Taj-ness Tested – size doesn’t matter
We’ve been fortunate enough to stay in a number of magnificent hotels around the world – from the small and intimate to the gargantuan.
When all is said and done, in our opinion, size doesn’t matter, nor do the extensive range of facilities (as many have similar offerings) and to some extent nor does the location – although we do tend to choose location first.
However, what does matter for us is the feeling that we’re welcome and that we are a valued visitor – as opposed to being expected to feel grateful for the opportunity to stay with them – and under these circumstances we’ll even change our itinerary in order to stay in a hotel of preference.
In all our travels the one group of hotels who consistently sustain this welcome and level of warmth of service is Taj Hotels. The staff themselves call it ‘Taj-ness’ that differentiates them from any other hotel – and whatever that means it certainly makes a difference when staying with them.
There’s an irony to their existence in that, according to anecdote, Jamsetji Tata the founder of the Taj was refused entry to Watson’s Hotel in Mumbai by the ruling British under their policy of ‘No dogs or Indians’ and it was this snub that empowered Tata to his own heights of excellence – that now extend worldwide into brands including jaguar and Land Rover! Watson’s is now little more than a rotting testament to ‘what goes around comes around’.
As the Taj Group gradually spreads its influence around the world with hotels and lodges of differing sizes, we tend to seek them out. However, it’s in India where we’ve had the most experience of them and their brand tends to fall into two distinct divisions – that of Taj and of Vivanta. Vivanta was established a few years ago to differentiate between the very highest standard of property under Taj and the more conventional with Vivanta. That said we’ve also been to Vivanta (in Sri Lanka) where it would be hard to tell the difference but as general rule if you’re looking for the best then head for Taj.
Our all-time favourite hotel – probably anywhere in the world – has to be Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai where we feel instantly at home on arrival. We can’t claim to be such frequent visitors that Taj staff would remember us – so it’s all the more impressive to be greeted and cared for as if we were long-term family members.
Almost every luxury hotel will offer you butler service, sumptuous robes, quality toiletries and endless bowls of fruit and chocolates but very few will do it in a way that makes you feel as though it’s for you personally, rather than delivered as a duty.
‘Taj-ness’ put to the test.
For us what differentiates Taj from others is how they accommodate instances when, with the best will in the world, things go wrong. There’s never a quibble or quip, neither reluctance nor tardiness in rectifying the problem and it’s done with a grace that accepts responsibility for our welfare and comfort –simple excellence.
On our last visit we arrived early and were settled into a pleasant room by our butler in the Palace wing that unfortunately overlooked a building site in the adjacent property. We phoned and explained our disappointment to the duty manager as we always stay in the Palace wing and have always enjoyed excellent rooms, to date. Good to her promise to get back to us within ten minutes and without further question we were relocated in a much superior suite on the sixth floor. The marbled bathroom alone was the size of a bedroom and the shower could have accommodated eight people – if we’d been of a mind!
Whilst on this floor we were also shown the Bell Tower Suite, which surpasses all others in the hotel for opulence and is the size of a small two storey family house with its galleried bedroom suite, dining, lounge and staff areas. Perhaps next time…
So, ‘Taj-ness’ would appear to be a culture of care and an inherent respect for the visitor of any persuasion, temperament or desire, which as yet seems unwavering and inherently consistent whenever we return ‘home’.
We’ve been tempted by Taj Land’s End, in the suburb of Bandra much nearer the airport in Mumbai, which offers the same Taj spirit of care coupled with superb facilities, restaurants – and views over the hottest Bollywood stars’ fashionable residences – but although the convenience coupled with the quiet of the old colonial Portuguese area is often appealing, we actually prefer the haven amidst the hullabaloo of Colaba that is our old favourite, Taj Palace.
Travel further afield and you’ll find Taj in the USA, UK, Dubai, Sri Lanka, Maldives and South Africa – we’re looking forward to one day trying them all. We’re hoping to visit Bhutan in the not too distant future – and are really pleased to see that Taj got there before us.
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