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Terror-hit Heritage Wing of Taj Reopens


The Taj has chosen Independence Day to reaffirm the values it stands for. On August 15, 2010, it will open its heritage wingthat was gutted during the 26/11 siege-to an expectant public.

Born as India's answer to British arrogance, the hotel built by Jamsetji Tata opened its doors in 1903 to 17 guests.

A century later, tragic circumstances forced the Taj to shut its doors for the first time since it opened. But the staff and the management used this to their advantage and turned adversity into opportunity to match the best hotels of the world.

After the terror strike, the hotel was opened in stages and by September this year, it will be fully functional.

On Independence Day, although most of its rooms in the palace wing will accommodate guests, some of its opulent spaces, like the Tata Suite, will be unveiled in a month or so.

A night's stay at the Tata Suite, formerly the Presidential Suite, complete with personalized butler service will set one back by Rs 7 lakh.

There are more than 40 suites in the heritage part of the building with some of them being named after marine motifs, given the sea-front location.

"Each suite tells a story," says Ajoy Misra, senior vice president, sales & marketing, Taj Hotels. So, you can ride on a dolphin, search for coral reefs or chase a seagull for a price ranging from Rs 85,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh.

While it may be difficult for a visitor to spot the small differences, management has fine-tuned the hotel's interiors.

For instance, the ceiling in the Taj Palace lounge has been lowered by eight inches. Its spacious rooms are now soundproof.

Another feature it has added to its rooms is the special levers that allow guests to open the window in case of an emergency.

During the siege, trapped guests were forced to break open the window to escape to safety. Upping the security quotient, special access control elevators are installed in the premises, allowing only guests to operate them with a valid key.

The rooms are also equipped with mood lighting and giant television panels. State-of-the art technology converges beautifully with the hotel's old-world charm.

For instance, if there is no body movement in the room for a while, the sensors tend to switch off the air conditioner.

Attention has been given to space and hence the marginal decrease in the number of keys from 289 to 285. Typically, the rooms in the heritage wing spanning 500 sq ft are bigger than the ones in the tower wing that measure at 380 sq ft.

In terms of tariff, too, the rooms in the tower wing are 30% lower than their counterpart. In a healthy sign, occupancy levels in the hospitality industry bounced back to the optimum level of 2008. The rooms at the heritage wing are priced between Rs 22,000 and Rs 24,000.

About 20 consultants and designers such as Lissoni Associati of Milan, BAMO, San Francisco, DesignWikes of Malaysia and Singapore's James Park Associates contributed their expertise in giving life back to the hotel.

Even as Taj has put in new features to its property, it got its staffers to experience the rooms before a month of the heritage wing being re-opened.

The image of the flaming Taj dome against the night sky is not a distant memory, but as one walks down the royal heritage wing, it is easy to forget the terror of 26/11-for a while.

Source: TNN , 13 Aug, 2010