Trident, Taj reopen after 2611 attacks
Guests checked in at the Trident hotel from early in the morning, with about 100 of the 550 rooms booked and all four restaurants serving food on the first full day of business since the bloody carnage. See specialindia Updated: Dec 21, 2008 16:20 IST
Taj and Trident hotels that were stormed by terrorists re-opened in Mumbai on Sunday, less than a month after devastating attacks that rocked India's financial and entertainment capital.
Guests checked in at the Trident hotel from early in the morning, with about 100 of the 550 rooms booked and all four restaurants serving food on the first full day of business since the bloody carnage.
Before the formal reopening, staff, guests and dignitaries gathered in the hotel's reception area for a commemoration service with prayers from Sikh, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain, Zoroastrian and Christian leaders.
Canadian Rick McElrea, his wife Diane Deblois, and their teenage children Emilie and Jesse visited the hotel for breakfast. They said they wanted to show their support for the hotel and send a message to those behind the attacks.
"It's a statement to terrorists that this does not close down business. This does not close down hotels," said McElrea, who lives in Mumbai but is originally from Ottawa.
"I don't feel any fear. I feel hope. The terrorists failed and Mumbaikars won."
More than 1,000 regular clients and guests have been invited to the nearby Taj for a private, afternoon reception before an evening reopening of 268 rooms and seven eateries in the modern Tower wing.
The waterfront hotel, opposite the British colonial-era Gateway of India monument, was the focus of last month's 60-hour reign of terror, which left 172 people dead, including nine of the 10 gunmen, and nearly 300 injured.
Opened in 1903, the red-domed Palace part of the hotel has long been the place to stay and be seen. Over the years it has played host to royalty, presidents, prime ministers and rock stars, as well as India's moneyed classes.
Ratan Tata, chief executive of the giant Tata Group conglomerate that owns the Taj, has vowed to restore the building to its former glory after it was ravaged by fire, bullets and grenades as gunmen fought commandos to the death.
The speed with which both hotels have been readied for business again has won praise.
Raymond Bickson, chief executive and managing director of the Indian Hotels Company, which runs the Taj, has said the quick re-opening is an "affirmation of the values of courage, resilience and dignity" and a tribute to the victims.
Trident Hotels president Rattan Keswani said he felt "deep pride" for his staff's work both during and after last month's attacks and, despite their grief, they were "100 per cent" committed to getting back to normal quickly.
A total of 22 guests and 10 staff were killed at the Trident, while 52 people died at the Taj when militants allegedly from the banned Pakistan-based Laskhar-e-Taiba group opened fire and took hostages.
With Mumbai still on edge, security was tight at both hotels. Roads around the Taj have been sealed since the shooting stopped on November 29, while access to the Trident is severely restricted.
Guests arriving at the Trident Sunday had to put all bags through luggage scanners, pass through metal detectors and be frisked, while there was a heavy armed police presence outside.
Keswani vowed that security would be as "unobtrusive as possible" and said it would have been impossible to prevent last month's brazen assault, which saw militants open fire with automatic weapons and throw grenades.
Tata has previously said that the Taj management was warned it was a possible target, but increased security measures were eased shortly before the attacks.