On the day that the Gujarat government announced its first heritage tourism policy, extending financial aid and relief to heritage structures in the state, Radhikaraje Gaekwad of the royal Gaekwad family of Vadodara, at a webinar, spoke about how the dry state status of Gujarat has acted as a deterrent to converting their magnificent Lukshmi Vilas Palace — said to be three times larger than the Buckingham palace — into a luxury hotel.
Radhikaraje was speaking at a webinar organised by FICCI FLO, the women wing of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry, which also had Anar Patel, social entrepreneur and daughter of former Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, as a co-panelist.
Drawing comparison with the heritage tourism in Rajasthan, Radhikaraje said, “Gujarat is a prosperous state and we have very beautiful palaces with different architecture, so it can very much be a part of the (tourism) circle, but it is a dry state due to the prohibition (law). One doesn’t imagine luxury travelers, destination weddings or foreign travelers coming here because they want to have a glass of wine in their hand, sit and enjoy. We feel that it is a deterrent; many in the royal families feel that way.”
She further said, “A palace like this would be a luxury hotel, but if you are not getting the luxury travelers, where would we really stand? To maintain a palace of this size…it would make sense to convert it into a hotel.”
Radhikaraje told this newspaper that she was replying to a question on the maintenance of the palace built in 1890, which is also the Gaekwads’ family home, and the family’s long-standing plan to convert it into a hotel.