BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
Villa Bomfim was the first homestay on the Calangute-Baga road that gave the tourists visiting Goa in the early eighties the first taste of the state through Celestino D’Souza and his family.
The Bomfim mansion stood out amongst the fields that caressed the road from Calangute to Baga, canopied by the hospitality of the D’Souza family.
“Starting the hotel helped us financially, but it was the experience of meeting and helping people feel at home that was the motive,” recollects eighty-four-year-old Celestino.
Villa Bomfim started with six rooms and a restaurant that served authentic Goan food – something impossible to savour along the coastal belt today – and today boasts of thirty-six rooms and a full-fledged bar and restaurant.
“We had cooks in those days, but the cooking was overseen by my wife,” claimed Celestino.
“The British were our first guests, and later on our house became the home of the Finnish. Most of our guests were repeat guests, and we still have many keeping in contact with us, wondering when we will reopen,” states Celestino’s eldest son Savio, who now runs the show.
“It was quiet in those days. You can see how noisy it is now. Things are changing, but I think people still want to come back because of the trust, warmth and friendship we shared with all. Despite adding more rooms, we have maintained the essence of a homestay,” reasoned Celestino, whose eyes gleam with memories of the past.
Like many hotels on the belt, Villa Bomfim is being decked up for its opening after the pandemic. “Work is still going on, but we expect to be operational within a month. We did not want to rush as we know what our guests expect from us, and we do not need to get new guests,” avers a confident Savio.
“Once the hotel opens, it will be good news for us because the guests from this hotel have always been different. They are people who understand that we too need to make a living and never haggle for prices like these Indian guests,” said taxi driver Dileep Kalangutkar, who was soliciting clients on the road next to Villa Bomfim.
“Taking guests from this place was not just business but an adventure for us because they treated us like humans,” explained Dileep. “Tourists these days accuse us of looting and this is the difference,” admits Dileep.
Villa Bomfim, Hotel Ronil and Hotel Bonanza were the earliest places that provided accommodation on the Calangute-Baga road, and the first two are undergoing renovations.
“There came a time when our fame spread through word of mouth, and we needed to send guests away with no rooms available. It was at that time that we started to expand our property and built these self-contained villas that were lapped up by our clients,” disclosed Savio, as he works on the logistics to get the place ready.
“Despite being closed during the pandemic, we never lost touch with our clients as we kept communicating with each other. Our clients are part of our family and hence the need to check if all were safe,” admitted Celestino.
“We are not going to deviate from the past. Our guests have always felt at home with us, and we are going to keep that as our ethos. A personal touch will continue to be our hallmark and, of course, adherence to the strictest health and safety guidelines,” admitted Savio.
“I do not think we lost anything by starting late in the season because for us it is better late than never. This is not a race for us but a continuation of our journey in hospitality started by my father and mother,” concluded Savio.