Independence Day reopening for Mumbai attacks luxury hotel

A cascade of red rose petals, cheers and loud applause on Thursday heralded the full reopening this weekend of Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace hotel, over 18 months after it was stormed by Islamist militants.

The 107-year-old heritage wing of the luxury seafront hotel will receive guests from Sunday - Indian Independence Day - for the first time since it was badly damaged by fire, smoke and explosions in the deadly 60-hour siege.

A total of 1.75 billion rupees (37.3 million dollars) has been spent repairing, restoring and upgrading the wing, Anil Goel, executive director of finance at the Indian Hotels Company, which owns the Taj, told a news conference.

The work has been partly paid for through a 1.8-billion-rupee insurance payout for damage to property and loss of business, he added.

Ratan Tata, head of the Tata Group parent company, posed with staff on the grand cantilever staircase under the hotel's iconic red dome, which dramatically caught fire in the battle between gunmen and security forces.

"This is a very special occasion," he told employees looking over the wrought-iron balustrades.

"This company and this flagship property, this honourable old lady, is going to reopen in the splendour it has enjoyed for over a century."

A total of 31 people died, including 12 members of staff, when heavily-armed gunman stormed the hotel on the evening of November 26, 2008 and fought a fierce battle to the death with crack commandos.

The attack was part of a co-ordinated assault by 10 gunmen on two other luxury hotels, a popular tourist restaurant, Jewish centre and the city's main railway station that left 166 people dead and more than 300 others injured.

The modern Tower wing of the Taj and the Trident hotel reopened within a month of the attacks, while the Oberoi hotel, which was reduced to a shell in the siege, reopened in April this year.

Raymond Bickson, the Indian Hotels Company managing director and chief executive, told reporters that 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 United States 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.

Legend has it that the Taj Mahal Palace was commissioned by Tata Group founder Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata after he was refused entry to the now-defunct Apollo Hotel, which had a strict Europeans-only policy.

It has since become a symbol of national pride for Indians and the epitome of cosmopolitan sophistication, playing host to monarchs, world leaders and famous figures.

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 (0.6 metres) thick. In reality it held up extremely well through all that," he said.

The group's sales and marketing head, Ajoy K. Misra, said some guests who were staying at the hotel on the night of the attacks had booked to return on Sunday, without elaborating on how many.

Overall occupancy in the hotel since the attacks has been about 70 percent, he added.

Goel said a further insurance claim for the 12 months to November 2009 was being finalised but the company itself would have to absorb the loss of business and the cost of keeping on staff since then.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk