Ajoy Misra is senior vice president, sales and marketing for Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces. This year Taj has expanded both internationally, with a new Cape Town property, and in India, with the opening of the Taj Falaknuma Palace. In addition it has continued to grow its two new brands - Vivanta by Taj, and Gateway.
Your signature property in Mumbai is now fully open?
It is, yes. The Palace or Heritage Wing has reopened after extensive renovation. It was completely closed [after the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008], and although we reopened parts of the hotel after only a few weeks, the Heritage Wing was badly damaged, so we shut that wing and took as much time as was required to renovate everything. It cost us upwards of $37 million dollars, so it's been an expensive renovation and restoration, but it is firmly back in business now.
How long will it take to get the business back to that property now it is fully open?
The good news is that it's already back. As soon as the property opened we had the US President in there, and forward bookings are very strong. This hotel did not take any time. People have been waiting for it to open. Almost every head of state and CEO, almost anyone who comes to Mumbai wants to stay there, whether for symbolic reasons or being a regular. It hasn't taken us any time to build that occupancy back. We opened on the 15 August and it's been good news since then.
Yet your first quarter results this year weren't strong.
The dip in the results this year was simply because the Taj Mahal Palace Heritage Wing was not open. That hotel is our largest revenue and profit generator in the whole group, and in 2010 we were not covered by insurance for loss of profit, so that was the first time we had the costs, and we had no insurance money coming in. Now we are fully back in operation and there will be a good turn around. And traditionally this is the peak period through until March.