CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed highly experience luxury hotelier Thomas Kochs, Managing Director of luxury hotel property Corinthia London.
While many luxury hotels in London have postponed opening till September, you opened rather early. What was the motivation?
There were a number of reasons. The main one was probably that I firmly believe that when there is a market to trade in we should do so. We were allowed to open again on 4th July, and after discussions with my Executive team and the team at Head Office we all felt it was only right to open our doors again. In addition we have people who were on Furlough and want to come back to work, being away for too long is not good. We also felt an obligation towards our guests, some will want to visit again, and with that in mind we wanted out doors open. Another reason was, and I am sure we all agree, is that we want our economy back, and we want our London back – that will not work when we are closed, so it was also a contribution in a wider sense.
Which were the challenges and the opportunities of re-opening early?
The challenge is that visibility is a bit blurred. Government guidelines change with rather short notice and we have to adapt. The biggest challenge are the travel restrictions and quarantines, in the beginning the missing flight corridors and now new restrictions being applied. Our business model is well balanced, however with an international travel view. 75 – 80-% of our business is international, which normally leaves a great proportion of UK domestic business with almost 25%, that is our second largest single market, however the balance is not there right now. Also considering that the split is usually 50% leisure and 50% corporate, that adds a challenge as corporate is not coming back as quickly as we need it.
With key international feed markets such as the Middle East and the U.S. unlikely to return to London this year, how has your guests profile changed, if in any way.
At the moment we see primarily UK domestic leisure business and very few Americans, those are the ones who have been in Europe already.
To what extent you are still catering to local patrons?
The Londoners are so happy that we are back. Our Garden restaurant is almost full and Kerridge’s Bar & Grill is very popular. Some people are keen to go out, others are a little more cautious, however we have all safety measure s in place that your visit is a safe and enjoyable one at the same time.
How important is your extensive dining offering? What about Spa / Wellness?
It remains important, however we adapt our offering at the moment. We opened with Kerridge’s Bar & Grill, The Crystal Moon Lounge and The Garden, and we kept Northall Restaurant, Northall Bar and Bassoon bar closed for now. The Spa came later, I recall it was 25th July, and again we opened as soon as we could and I must say it is very popular. I think people are longing for some TLC.
Are guests nowadays more focused on safety and hygiene in regards to Covid-19? To what extent they are more price sensitive?
I think quite rightly so everyone is more alert and aware of hygiene and safety measures, and that is good, we are all in this together, the guests need to contribute as much as we do and respect the measures we have put in place. And that works really well. We have had no problems. I don’t see a change in price sensitivity, however thinking about it, the whole crisis had nothing to do with prices, it was a health crisis and I believe we should not attract our guests back through huge discounts, but with our smiles, service and hospitality. Our pricing was always fair in my opinion. We also have lost a lot of money, all of us, our guests in their businesses and ourselves, so we all need to earn it now.
What are your expectations for the rest of this year?
We need to manage the virus and come back strong and safe. In our line of business we need the international travel, I am not telling you anything new. Personally I think if we remain confident and responsible as a brand our customers will continue to trust us. We will get it back, bit by bit, however I do not expect occupancies to exceed 30 / 40% this year, and that is optimistic. We would normally operate at an average of app 85% over the year!
How delicate is training of staff on Covid-19? How do you alleviate pressure so that all employees instil a safety feel to guests?
We have really some very solid procedures in place and we are very transparent about it. Also we involved key people in developing them and choosing the PPE, the equipment we would purchase etc, so there was a lot of involvement and buy-in. I think in terms of training we all see the need for this to be right. We want to be responsible but also offer a fantastic hotel experience – no one comes here to experience a hospital style operation. Everyone gets an induction and then departmental training on the new ways of working.
What novelties should we be expecting?
I hope you will recognise the Corinthia London we all love so much. First and foremost people need to feel cared for and feel better when they are with us. The visible measures are discreet and charming signage, stylish hand sanitising stations, Masks when we get closer and serve food, Some elegant screens on the reception desks, new in room amenities including sanitisers and masks and a few bits and bobs here and there.
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