Discover Taj in the UK

Mehrnavaz Avari, the first and the youngest woman to head IHCL’s london operations, says they aim to personalise every guest interaction and create meaningful moments for guests to remember

St James’ Court Hotel and Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites and Residences are unlike any other five-star luxury hotel in the United Kingdom. Together, they bring Indian heritage not just for the upper crust and at the doorsteps of London and Londoners, they usher luxurious experiences and personalised services for other Western travellers and for whom India is a land far away. The two hotels, located a few steps away from Buckingham Palace, have been operational since the 1980s. 

The two may be very distinct from one another but offer a whole range of similar services for the discerning guests. The St James’ Court, a Taj Hotel, is the more traditional one with 333 bedrooms and suites in the upper and upper scale segment. With the recent launch of the Premium category of rooms and suites here, it now offers a range of accommodation, banqueting and conference space and smaller meeting rooms and offices for those coming for business or social events. 

The Courtyard at St James’ Court London, a Taj Hotel

Taj 51 Buckingham Gate, Suites and Residences, on the other hand, is the AA five-star hotel, one of the few London hotels with the coveted red stars. An intimate hotel of 86 suites and residences for London standards. It is an intimate hotel, with personalised butler service. Taj 51 is home to HNIs as well as celebrities and the preferred hotel for delegations from multiple countries. In Taj 51 Buckingham Gate, guests find signature suites such as the only Jaguar Suite in the world and the Cinema Suite, an operatic take to the world of cinema designed by Sabyasachi.

The hotel offerings include the Jiva Spa and Fitness Centre, the first Jiva Spa in Europe, bringing the most traditional Jiva Indian treatments to London in a contemporarily designed spa. “This is with no doubt a wonderful way to experience Taj even when not staying in our hotels. In summer, the beautiful centre courtyard takes centre-stage with its cherub adorned fountain and the Shakespearean terracotta frieze which adorns the facade of the exquisite architecture of the hotel and the ideal location to enjoy the balmy long evenings of the British summer over food and drinks or to hire the space for an intimate wedding event or celebration,” shares Mehrnavaz Avari, Area Director UK and General Manager, St James’ Court Hotel and Taj 51 Buckingham Gate at St James’ Court, London.

“The opening of The Chambers, our business private members club, has been the latest addition to complement the exceptional offerings of this hotel and provide our Global Chambers members with their own space in the UK. Both hotels enjoy a range of F&B outlets including the newly launched TH@51, a lively restaurant and bar which serves an amalgamation of world flavours with inventive dishes. The bar offers experiential cocktails and celebrates the world’s biomes with late nights at the weekends. Not to forget Kona, dedicated to Afternoon Tea,” she adds.

TH@51, St James’ Court

Incidentally, Avari is not only the first but also the youngest woman to head IHCL’s London operations as the Area Director UK. “This is a testament that IHCL celebrates diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity. The Tata group is a respectful place for women to work – if you work hard and deliver results, there is no glass ceiling for you to break through – the sky is the limit! I have always believed that age is just a number and leadership roles should be given based on performance and potential. It is highly gratifying to work for an organisation that resonates with this philosophy and demonstrates it through action,” she avers.

On what sets the two properties apart, Avari says, “Tajness is always at the heart of everything we do - at home in India and at our international locations like this one. What sets us apart is our desire to personalise every guest interaction and to create meaningful moments for guests to remember. This is achieved via our food offerings but also down to the little details of warm welcomes, guest recognition for travellers from all over the world, celebrating Indian heritage while catering to every taste.”

Both the hotels enjoy a wonderful mix of nationalities coming in. “As it is reflected across London, certain nationalities prevail due to national holidays or school holidays or the many amazing events in London throughout the year. While we are very proud to have a very strong following from Indian guests residing in India and around the world, we enjoy having the patronage of guests of Indian heritage or with strong ties to India living in the UK. Travel trends pre- and post-Covid19 have been very different and largely governed by travel restrictions and vaccination levels across various nations. During these past two years where travel was highly restricted, we have welcomed many new guests within the UK who have discovered their Taj in the UK,” shares Avari. 

The definition of luxury, feels the Area Director UK – IHCL, has changed over the years from opulence to personalisation, from extravagance to authenticity. “Hence, even in our hotels in India, there is a focus on creating personalised and curated experiences. Notwithstanding that, there is a fundamental difference in hospitality in Asia and in the European context, largely governed by the leaner operational structures. In each geography, one must adapt to the needs of the market and create guest experiences that celebrate the rich culture and heritage of the place while preserving our strong Indian heritage of luxury hospitality. Luxury service experiences in India would be centred on people or employees but in UK would be through process orientation or technology intervention,” she says.

Premium Courtyard Junior Suite, St James’ Court Hotel

Adding that London, as a city, is a beautiful amalgamation of cultures, traditions, history, and art from across the world, she says, “It is truly a global melting pot. Luxury can be felt in the range of extraordinary restaurants one can find in the city, the remarkable, immersive experiences in the city theatres, and the ease of accessing luxury stores from across the world.” 

Talking about the scope for women in the hospitality industry, Avari says, “Each year that passes, women are being recognised for their potential to take on bigger roles, with greater education and more freedom to travel and to explore opportunities at home and abroad, it is natural that doors are opening for preciously male-dominated roles. You can see young female talent coming from universities and colleges with a greater desire to accomplish. With companies willing to invest in creating more inclusive work cultures, it is also important that women actively seek challenging roles outside their comfort zone in order to develop themselves as well-heeled hoteliers.”

Avari says career is a journey for her where every step needs ro be enjoyed. “As I complete two decades with IHCL, I feel privileged and proud for what I have achieved so far. While I look forward to more exciting and exhilarating roles in the years ahead, my focus at present is to accomplish the vision of the company for UK while continuing to inspire the next generation of upcoming young women leaders,” she concludes. 

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'MARCH-APRIL 2022 F&B SPECIAL'

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