Feature

Raising the bar

Kerala-based CGH Earth defied popular beliefs to carve a niche for itself in the eco-friendly tourism space

Photographs by RA Chandroo

The empty dining area of the ‘The Catch Of The Day’, offers a perfect setting for the interview and photo shoot we have scheduled with Dominic Jose. The sunlight pouring in through an opening in the thatched roof above makes for a natural spotlight at the entrance of the restaurant. A mid-sized replica of the famous Kerala snake boat sets the scene. Despite being situated smack in the middle of a bustling city, we find ourselves surrounded by the bounty of nature on this property on Willingdon Island in Kochi. 

This is exactly the kind of experience that CGH Earth strives to create when you check in to one of their hotels. Jose, the CEO of this five-decade-old hospitality group, defines what the company stands for: “We are in the business of creating experiential holidays resting on our core values — sensitivity to the environment, inclusion of the local community and adoption of the local ethos.” The eco-friendly hotel chain is often credited as one of the major contributors to Kerala’s tourism industry. With a portfolio of 17 hotels comprising 409 rooms spread across Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, CGH Earth has been selling the concept of unique holiday experiences both to domestic and expat travellers.  

In 1957, Jose’s father, Dominic Joseph teamed up with three other friends from the shipping industry and leased the iconic Malabar Hotel in Fort Kochi from its English owners, Spencer & Co and renamed it Casino Hotel. Even after a decade, the business wasn’t doing well. So, he bought out the other partners and constructed a 32-room property that cost him Rs.7 lakh — a huge number back then. Undeterred and with full conviction in his dream, Joseph was determined to see this through no matter what — a trait he has generously passed on to the next generation. 

Things went on smoothly till 1977, when, following his father’s death, Jose quit his chartered accountant job in Mumbai and as the eldest of the six siblings, took over the reins of the family enterprise. His only tryst with the hospitality industry until then had been in the form of a client he had handled in his role as CA: the Tata group of hotels. An executive of the same company cautioned young Jose that success in

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