Business trip: Delhi
Locals relax in Connaught Place's Central Park. (Anders Blomqvist/Getty)
With its extremes and contradictions, its jumble of old and new and its blend of cultures, languages and religions, Delhi is a microcosm of India. And as the seat of the country’s massive (and infamously bureaucratic) government and the key commercial and financial centre of the country’s northern half, Delhi is an increasingly frequent destination for globetrotters.
Business travellers are most likely to visit the central district of New Delhi, which is surrounded by the nine other districts that make up this giant metropolis of nearly 17 million residents. New Delhi was designed and built by the British in the 1920s, with the wide, tree-lined boulevards, imposing statues, government edifices, diplomatic enclaves and world-class hotels that are fitting of a capital city.
Fast growing nearby satellite cities such as Gurgaon, 25 km to the south are also attracting a new wave of multinational corporate headquarters, and their travelling employees are often happy to bypass Delhi’s crowded commercial core.
The 2010 opening of the massive, bright and modern Terminal 3 at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport brought the facility up to global standards. The new terminal handles all international arrivals and is the eighth largest passenger terminal in the world, occupying some 540,000sqm – so be prepared to walk long distances to and from your flight.
In February 2011, business travellers were delighted to begin using the new high-speed, 23km Delhi Airport Express, a traffic-busting rapid rail line that connects the city centre with the airport. But do not count on using it for the next few months. In July 2012, operations came to an abrupt halt due to structural issues. There were also rumours that the line was not meeting ridership expectations and could be experiencing financial difficulties.
The city’s most graceful grande dame, the 233-room Imperial New Delhi, has been a meeting spot for business travellers, diplomats and expats since it opened in 1931. Located in the key Connaught Place business district, the hotel is revered for its blend of Victorian, Colonial and Art Deco design touches, modern conveniences and impeccable service. Even if you are not a hotel guest, drop by and enjoy high tea in the place where leaders like Gandhi, Nehru, Jinna and Mountbatten met to map out the future of the country upon its independence from England in 1947. The Imperial also has one of the best art collections in the country.
More modern and business focused – but equally elegant – are the 294-room Taj Mahal and the 402-room Taj Palace hotels, located among embassies and mansions on the leafy, relaxed, southern side of New Delhi. Both hotels are as popular with business travellers as they are with locals, and their large, buzzy lobbies, bars, and restaurants are popular spots for casual business meetings as well as people watching.
Business travellers may also check in at the classy 260-room Leela Palace New Delhi near the Presidential Palace, with its oversized 51sqm guestrooms, or the modern 507-room Hyatt Regency Delhi, one of the largest five-star hotels in town. Also, the Oberoi, New Delhi (open while undergoing a renovation set to complete in 2014) is a quiet, contemporary oasis amid the city’s bustle, near the Delhi Golf Club and the grandiose tomb of Emperor Humayun.
Aman Resorts, best known for its posh, peaceful properties throughout the world, opened the 60-room Aman New Delhi in 2010. It is a tranquil, minimalist-chic “city resort” where some rooms come with private plunge pools.
Nearly all the established brands in Delhi have recently opened business-oriented counterparts in the burgeoning city of Gurgaon, including the Oberoi Gurgaon, Vivanta by Taj (opening 15 December), Leela Kempinski and Best Western Skycity. As a nice touch, nearly all the hotels in Gurgaon offer complimentary transfers to and from Indira Ghandi International Airport.