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Old August 19th, 2010, 05:13 PM   #1
hkskyline
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Mumbai's Taj Hotel Reborn

Mumbai's Taj hotel reopens Sunday after 2008 attacks







































MUMBAI, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Holding balloons and flowers, employees pledged on Thursday to re-dedicate themselves to Mumbai's Taj Mahal hotel when it reopens at the weekend after the 2008 militant attacks in which guests and staff members died.

The hotel, which suffered extensive damage from a siege laid by four heavily armed gunmen, was one of several Mumbai landmarks attacked by Pakistan-based militants. The November strikes, which lasted over 60 hours, killed 166 people.

Standing on the grand cantilever stairway, staff members cheered and tossed rose petals in the air after chairman Ratan Tata garlanded a bust of the founder of the Tata Group, India's oldest conglomerate, which also owns the luxury Taj hotels.

"This flagship property, this venerable Old Lady, is going to reopen in the same glory, the same splendour of more than 100 years," Tata said, his voice cracking, ahead of the hotel's scheduled reopening on Sunday, also India's independence day.

Tata had vowed to "rebuild every inch" of the iconic hotel, founded in 1903, and which has played host to maharajas, heads of state, chief executives, movie stars and entertainers alike.

Architects, designers and restoration experts from India and around the world spent more than 21 months assessing the damage, then restoring the hotel, said Raymond Bickson, managing director of Taj Hotels, a unit of Indian Hotels Co Ltd..

"It was a cast of thousands that undertook the extensive restoration and sensitive restoration of the hotel, staying true to the original design and spirit," he said.

Founder Jamsetji Tata had originally shopped for the hotel in London, Dusseldorf, Berlin and Paris, ordering 10 spun iron pillars that he saw at the Eiffel Tower opening exhibition for the hotel's large ballroom, now redone in tonnes of gold.

The hotel, which combines Oriental, Florentine and Moorish architectural styles in its vaulted alabaster ceilings, graceful archways and marble floors, houses fine examples of modern and contemporary Indian art, and now, modern security systems, too.

The palace wing, built on reclaimed land overlooking the Arabian Sea, is a prime example of Indo-Sarcenic architecture, with cupolas and a dominant dome, which during the 60-hour siege was engulfed in flames and thick smoke from grenades.

The company spent some 1.8 billion rupees ($38 million) on repair and restoration, Bickson said, and lost more than that in the time that the hotel was shut for business.

But it has received several inquiries, including from guests who were present during the attack, he said.

The luxury Oberoi Hotel a few hundred metres away, which was also attacked, reopened earlier this year.

While the Taj has retained its priceless Belgian chandeliers, antique chests and sacred icons, it has completely refurbished its luxurious suites, including the Ravi Shankar suite, where maestro Shankar taught Beatle George Harrison to play the sitar.
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Old August 19th, 2010, 05:17 PM   #2
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Its a beautiful hotel!! Stayed there before the bombings and it was great. Must be even better know that its been restored!!
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Old August 19th, 2010, 05:21 PM   #3
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Yes, I had a chance to pick this hotel to stay but opted to eat at the top floor restaurant instead. Unfortunately, the other 5* hotel in the area I picked to stay was also attacked in 2008.
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Old August 19th, 2010, 05:27 PM   #4
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Thats the Oberoi Trident!! They've gone for a more modern design!
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Old August 19th, 2010, 05:33 PM   #5
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Taj has more character though. The courtyards have more flavour whereas the Oberoi is very business-like.
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Old August 19th, 2010, 05:34 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hkskyline View Post
Taj has more character though. The courtyards have more flavour whereas the Oberoi is very business-like.
I totally agree!! Taj has more class then Oberoi. But Oberoi is still one of my favourites in India.
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Old August 19th, 2010, 08:11 PM   #7
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Taj hotel reopens; Heritage wing receives first guests

Mumbai, August 14, 2010 (PTI) -- Mumbai's iconic five-star hotel Taj Mahal Palace fully reopened Sunday with its heritage wing receiving guests and scores of people thronging its newly renovated lobbies and restaurants, nearly 21 months after it was extensively damaged in the deadly terror attack.

Coinciding with the spirit of the Independence day, the 107-year-old heritage wing of the luxury seafront hotel in the western Indian city received guests for the first time with the dedicated staff putting behind memories of fire, smoke and explosions during the 60-hour siege by heavily armed militants from Pakistan.

Of the 166 people who died across the city during the carnage that began on the night of November 26,2008, 31 of them were at the 107-year-old Taj Hotel whose iconic red dome also dramatically caught fire in the battle between gunmen and security forces. 12 of the 31 victims at the Taj were hotel staff members.

The modern Tower wing of the Taj reopened within a month of the attacks.

A total of Rs 175 crore has been spent repairing, restoring and upgrading the Heritge wing, Anil Goel, according to the executive director of finance at the Indian Hotels Company, which owns the Taj.

"This company and this flagship property, this venerable old lady, is going to reopen in the splendour it has enjoyed for over a century," said Ratan Tata, head of the Tata Group parent company ahead of the Taj scripting a new chapter in its history.

A hotel official said some guests who were staying at the hotel on the night of the attacks had booked to return Sunday but did not elaborate.

According to Raymond Bickson, the Indian Hotels Company managing director and chief executive, a "cast of thousands" had been working around the clock to get the wing and its 285 rooms ready for reopening.

A team of 20 consultants from Britain, Italy, Singapore, the US and India has helped restore artwork and antique furniture damaged in the attacks, as well as redesign and upgrade fixtures and fittings, he added.

Additions include the new Ravi Shankar Suite, where the classical Indian musician taught The Beatles' guitarist George Harrison how to play the sitar for the group's 1967 album "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", Bickson said.

Bickson said the restoration work was helped by the solid structure of the building, which minimised the damage.

"Some of these walls are two feet thick. In reality it held up extremely well through all that," he said.

Bickson said the hotel had revamped its security arrangements to ensure the safety of its guests and staff.

Ratan Tata had vowed to "rebuild every inch" of the iconic hotel which has played host to maharajas, heads of state, chief executives, movie stars and entertainers alike.
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Old October 15th, 2010, 05:53 PM   #8
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FOCUS-Supply surge to dampen recovery in hotels' profits
2 September 2010
By Aniruddha Basu

MUMBAI, Sept 2 (Reuters) - An expected surge in supply of premium hotel rooms may take the sheen off Indian hotel firms' plans to raise tariffs and revive profitability, though analysts expect the second half to fare better than the first.

Hotel chains such as Indian Hotels Co Ltd , EIH Ltd and Royal Orchid Hotels Ltd are increasing capacity and plans to raise tariffs by 8-15 percent as tourism demand revives in Asia's third largest economy.

But competition has been hotting up in the Indian hospitality sector with global majors such as Starwood Hotels & Resorts , Marriot International and Hyatt Hotels , also keen on tapping the market.

Due to this, Indian hotels are also losing their edge to effect any substantial rise in room rates, which in effect is putting a squeeze on EBITDA margins.

"Because of the huge supply coming in, hoteliers are not able to increase the room rates to the extent they would have liked to and they are also below the pre-crisis levels of 2008," said Sridhar Chandrashekar, head of research at Crisil Ltd.

"At an EBITDA level hotel companies used to enjoy margins around 40 percent (in 2008). Now it will be slightly below 40 percent," he added.

Indian Hotels Company, which operates the Taj chain, has announced its plan to raise room rates by October -- its first in nearly two years -- as rates lag occupancy.

EIH Ltd, owner Oberoi and Trident hotel chains in which Reliance Industries has a 14.8 percent stake, also plans to raise rentals by 8-10 percent from October.

The rates are, however, unlikely to touch the levels witnessed before the two-year slowdown that crippled discretionary spending.

"Occupancies will run around 75 percent for December quarter. 2008 was the peak, and we are still slightly below that, both for ARRs (average room rates) and occupancies," said Himani Singh, sector analyst at brokerage Elara Securities.

Average room rates ranged around 9,900 rupees in 2008/09 for key Indian properties. Even by the end of this fiscal rates may reach 8,100-8,200 rupees, Crisil's Chandrashekar said.

BETTER THIRD QUARTER

"We expect the business condition to improve from the third quarter of the current financial year and that is when we plan to increase our room rentals," said EIH Chairman PRS Oberoi.

But this may not be enough to restore the industry to the profitability they enjoyed in 2008, before the downturn and the militant attacks in November 2008 in Mumbai.

"2007/08 was an exceptional year for hotel firms as occupancies were at their peak. At that time the industry was also facing a supply constraint," said Kaustubh Pawaskar, analyst with Sharekhan. Profits have fallen steeply since then.

Indian Hotels' June-quarter net profit fell to 33.3 million rupees from 164.4 million rupees a year ago. EIH reported a net loss, while Asian Hotels (North) Ltd , owner of the Hyatt Regency, saw profit almost halve to 63.2 million rupees.

"The profitability will improve in the second half. But comparing it to FY08 will be difficult," Pawaskar added.

"It's a tough industry to give an outlook but we expect business to be fairly strong this year," said Keshav Baljee President at Bangalore-based Royal Orchid, which plans to raise tariff by 10-15 percent from October.

Crisil's Chandrashekar expects revpars (revenue per available room) to rise by 4-5 percent this fiscal pushing up sales.
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Old October 16th, 2010, 04:48 PM   #9
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very nice
thanks !
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Old October 27th, 2010, 02:39 PM   #10
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Very nice photos.
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