The first thing my kids do when we go into a room in a family-friendly hotel is to pick the place clean like vultures. If there are cookies on a plate, within seconds only crumbs remain. If there are puzzle books, within minutes the word searches are a spider web of biro crossings out. If there are soft toys embroidered with the hotel’s logo, they are kicked like footballs and thrown like netballs until they get wedged under a bed, only to be found at the end of the holiday – sometimes by us but more usually by the cleaner.
Taj has its roots in early 20th century Mumbai, or Bombay, where Jamsetji N. Tata opened The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. More than a century on, India is still the group’s heartland – it has almost a hundred hotels there now. Yet it has become more international in recent times and now has hotels in the Maldives, Australia, the US and the UK.
The Indian focus on the family is very evident when you look at the group’s kids programme, called Kids@Taj,which is currently available at eight of the group’s properties, including 51 Buckingham Gate in London.
Taj has spent a lot of time and money on researching what makes a good kids programme, including a focus group with 40 kids (now that must have been noisy).
What has come out of the research is a programme that means that kids who arrive at the hotel are treated as very special indeed. They get their own Kids@Taj keycards and backpacks filled with colouring books, customised stationery and crayons. Young guests also get a passport which they can get stamped at the group’s hotels.
Each of the eight hotels running the programme also have their own special elements too – the Blue in Sydney runs cupcake-making sessions, the Taj Palace in Dubai offers Friday cooking lessons with the hotel chef. 51 Buckingham Gate, a Taj all-suite property in London’s St James’, has a dedicated turndown service for kids.
Guests booking the Hamleys at 51 package get a Hamleys Welcome hamper on arrival, a personal shopper experience at the famous toy shop and extras such as a cooking or baking lesson in their suite and get to keep their personalised chef’s jacket afterwards. This costs £495 per night plus VAT based on two adults and two children up to 12 years old sharing a two-bedroom suite.
There are some other nice touches at 51 Buckingham Gate – iced teddy biscuits and handmade lollies in a variety of kid-attracting shades such as slime green and princess pink. But the thing that would have my kids most excited is the DVD and popcorn butler. If I ever tell them about it, I suspect they might want to live there.