Mumbai: Two luxury hotels that were stormed by terrorists reopened amid tight security in Mumbai on Sunday, less than a month after devastating attacks that rocked India’s financial and entertainment hub.
The Trident and Taj Mahal hotels received their first guests since the carnage, with staff praised for their dedication and resilience as others called for defiance in the face of extremism.
Back again: Staff at The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower ready tables as the hotel reopened amid tight security on Sunday.
R.K. Krishna Kumar, vice-chairman of the Indian Hotels Co. Ltd that runs the Taj, described employees as “heroes”, while Trident Hotels president Rattan Keswani said he felt “deep pride” in all his staff.
The first guests arrived at the Trident for breakfast, which was followed by a sombre, 45-minute commemoration service in the lobby area with prayers from Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Jain, Zoroastrian, Jewish and Christian leaders.
Among those present were Canadian Rick McElrea, his wife Diane Deblois, and their teenage children Emilie and Jesse. They said they wanted to support 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 Canadian capital Ottawa. “I don’t feel any fear. I feel hope,” he said. “The terrorists failed and Mumbaikars won.”
More than 1,000 regular clients and guests attended a private reception at the nearby Taj, before an evening reopening of 268 rooms and seven restaurants 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 siege, which left at least 183 people dead, including nine of the 10 gunmen, and nearly 300 injured.
Ratan Tata, head of the 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.
Restoration work in the ornate “heritage” wing was expected to be finished by 2010, Kumar said.