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Advance Reservations Needed to Enter:  The Tata Group Re-opens High-rise Wing of the
Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel and the Oberoi Group Reopens the Trident
By (Nithin Belle), Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab EmiratesMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Dec. 21, 2008 - MUMBAI -- While two of Mumbai's oldest and most prominent 5-star hotels re-open their doors for guests on Sunday, less than a month after they were attacked by terrorists, visitors will have to bid goodbye to the casual ways of the past.

For instance, you won't be able to just saunter in and take a dekko at the books and magazines at Nalanda, the famous Taj bookshop, or grab a Kashmiri shawl that catches your fancy at one of the boutiques at the Oberoi, if you just happen to be passing by either of these two hotels. Nor would you be able to stroll into the Shamiana at the Taj, or the Frangipani at the Oberoi, without making advance reservations.

You should be well-prepared when you visit either of these two 5-star hotels (or any other luxury hotel in Mumbai for that matter): arm yourself with an identity card, preferably leave your hand-bags and other accessories at home or office and patiently wait as the security personnel do a complete check, including frisking you.

Heavily-armed security personnel would be monitoring every movement of yours from behind sandbags and other temporary bunkers, while cameras would be probing your every step.

In fact, 5-star hotels in Mumbai will in all probability discourage walk-in clients, who at the last minute decide to drop by for a drink or a late-night supper. Guests checking in at the hotel will also have to prove their identity after making the advance reservations.

And most hotels will not allow visitors to be driven right up to the porch. The Taj Mahal Hotel, for instance, is deploying Jaguars -- the iconic British auto brand was acquired by group company Tata Motors a few months ago -- to ferry guests. The Taj Land's End at Bandra has virtually moved a part of its reception desk out of the building and on to the pavement outside. Suited hotel staff can be seen seated on desks on the pavement, and visitors have to show their identity cards, invitations or reservations before entering. Vehicles are not allowed anywhere near the property, though guests with reservations are ferried in hotel cars.

Other hotels also have imposed severe security restrictions. A visit to the Grand Hyatt at Vakola reveals three layers of security. The entire road outside the hotel has been blocked and visitors have to leave their vehicles outside. Security measures, like the ones evident at airports -- metal detectors, X-ray machines, body-checks, et al -- have been introduced and visitors and guests have to go through the entire security paraphernalia.

Rattan Keswani, president, Trident Hotel, said on Saturday that while 100 rooms of the Trident will re-open for guests on Sunday, it may take another six months for the Oberoi to re-open. The Trident suffered minimal damage -- estimated at less than Rs5 million -- while the Oberoi's losses could be around Rs500 million.

The Taj Mahal (Tower wing) also re-opens on Sunday, with a private party for about 1,200 guests, including industrialists, loyal customers, celebrities, VIPs and CIPs (commercially important persons). Over 250 rooms will also be ready for occupation, besides some suites. The old Taj (the heritage wing) will take a lot more time to be readied for guests.

nithin@khaleejtimes.com

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To see more of the Khaleej Times, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.khaleejtimes.com.

Copyright (c) 2008, Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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