Prem Lal Raina is one enterprising businessman of Himachal Pradesh whom chief minister Virbhadra Singh did honour last month for having built a successful tourism business that has generated employment for many others.
Raina is the owner of Hotel Hot Spring at Tattapani, a 20 room hotel set on the right bank of River Satluj on the Shimla – Karsog road (50Km from Shimla).
The uniqueness of this hotel is that it is one of the few hotels in whole of India that provides organised sulphur baths sourced from a natural hot water sulphur spring. The hot water pool is designed and maintained as a swimming pool.
Besides the resort also has facilities of adventure sport, rafting and ayurvedic panchkarma. The facilities of Ayurvedic panchkarma are also hard to come across in other hotels in the state. It is a full-fledged Ayurvedic naturopathy and yoga health centre located in the natural surrounds of hills, river and greens. The naturotherapy facilities include hydrotherapy, mud therapy, massage, physiotherapy, acupuncture/acupressure, diet therapy and yoga.
From a soft drinks vendor to a hotelier, Prem Lal has come a long way to be counted as one of the top ‘Entrepreneurs of Himachal’.
Born into a small farmer, Prem Lal had his early education at government school, Suni and graduated from Government College. As part of vocational studies he attained a certification course in ‘Food & Beverages’ from Institute of Hotel Management in Kufri and also did a course in ‘Adventure Tourism’ from Himachal Pradesh Tourism Department.
Showing me the surrounds of his resort Prem Lal recalls with nostalgia the location of his earlier hotel which was now got submerged in the river water along with many other properties after the newly constructed Kol Dam created an artificial lake that submerged them all. The grief of losing his venture in the submergence could have resulted in his depression had a strong minded Prem Lal not realised his new dream with his sheer grit and strong will power once again.
His association with the tourism industry started out as a young man in 1992 setting up a soft drinks vendor outlet serving the odd tourist who did visit the river banks way back then. He remembers that while he used to chill the soft drink bottles in the natural cold water flow of the river, he would also persuade them to benefit from therapeutic sulphur water spring in the vicinity.
Soon he had set up a two room “Home Stay’ property that charged Rs 25 for a days stay at Tattapani. Sensing a rise in footfalls he added a restaurant facility that served both inhouse guests as well as day tourists. With natural hot spring baths being a great attraction for international tourists his guest list grew and many of his guests from Europe turned out to be repeat guests.
On the invitation of some Italian guests, Prem Lal ventured to travel the country as a tourist in 1998. He stayed longer that he had intended to in that country and opened a ‘Ayurvedic Panchkarma and Beauty Centre’ in Cremona near Milan.
Along the way he met Angela Monterosso, an Italian girl. The two got married and are raising two daughters and a son. Prem Lal reminiscences that his business venture in Italy picked up fast but his love for his home town brought him back to Tattapani.
From the 2 room Home Stay in 1992 to New Spring View Hotel in 2007 to the current Hotel Hot Spring, the budding entrepreneur had arrived. When he returned to India, Raina also imported a white water raft from Italy for offering the adventure activity on the river front stretch near his hotel. Gradually the adventure sport increased the footfall to Tattapani and the business flourished.
The Ayrvedic Panchkarma and Beauty Centre in Italy is now being run by an associate on a lease arrangements basis while he and his wife do visit the place off and on.
With the acquisition of land along the river Satluj by public sector power generating company NTPC for its 800 MW Koldam Hydropower plant, he was suitable compensated by being relocated to a higher elevation which overlooks the tail end of the large lake that has formed after damming of the river. He is thankful to NTPC for timely helping him to relocate his business to a safer place.