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Terror-hit Oberoi remade @ Rs 62 lakh/room

Thursday, 22 April 2010 - 2:24am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
Hotel, shut since 26/11 attacks, is set to reopen.

The Oberoi, Mumbai, will reopen for guests on April 24, nearly seventeen months after the 2008 terror attacks devastated the property and forced it shut.

The cost of renovation: a whopping Rs 180 crore or so.
Or, around Rs 62 lakh per room for the 287-key luxury hotel.
That’s a lot of money to spend on renovating a hotel, discounting the cost of land and the cold shell.

“It is as good as building a new hotel, which is what it actually is,” says Liam Lambert, president, Oberoi Hotels & Resorts.

Going by him, the renovated property perhaps best demonstrates what P R S Oberoi, chairman and CEO of Bombay Stock Exchange-listed EIH Ltd and the flagship company of The Oberoi Group, would call a luxury experience.

Indeed, the entire restoration work of the hotel was planned and executed by the EIH chairman himself. “So involved was he in the process that he even handpicked the milky white marble for the lobby floor. The pieces were brought all the way from Greece. So particular was he about the whiteness that almost 70% of the marble got rejected. On a lighter note, we have enough marble now in our possession to build a new hotel with it,” says Lambert.
Funding the renovation work has been done entirely through internal accruals. “All the money came from PRS Oberoi’s pocket,” says Lambert.

But, of course, EIH received around Rs 62 crore from New India Assurance as an ad hoc payment against loss of business and damage to the hotel.

“We are still in the process of documenting the entire loss and damage to the Mumbai hotel. The process should begin soon after the hotel starts receiving guests starting this weekend,” says Lambert.

The group sure can’t wait for The Oberoi, Mumbai to start. Prior to the terror attacks, the hotel was generating in excess of Rs 160 crore in revenues annually.

The hotel already has about 37 confirmed bookings for next week, of which two were expected to check-in on Wednesday.

“Guest room bookings are pouring in gradually and we are hopeful of experiencing on an average 35-40% occupancy given that we are now in the lean business season,” says Steven Kalczynski, general manager, The Oberoi, Mumbai.

The renovation has brought down the number of rooms from over 300 prior to the terror attacks to 287 now as the suite room inventory has been increased to 73 —- almost double the number (33 suites) earlier —- with an eye on high-end corporate business.
The published tariff starts from Rs 23,000 plus taxes for the basic category of rooms and goes up to Rs 3 lakh plus taxes for the suite rooms.

The suite rooms occupy floor space ranging from 850 sq ft to 2,056 sq ft for the Kohinoor Suite on the 21st floor.

“It’s the costliest accommodation with a price tag of Rs 3 lakh plus taxes for a day and includes airport transfers and complimentary breakfast,” a company official says of the Kohinoor suite.

The Oberoi, Mumbai now boasts of top-of-the-line guest rooms, in-room amenities with butler service for every guestroom, an array of completely new food & beverage options including a new age Indian cuisine restaurant by Michelin-star master chef Vineet Bhatia. In fact, Bhatia started his career with The Oberoi way back in the 80s before moving to London in 1993. And it’s a sort of home coming for the master chef in re-associating with the hotel after nearly two decades.

Meanwhile, EIH’s agreement with Singapore-based Banyan Tree for outsourcing the management of their Spas came to an end last month. The Spa facility has now been re-branded and is now called the Oberoi Spa.

As for security, the hotel will have 10-times more surveillance cameras than before the attack, sniffer dogs and x-ray machines, officials said.

The terror attacks had thrown Indian travel and hospitality industries out of gear before the recession took hold. Indian Hotels-owned Taj Hotel, which was also a target of the terror attacks, reopened a part of the 107-year-old property on December 22, 2008.

The Heritage wing is scheduled to reopen on July 1.

Oberoi’s Trident Hotel also resumed operations on December 22.




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