What it's like working at the Taj hotel in Mumbai, offering quarantine services

The Taj Mahal Palace in Colaba is sold out for international travellers on most days, isolating to control the spread of Covid-19. Here's what a day in the life of deputy general manager Mehrnavaz Avari looks like

Samar Srivastava
Published: Jun 24, 2020 11:51:48 AM IST
Updated: Jun 24, 2020 12:05:50 PM IST

After studying law I vectored towards journalism by accident and it's the only job I've done since. It's a job that has taken me on a private jet to Jaisalmer - where I wrote India's first feature on fractional ownership of business jets - to the badlands of west UP where India's sugar economy is inextricably now tied to politics. I'm a big fan of new business models and crafty entrepreneurs. Fortunately for me, there are plenty of those in Asia at the moment.

mehrnavaz avari_bgMehrnavaz Avari, deputy general manager at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai, says over time, gathering credible information has helped quell the fear of coronavirus infection
Image: Nisha Dhage

 

For Mehrnavaz Avari, it’s been a busy pandemic. Upon reaching home every day, she disinfects her shoes, removes her protective clothing and immediately enters the shower. She’s scaled down her wardrobe as her clothes are sanitised post wash.

In a frontline job, the chance of becoming infected is high. Ask if she was afraid and she admits that initially, the information and misinformation was a bit much to handle, causing a lot of apprehension. “But over time, there’s more understanding from people’s experiences and your own,” she says. Avari is one of the few that gets to go home every day.

 The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai’s Colaba, where Avari serves as deputy general manager, has had to retool its offering for quarantine passengers as well as work on preparing for the post-pandemic world of serving guests, once the hotel reopens for commercial operations. Avari has been working her usual workday. “In the hospitality industry there are no fixed hours,” she says.

Most days, the 500-room hotel is fully sold out for guests who come in for the mandatory seven-day quarantine. The hotel serves passengers returning to the city by air and sea. The bare bones service consists of three packed meals a day as well as beverage replenishments. According to Avari, most guests have been cooperative but for some the “lack of personalised service” has taken getting used to. Rooms are cleaned every few days, upon guests’ request. The cleaning service takes an hour.

During this period, the hotel has also housed health care workers who were apprehensive about returning home every day. They use the hotel to sleep and return to their hospitals for duty. While the quarantine service has been active since May, the healthcare workers have been housed since April.

For now, the hotel is functioning with 130 personnel or about a tenth of normal staffing levels. Staff is tested before being brought in, housed in the hotel and given protective clothing for their day-to-day jobs. Those who work at high contact points wear Hazmat suits. At the very minimum, staff wear a mask, gloves as well as hair netting.

Avari has also worked on putting in place detailed protocols on serving guests in a reopened hotel. The entire experience from the airport pick up, where the driver and passenger will be separated by a screen, to the use of sanitizers in the pick-up car, has been laid out. Once in, bags are to be disinfected and the check-in experience reworked. “All documents will be sent in advance digitally,” says Avari. Touch points in elevators and restaurants have been demarcated.

The new normal “has become a way of life,” she says.

This is part of a daily series on how Covid-19 has upended the lives of essential workers across the country. Read more here

Click here to see Forbes India's comprehensive coverage on the Covid-19 situation and its impact on life, business and the economy​

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