Few people would want the job of Offer Nissenbaum, General Manager of the Peninsula Beverley Hills luxury hotel in California. Even he admitted, “We do have demanding guests, and we’re fine with that. It’s OK because they have high expectations.”
However the job does have its upside – he has just been shortlisted as one of the five finalists for the Hotelier of the Year Award. The award ceremony is organized by Virtuoso, the luxury travel agent network, who whittle down the nominees from 900 luxury hotels around the world. The award goes to the person best showing “an unrelenting passion for the industry, an astute appreciation for detail and a keen sense of how to lead and manage a dynamic team of professionals.”
The other finalists are from all four corner of the world. Michel Jauslin is Director General of the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome; Torsten van Dullemmen works for the Oberoi Udaivilas in Rajasthan; Nigel Pace is General Manager of the Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town in South Africa and Claudio Ceccherelli represents the Park Hyatt Milan in Italy.
The final award-naming ceremony will take place at the Virtuoso Annual Travel Mart Conference held at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas where top travel agents, luxury hotel representatives and hoteliers will mingle and network.
Luxury Hotel group Hilton has been using the latest 21st century phenomena, flash mobs, to attract publicity as part of its Hilton HHonors Great Getaway. The hotel chain recently orchestrated an entertaining flash-mob beach party on the sizzling streets of New York City as it experiences a summer heat wave.
The 40-or-so members of the group discarded their business attire to reveal bikinis and swimwear, to the amusement of commuters making their way more slowly than usual through Penn Station.
The group moved on to Times Square, Grand Central Station, the Rockefeller Center and Bryant Park tossing beach balls, dancing and generally having a good time. Hilton also orchestrated a similar event in London recently which attracted city workers along with Ben Cohen, a former rugby international player. However, I doubt that the weather was quite warm enough in London for beachwear.
The message however was clear. If you want to be part of what’s happening at Hilton hotels, best sign up for Hilton Honors to be included in the next fun event.
What governs your choice of luxury hotels? Do you go to your favorite booking site and punch in the destination? Are you loyal to a particular brand, maybe drawn by the benefits of a loyalty card? Or do you choose the hotel with the best bath products?
Hilton Hotels seem to think the latter is all important and has even gone to the trouble of ousting its high class La Source amenities from Crabtree and Evelyn, replacing them with a new line from Peter Thomas Roth. Both retail for top dollar so it is not a money-saving exercise, yet Hilton Hotels believes this change in the bathroom will convey a “more worldly image”.
This new line is certainly not a mass-market brand and actually runs the risk of being underrated as few people have heard of it. However Hilton’s execs believe it suggests a sense of exclusivity and cache, making Hilton looks eminently more stylish.
Hilton executives reportedly took 18 months to choose their new toiletries and considered more than 50 products - nice work if you can get it. The products include a shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, body wash and two soap bars, so nothing new there. It has yet to be decided whether to use the Peter Thomas Roth brand in the spas, but the products will be on sale at Hilton Hotel’s shops. Meanwhile Doubletree by Hilton recently switched from Neutrogena to Crabtree and Evelyn’s Citron line, but does anyone really care?
by Gillian at Luxique Luxury Hotels
The American credited with founding the concept of the boutique hotel, Ian Schrager, is returning to London for his next project.
In a joint venture with Marriott International, Schrager is to redevelop Berners Hotel – a stalled development north of Oxford Street in the heart of the West End.
Media reports say Marriott International bought the site of the 193-bedroom hotel for more than £60 million ($97 million). It was put up for sale when the company that owned the business went into administration in August. More than 40 bids were received.
Schrager made his name with Studio 54 in New York and went on to open luxury and boutique hotels in New York such as Morgans and Gramercy Park and the Sanderson boutique hotel in London. He said: “I’m thrilled to be returning to London for an incredibly special and historic building like Berners Hotel.”
Schrager and Marriott teamed up in 2008 to create a new boutique design hotel brand called Edition and have plans to roll it out globally.
The ‘London Edition’ development on Berners Street will take up to two years. The hotel had been part refurbished, with planning permission in place. The building has been covered in scaffolding and hoardings for nearly four years.
The site dates back to 1835 when it was built as five classic houses. These were then converted into one hotel in the early 1990s, before closing in January 2006 for the proposed redevelopment and upgrade.
by Andy Moreton
Boutique or grand – Luxique has a comprehensive selection of luxury hotels in London.
One of the most popular hotel review websites, TripAdvisor, could face a legal challenge from hoteliers who say adverse comments are damaging their businesses.
TripAdvisor encourages its users to give honest feedback and ratings for hotels, flights, restaurants and rentals. But a growing group of hotel owners claim many of the posts are either exaggerated or completely fabricated (either by users or competing hoteliers).
The mass action is being put together by KwikChex, a company which monitors online reputations. Chris Emmins, from the company, said more and more businesses from around the world were contacting him about the situation. Many were smaller concerns that couldn’t afford to fight back.
Mr Emmins said he was keen to avoid legal action if possible, and his aim was for TripAdvisor to take down reviews that were proven to be false, defamatory or malicious. “We hope common sense will prevail,” he said.
TripAdvisor said it couldn’t comment on threatened or pending litigation, but added that every review was screened, and those deemed suspicious were investigated.
by Andy Moreton
There were some interesting thoughts about the future of the luxury hotel sector on the fringe of the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference in Dubai.
The UAE newspaper, The National, interviewed the President of Oberoi Hotels and Resorts, Liam Lambert, the President of the Viceroy Hotel Group, Nicholas Clayton, and the chief executive of the Emaar Group, Mark Dardenne.
Dardenne: “We’ve learned from customer feedback the things we should do better, how we can make it easier for the customer. It’s technology that is easy and accessible. I think we’re thinking too hard about how to create a ‘wow’ effect. Keep it simple.”
As the luxury hotel market in the Gulf expands and competition increases, operators are having to make adjustments to attract tourists and business executives.
Clayton: “We have to adapt to customer needs. One of the things you’re seeing in the resorts is the launch of high-end delis and coffee shops, where people can do a sophisticated grab-and-go. This is what the customers demand and they will march outside your hotel to find it if you don’t develop the product. I think it is really about thinking through how customers use hotels.”
Greater sensitivity to the environment is another area to which the luxury hotel sector will be looking.
Lambert: “I think we will have to have mechanisms whereby when you leave the room a motion detector turns off the air-conditioning and lowers the blinds. When you approach the room, all those things snap back on again. I think that will be an expectation in five years’ time. I think a change is afoot. It’s about the experience.”
by Andy Moreton, with acknowledgements to Rebecca Bundhun of The National
It wasn’t so long ago that any mention of Lebanon conjured up images of a war-torn landscape and a frightened population rushing home before curfew.
But things have changed radically and tourists are returning to a country which the New York Times has described as being ‘poised to reclaim its title as the Paris of the Middle East.’
Lebanon welcomed 1.3 million tourists last year and in 2009 is expecting a record 2 million – many of them from other Arab countries, but plenty more from elsewhere.
The rocky beaches of the north and the sandy coasts in the south are buzzing with local and foreign holidaymakers, and restaurants in the renovated heart of the capital, Beirut, are packed most nights of the week. Hotel occupancy has reached 85 per cent.
Summer music and dance festivals, which had to be cancelled in previous years because of war or political turmoil, are back on the entertainment calendar this year, attracting thousands of visitors.
Lebanon is not yet sold in Europe as a holiday destination and the US State Department still advises citizens against travel there as the ‘situation remains tense and a resumption of sporadic violence remains a possibility.’
But confidence is on the rise, as is investment in hotels – Gordon Campbell Gray (of One Aldwych, London and Carlisle Bay, Antigua fame) recently opened Le Gray in Beirut. He, too, thinks Lebanon’s time has come again.
by Andy Moreton, with Rana Moussaoui
Luxique can arrange the best rates at one of the loveliest luxury hotels in Beirut – the Albergo, which is part of the distinguished Relais & Chateaux chain. Situated in the heart of old Beirut, it’s an art-deco mansion with 33 differently-themed suites.
A recent survey on a TV consumer programme concluded that the standard of service here in the UK had become much worse over the past few years.
It was refreshing, therefore, to read the thoughts of hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray in the June edition of the magazine Condé Nast Traveller. “We are in the kindness industry,” said Campbell Gray. “I think it’s an insult to charge for the internet or a piece of fruit.”
Campbell Gray runs One Aldwych in London (where, reportedly, three pieces of fresh fruit are delivered to every room, every day). Also in his stable is the chic Carlisle Bay in Antigua with its barefoot luxury.
He tends to hand pick everything that goes into his hotels and says that when his staff members say “it’s my pleasure”, they mean it. His maxim is said to be: “Show me the doorman and I’ll tell you how the hotel is run.”
Now Campbell Gray has a fresh challenge – he’s opening a new hotel, Le Gray, next month … in the centre of the Lebanese capital, Beirut. “I think Beirut’s time has come again,” he said. “It’s a marvellous location – you have the sea and the mountains – and I think the people are the most glamorous on earth.”
by Andy Moreton (with thanks to Reggie Nadelson)
Luxique can find you the best rates at Carlisle Bay, One Aldwych and at Duke’s Hotel in London, which is also managed by Gordon Campbell Gray’s company.