If anyone could be considered a symbol of
globalization in the travel and hospitality industries, it might be
Raymond Bickson, managing director and CEO of Taj Hotels, Resorts
and Palaces. Part Polynesian, part European and part Asian, Bickson
said the wider world is not a strange place to him. I feel that I
belong to the whole planet, he said.
Bickson said his
multicultural heritage helps him realize the corporate mission of
Taj, a 74-resort chain based in Mumbai, India, to merge the best of
the East and the West.
I am on a journey
to disprove the 19th century Kipling mind-set, where the twain wont
meet between East and West, he said. In the 21st century ... they
do and they will continue to do so. Our expansion, both east and
west, symbolizes our ... globalizing adventure.
Although Taj was
founded in 1903, the adventure Bickson refers to truly began in the
early 1970s with a revolutionary idea: to assemble the cultural and
financial capital to restore a number of the historic palaces of
the rajahs, or Hindi kings, across India.
The idea became a
mission and the mission a focus in 1971, when Taj began managing
its first such property, the Taj Lake Palace hotel in Udaipur. The
contract provided for the renovation of the royal residence, built
in 1754 by the Jodhpur regions ruler, Maharajah Jagat Singh
actually begin until 2000, but the 63-room, 18-suite Lake Palace
has long been considered one of the great hotels of the
Taj also manages
the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur (since 1972); the smaller but no less
elegant Usha Kiran Place in Gwalior, added to the group in 2004;
and the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur, managed since 2005 and
still home to Jodhpurs current maharajah, Gaj Singh II.
each palace has been meticulous, under the watchful eyes of not
only of Taj Hotels designers but local royalty themselves, said
I felt that we at
Taj were given heirloom jewels, each with fascinating facets of
history and architectural beauty, he said. We were asked to polish
each and add new ones -- and we did.
Taj Hotels keeps
the guest experience regal to this day, with kingly perks such as
private jet transfers with personal butler between its palace
properties. We want the palace experience to be royal in all
and maintenance of royal residences, now marketed as part of the
Taj Luxury collection, is just one aspect of a new brand
architecture expansion at Indian Hotels Co., a division of Taj
IndiOne, a budget hotel brand employing the companys Smart Basics
concept for business and religious pilgrimage travelers.
provides consistently clean and convenient quality accommodations
and service at affordable prices, starting from about $21, single
occupancy, or $27, double, per night. The first IndiOne hotel is
operating in Whitefield, Bangalore, and 10 more are under
construction across India.
Taj also launched
Jiva, a branded spa facility for its properties.
We wanted to
create an Indian spa concept that would allow travelers to
experience the ... yoga and meditation processes that originated in
India, said Bickson.
Many Jiva spas
will be large, freestanding facilities. A spa under construction in
Dubai, for example, will be 45,000 square feet.
In other recent
resort development and acquisition news at Taj:Blue,
Sydney: In its first foray into Australia, Taj on Feb. 1
announced the opening of Blue, a 100-room waterfront property at
Woolloomooloo Bay in Sydney. The 5-year-old hotel, acquired by Taj
for $27 million in December, was formerly a W Hotel. Taj plans to
open additional Blue-branded hotels.The Taj
Exotica Resort and Spa, Palm Island Jumeirah Crescent,
Dubai: To be completed in 2007, this Taj Exotica property
will have 220 rooms, including deluxe rooms and luxury suites.The
Rebak Marina Resort, Langkawi, Malaysia: Located on a
390-acre island, the resort has the only fully equipped marina for
yachts in Malaysia. Taj will spend more than $5 million in
renovations and plans to relaunch the property by years end.The Taj
Exotica Resort and Spa, Maldives: This 4-year-old
property, built over one of the largest lagoons in the Maldives,
reopened in December after extensive renovations. Each of the 62
villas has a private sundeck with plunge pool. The resort has an
upgraded Jiva Grande spa outlet.The Taj
Bhutan: Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces and partner the
Tashi Group are building a hotel in Thimphu, Bhutan, set to open by
April. There will be 58 rooms and suites, many with views of the
Paro Valley. The Taj Bhutan will also have a Jiva spa.Taj
Denis Island, Seychelles: Off the coast of Mahe island in
the Seychelles, the Taj Denis is on a 375-acre private coral
island. Twenty-five villas are scattered across the resorts stretch
Green Cove Resort, Kovalam, Bali: This new resort is in
the Balinese fishing village of Kovalam. Hillside cottages and a
Jiva spa are spread across 10 acres.
of Tajs global expansion has been its entry into the U.S., with the
purchase in July of the Pierre Hotel in New York, according to
New York has been
in Tajs expansion plans for some time ... as the U.S. is a very
important market for us, he said.
For more on Taj
Hotels call the chains North American toll-free number at (866)
WOW-1-TAJ, or (866) 969-1825. Or, visit www.tajhotels.com.
the reporter who wrote this article, send e-mail to [email protected].