Terror-struck Taj, Trident hotels reopen with prayers, resolve

December 21st, 2008 - 7:12 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Dec 21 (IANS) Amid prayers and resolve to fight terrorism, two sea-facing hotels in India’s commercial and entertainment capital opened their doors to guests here Sunday barely three weeks after terrorists ravaged the properties in one of the worst attacks on the country’s soil.Guests started checking in early at the Trident hotel, owned by the Delhi-based Oberoi group, after which an all-religion prayer meeting was organised by the management, attended, among others, by the new Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan.

The staff, guests and invitees alike flocked the reception area of the hotel as the leaders of Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain, Zoroastrian and Christian faiths held the commemoration service.

“People do not need to worry about security. The state administration and the police would put in all efforts to prevent terror attacks in future,” Chavan said. “The hotel managements have been asked to tighten security.”

The guests at the reopening said they were determined to fight terrorism and to show its perpetrators that the grit of Mumbaikars cannot be broken even by such ghastly incidents.

“The terrorists failed and Mumbaikars won,” said Rick McElrea of Canada, who was among the first to check-in into Trident. “I don’t feel any fear. I feel hope.”

The security was, indeed, tight, as private security guards manned all the entry points, exits and the lobbies, as sniffer dogs and armed policemen stood behind sand bunkers at the entrance of the waterfront property.

All the bags of guests were passed through metal detectors and X-ray machines, while security personnel checked the identity cards and verified the bona fides of all guests as part of the tightened security drill never witnessed before.

According to Trident president Rattan Keswani, guests will find all restaurants at the Trident in “pristine condition” as it was earlier. “Our guests should not find a single trace that would bring back memories.”

In the nearby Taj hotel, another property damaged during the attacks, some 1,000 guests and visitors were invited for the re-opening of as many as 268 rooms, including nine suites, as also seven restaurants.

“Of the 268 rooms in the tower block, 150 have been booked. We aren’t expecting depressing bookings from January-March,” said R.K. Krishna Kumar, vice president of Indian Hotels, that owns the Taj Mahal Palace and Towers.

But the heritage wing of the century-old Taj property, facing the Gateway of India, is likely to take at least a few months to reopen, as will be the case with the Oberoi hotel adjacent to Trident, the managements said.

The Oberoi and the heritage building of the Taj were badly affected and experts in structural engineering and architects feel it may take between six-eight months to recommence operations in these wings.

The Oberoi-Trident and the Taj Mahal Palace and Towers were among more than 10 locations that had been targeted by terrorists Nov 26, leading to nearly 60 hours of mayhem that killed over 170 people in the city.

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