbai on Wednesday. - Paul Noronha

Mumbai , Aug 4

THE country's national parks and sanctuaries will now become accessible to high-end foreign tourists and Indian travellers.

Keen to tap the potential of a structured wildlife tourism initiative, the Taj group has joined hands with Conservation Corporation Africa (CC Africa) and Cigen Corporation, a part of the Chaudhury group, to expand into yet another segment of the hospitality industry.

All the three players will have an equal shareholding in the joint venture company.

CC Africa is a leading eco-tourism company operating 38 high-end game lodges in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana.

The Nepal-based Chaudhary group has interests in food and beverages, financial services, infrastructure and the hospitality sector. The Chaudhary group and the Taj group are partners in Taj Asia Ltd, which is the vehicle through which the partners own, operate, and plan to expand their hospitality interests in the South Asian and Asia-Pacific markets.

Setting itself a conservation agenda, the initiative aims to adopt a sustainable model for wildlife tourism.

In the first phase, the joint venture will set up two lodges at two selected national parks and ramp up with another five over the next three years. An initial investment of Rs 30 crore is likely to be made by the joint venture in this project.

According to company officials, the larger goal of the venture will be to preserve the ecology and natural environment of the country.

The target audience would comprise pure wildlife tourism enthusiasts, circuit tourists and the high-end domestic travellers keen on such an experience.

The project will be jointly branded by the Taj group as well as CC Africa.

Under the terms of the alliance, apart from a third of the revenues, the Taj group would also earn a fee on the project. However, the earnings from this joint venture will be reflected in the balance sheet of Indian Hotels Company Ltd (which runs the Taj Group of Hotels) only three years later. "But this project will reflect on the brand value,'' said Mr Zubin Dubash, Executive Director, IHCL.

According to the official, tariffs were likely to be about $350 per person per night.

According to the company official, Ranthambore, Bandipur, Bharatpur, Kanha, and Tadoba were among the likely choices for the first phase of the project.

The project would have a strong community focus wherein the local population would be given employment and roped into anti-poaching activities. A Wildlife Advisory Group comprising environmentalists, forest officials and NGOs is proposed to be set up to oversee the community development effort.

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