Mumbai’s Taj Mahal hotel has reopened less than a month after militants stormed the building in attacks that left more than 170 people dead.
But the reopening of parts of the landmark hotel comes with more than just a new plaster and paint job. There are new security measures and officials promise a new type of luxury hotel: an “invisible fortress” that can protect guests as well as pamper them.
“We can be hurt, but we will never fall,” a defiant Ratan Tata, chairman of Taj owner Tata Group, said as guests checked into Taj tower for the first time since the November 26 attacks.
The Trident portion of the Oberoi hotel complex also reopened, though the main areas of both luxury hotels are expected to stay closed for months.
Police manned barricades outside the Taj last night while armed, undercover guards kept watch inside.
Everyone walking into the reception was asked for proof of their hotel reservation. Visitors handed their bags over for inspection and walked through metal detectors as their luggage was scanned through X-ray machines.
The majestic Taj Mahal – an icon of Indian pride and a playground for the global elite for over a century – and the sleek, seafront Oberoi were among 10 sites targeted in the rampage.
At the end of the militants’ 60-hour standoff with police, 164 people and nine gunmen were dead, including dozens of guests and staff members from the two hotels.
At the Oberoi complex’s Trident hotel, a Hindu priest chanted prayers and a Muslim cleric read from the Koran yesterday. Hotel staff in ivory saris greeted guests with flowers.
At the Taj Mahal, a pianist played in the lobby, as guests were welcomed with traditional marigold garlands. The tower’s five restaurants were fully booked, with waiting lists.
But beyond the cosmetic renovations, RK Krishna Kumar said he and his colleagues at the Taj had set out to reconstruct a hotel for a new age – one capable of withstanding another militant attack while still indulging guests.
“A world-class hotel needs to be an invisible fortress,” said Mr Kumar, vice chairman of Indian Hotels, a subsidiary of Tata Group. “There is a new phase as far as the hotel industry is concerned.”