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I would like to take you all to the bustling airport town of Willington Island in the late 1960 where a restaurant was talking shape into what we call the present Casino Hotel, Willington Island. The property was opened in 1966 with 32 rooms and a restaurant. That is where the story began, the story of a present day tourism culture, the story of million smiles.

A decade passed, casino hotel was in its full swing. A letter from Cochin travels all the way to Mumbai, the letter say “Son I want you to come back and assist me in business” The letter was to Jose Dominic, then a chartered accountant working with an accounting firm enjoying the cosmopolitan Mumbai. Half heatedly son comes back to Cochin and joins the family business..

Old painting of Casino Hotel, by Morris Katz

A decade passed away, the business was flourishing in its own course, that was when an offer comes to Casino Hotel, an invitation to visit an inhabited Island in the Lakshadweep islands, two fifty kilometers away from the Malabar coast. The invitation went to prominent hotel chains across the country. The group of hoteliers would be flown all the way from Cochin to Agatti from where they would visit the Island called Bangaram. The idea was to utilize the island for tourism and to know the the view points of industry stakeholders. All of them wanted their own time for feasibility checks and market study. That was when Mr. Dominic said, if offered the resort will be commissioned within three months. That made Casino hotel win the tender and run a resort for the coming year…that sowed the first seeds of what we call, CGH core values.

The whole agenda was to build local huts with local materials without disturbing the eco system of the place, no trees cut, no big constructions and employ local men and get the best out of nature.

CGH earth has adopted what they call, nonnegotiable core values, these are respect for the environment, local community and adoption of the local ethos.

It was these core values that made Bangaram remain as Bangaram in all sense. It was the beauty of the islands that was utilized and offered to the discerning traveler. During those days, with limited air connectivity, reaching Bangaram was a terrible task. But still people came in; so much was the beauty of Bangaram. This was when, the nearest Island groups of Maldives had direct connectivity with Europe and had an inventory of 8000 rooms.

From lessons learnt in Bangaram the group moved to the Cardamom hills of Kerala, Periyar. The group erected a 40 room property in 1991 and named it spice village. It was very much like a tribal village, rooms similar to that of the Mannan tribal community, native to Periyar. It did not took much after Spice village to erect the next property at the backwater that followed traditional Kerala Architecture, they named it “Coconut Lagoon”, next in the line was the “Spice Coast houseboats” and the beach property of Mararikulam that resembled a local fishermen village and named it “Marari Beach Resort”, and finally Brunton Boatyard at the Old Port Town of Cochin, which was most similar to the old colonial warehouses, almost close to Aspinwall, the Biennale venue.

Subsequently other properties in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka were opened. The group was re-branded as CGH Earth, that stands for Casino Group of Hotel as well as Clean Green and Healthy and Earth stands for being Eco-friendly.

The group found new horizons exploring into Ayurveda, when Kalari Kovilakom was introduced, a palace in Palakkad, Kerala where the traditions of Ayurveda is explored in its true sense, and the length of stay starts from twenty one days. Kalari Rasayana in South Kerala also follows the same ideology.

The term holiday is being redefined; it has come a long way from experiential holidays to something that could be termed as transformative holidays, where people visit a destination, pick up elements that transforms their lives and go back.

Written by Benjamin John

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