This Room’s Got Style, and a Rs17.6 Lakh Tab

Got $80,000 for a weekend getaway?

Then Jaipur’s Raj Palace Hotel might just be the place to put down the Rs35.2 lakh it will take to spend two nights at the Shahi Mahal suite.

That is, when the suite is good-and-ready in November 2008 and only after its first customer, a Russian visitor, has checked out.

In an audacious move that is sure to get loads of attention, if not customers, GKV Hotels Pvt. Ltd, which owns the property, is asking for what will amount to the world’s most expensive hotel room based on a single night’s stay.

The suite will actually cost a mere $40,000 (Rs17.6 lakh) per night, but Raj Palace is taking bookings for a two-night minimum stay, the cost of a nicely-loaded C-Class Mercedes Benz in India, or Rs73,500 for every hour you spend inside the room. Rooms actually or, more precisely, an entire floor.

While the hotel is refusing to release pictures of the suite, which is still being built, or give an estimate of its space, what is for sure is that it will come with multiple bedrooms, including space for personal staff and any hangers-on, private home-theatre privileges, an exclusive swimming pool, a private spa whose floor, walls and jacuzzi are coated with 24-carat gold. And your own private chef and kitchen.

Of course, Raj Palace is only too happy to have Shahi Mahal’s guests ferried by helicopter from New Delhi to Jaipur—on the house.

In Shahi Mahal, “people will just have to think” of something and it “will be available,” says Ankur Rara, deputy general manager of the hotel, which is set on a five-acre spread. Arun Puri, managing director of GKV Hotels, is married to Princess Jayendra Kumari, the 16th generation of Rajasthan’s Chaumoo royal family that built Raj Palace in 1727. The hotel itself has been in operation for 10 years, said Rara.

A survey by Forbes magazine last year put the most expensive hotel room in the world at Hotel Martinez in Cannes, France. It charges $37,500 a night for the penthouse suite. In the peak visitor season, Hotel Martinez sometimes can up its rates to $42,748 but come off-season, the rate can dip to as low as $13,400.

The 500sq. m suite comes with the usual in-room amenities as well as a 250sq. m outdoor terrace, containing a jacuzzi, and overlooking the French Riviera, a European resort locale where the annual Cannes Film Festival is one of several draws for celebrities from around the world. Hotel Martinez is happy to throw in a butler as well as complimentary limousine rides.

While Raj Palace will also provide a limo, says Rara, the Shahi Mahal suite will have a set rate throughout the year. It is unclear how many of the uber-rich would want to spend that kind of money in say, May, when average temperatures in the Pink City can reach a toasty 40.3 Celsius.

The most expensive room in Jaipur these days is the $4,000 a night Suryavanshi Suite in the Indian Hotels Co. Ltd’s Rambagh Palace.

Raj Palace, located on Amer Road near the city centre, isn’t exactly unknown to celebrities, having hosted film stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, as well as the likes of author Salman Rushdie.

Rara says the new suite will appeal to select Hollywood stars, wealthy Russians and some from West Asia, who like to book entire floors when they travel, often with an entourage in tow. Shahi Mahal’s first client, who has already made a reservation for November 2008, is a wealthy Russian, she said.

Luxury travel professionals, such as Ghulam Naqshband, said the pricing was over the top. “The total luxury market is very limited. India has not yet acquired the distinction of being a country where you can have (such) luxury,” said the Chairman Emeritus of Le Passage to India Tour and Travels.

Raj Palace currently has 40 suites, starting at relative bargain of $275 per night. As part of its new plans, in November this year, the hotel is also unveiling two slightly less expensive suites, at $11,000 and $15,000 per night.

For those who want to brag about having stayed next to the most expensive room in the world.