Travel Weekly's Michael Ardizzone traveled to India. Here is
BOMBAY, India -- In 1902, Jamshetji Tata was refused lodging at
an English-owned hotel in India because the establishment refused
to serve Indians.
So Tata, figuring the best revenge would be to start a competing
hotel, opened the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay.
From that beginning, Taj has become a chain of quality
properties that today has 61 hotels in 34 destinations, including
11 outside India.
Taj has expressed an interest in reentering the U.S. market --
it sold its U.S. interests, including the Lexington Hotel in
Manhattan in 1999 -- and plans to open a second tourist office in
To familiarize Americans with the quality of its product, Taj
has conducted U.S. road shows over the past two years.
Operators who use Taj for their India tours include Abercrombie
and Kent, Oak Brook, Ill.; Travcoa, Newport Beach, Calif.; Sita
World Travel, Encino, Calif., and Cox & Kings, Tampa, Fla.
To Indians, anything run by the Tata Group, the parent company
of Taj Hotels, has the stamp of efficiency.
Our group stayed overnight at five hotels and visited two
others. They were all quality contemporary hotels with modern
Some of the properties are opulent. The Rambagh Palace in Jaipur
for instance, is a former maharaja's palace.
To address different market segments, Taj Hotels breaks its
properties down into the following categories: Taj Luxury Hotels,
Taj Business Hotels, Taj Leisure Hotels and Gateway Hotels and
Getaway Resorts. The Luxury Hotels are members of the Leading
Hotels of the World.
The chain has multiple hotels in key cities in India, including
three in Delhi.
The Taj Club, available at six hotels, is an exclusive floor for
business travelers. It offers a long list of complimentary
amenities, including exclusive on-floor check-in and check-out and
free airport transfers.
All hotels offer 24-hour room service, and I found the attention
given to guests in the hotels I visited to be extraordinary.
Taj takes pride in its cuisine, which is drawn from countries
throughout the world. In fact, it claims to have popularized
foreign cuisines in India and raised the culinary standard in the
Quality food is important here, not only for enjoyment but for
health concerns. Agents should recommend that their clients eat
only in hotels to avoid problems with food or drink.
The following is a peek at some Taj properties:Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay. Not only the signature hotel of the
chain but a cultural landmark, the property touts itself as the
oldest luxury hotel in India and the country's first five-star. The
property is adjacent to the India Gate and on the waterfront.
Among its noted guests were Mark Twain; Paul McCartney, who
stayed in the presidential suite in January, and former President
Bill Clinton, who visited last spring.Taj Mahal, Delhi. Like the Taj Mumbai, this is a
service-oriented hotel that can handle just about any request.Taj Palace Hotel, Delhi. This hotel is notable for the Orient
Express, a restaurant modeled after the cars of the famous train.
Its menu is the same as that offered on the train.Rambagh Palace, Jaipur. A former hunting palace of the
maharaja, it features 47 acres of gardens. Rambagh is quiet and
uncongested. Renovations this fall will give many of the rooms
individual verandas.Lake Palace, Udaipur. A white structure sitting in the middle
of a lake, the hotel looks as though it sprang from a fairy
Ferries take guests from the mainland to the hotel, which has 67
guest rooms and 17 suites.
The James Bond film "Octopussy" was filmed at Lake Palace.
The hotel made Conde Nast Traveler's Gold List for 2001 and
received a perfect score for location.Taj View Hotel, Agra. The hotel does, indeed, have impressive
views of the Taj Mahal, which is less than a mile away. Facing
rooms need to be reserved well in advance of a trip. The hotel has
100 rooms, including five executive suites.Taj Hari Mahal, Jodhpur. This property was designed for maximum
natural light. It was completed in December 2000, so it's still
clean and fresh. Its 93 rooms and suites are spread out over six
acres, and there are lots of public areas and an outdoor pool.