Post pandemic, which are the challenges you envisage as persisting? What about unexpected opportunities which have come up?
In London the key concerns are the ability to hire and retain quality team members. Brexit has caused previously unheard of problems in the labour market. This compounded with Covid and we have the perfect storm. Brexit forced some excellent employees to return to Europe and now the cost of attaining visas to return is too expensive. Others left during the pandemic and have yet to return. The key going forward is retention and this can only be done by providing excellent training, meaningful work and great opportunities. On the positive side I really feel that employers have had to sit up and listen more to their team members which in turn will create a stronger work environment.
What are the biggest mistake luxury hotelier do in reopening? What should they learn?
At The Landmark our key goal was to reopen as many facilities as we could as soon as we could. We did not reduce our rates or our restaurant pricing so as a team we felt strongly that we had to continue to provide our guests with the same levels of service as they had pre-pandemic. I do feel that a number of businesses, outside of hospitality, are using Covid as an excuse to providing a lower level of service. We did ask a lot of our people and many undertook tasks that initially they were not trained for. Thankfully we have a fabulous culture within our team and I think they have enjoyed working across departments.
We have also been very fortunate in that we have 4 properties across London and so have been able to utilise colleagues throughout the estate. In return our occupancies in both rooms and restaurants have been excellent during the Summer months and most certainly exceeded expectations. We have also witnessed the huge pent up demand that exists and as such our average spends in restaurants are far higher than before.
How has the luxury traveller profile changed? Do guests have different expectations? Can we conclude luxury is being redefined?
Luxury is most certainly being redefined. Firstly many guests are a lot younger and secondly they are coming from countries previously not associated with luxury travellers namely China and Russia. But even for the traditional luxury traveller the expectations and definition of luxury has changed. Previously opulence, richness, grandeur and exclusiveness were bywords for the luxury traveller but that has changed. This group is now looking for a more emotional experience and connection.
They often look for something unique and personalised, something that lasts in the mind as opposed to a possession. Our two greatest luxuries are health and time and neither can essentially be bought. At The Landmark London, with our world-class health spa facilities and F&B offering, we are creating tailored experiences that focus on the mind and wellbeing whilst making great use of the guest’s time as we believe that these are the components that luxury travellers will look for in the future.
Is there a set of essential operational measures to ensure that service is not perceived as being affected by the pandemic?
We have undertaken a huge number of measures to deliver the same world-class service at The Landmark London, post-Covid. All travellers want to feel safe, but no one wants their experience to be compromised and so we have focussed on maintaining the highest possible safety standards whilst ensuring a luxurious and relaxing stay for every guests.
Firstly, we have put in place rigorous hygiene and testing standards to make sure the hotel is a safe environment. We have extensive contingency plans to manage scenarios in which guests or staff members contract Coronavirus and we have measures in place to deal with any staff shortages resulting from illness or isolation. Many of these initiatives take place ‘behind the scenes’ to ensure that they don’t impact the experience of any visitors.
Discovering, nurturing and motivating talent remains crucial. Tell us about your approach.
The Landmark London has an ongoing mission to reach an outstanding level of quality in its people management, engagement and wellbeing strategy, so Human Resources is central to the hotel’s vision and purpose. We believe that investing in our team creates a superior service, that makes every guest experience exceptional.
We have achieved a number of accolades to recognise this, including fourth position in the acclaimed The Sunday Times’ ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ in 2020 and achieving ‘Investors in People’ Platinum Level Accreditation in 2019. Most recently, we have achieved the London Healthy Workplace Award for our exceptional investment in the health and wellbeing of our team.
Luxury hoteliers in many destinations, urban or resort, still operate part of their accommodations inventory and with reduce staff.
Notwithstanding the difficulties we are all facing in recruiting staff it is incumbent on all of us to find solutions. As an industry we need to be open fully to our guests. Government needs to step up and take part ownership of this problem and together we will come out of this positively. There is a huge pent up demand and we need to find solutions so as not to disappoint.
Are guests still concerned about Covid-19 safety and hygiene measure taken by the hotel? How important is consistency when it comes to implementing such measures?
Guests have a mixed response to Covid-19. Some are cautious and others are very relaxed. To ensure that every guest feels secure and reassured that The Landmark London is a safe environment, we implement consistent and uniform measures throughout the property. This is essential for effectively combating Coronavirus and also for ensuring that guests understand the policies and measures that we operate at the hotel.
What are the key ingredient in defining your brand communications so that you generate desirability from wealthy travellers?
Throughout its 120 year history, The Landmark London has always been a destination for high net worth individuals. When engaging this consumer type, we focus on communicating to them the attributes of the hotel that we know appeals most to this demographic. This includes our luxury service and amenities, our varied and world class F&B offering from our four drinking and dining outlets, our commitment to wellness, including our five star spa and health club, our focus on personalisation and our exceptional guest rooms and suites.
Do you think that properties of a certain size have an advantage or disadvantage in the recovery process?
Post-pandemic recovery will be a challenge for businesses of all sizes. We feel in a fortunate position at The Landmark London. We have a renowned brand and definitive place in the London market and a committed and talented team that are driving the business forward to continued success in the future. If a travel based business wants a strong recovery, they should focus on nurturing their team to help them rebound and ensure they have a unique and compelling brand and offering that will draw in custom.
What novelties we should be looking for in the short to mid term?
We need to be innovative and creative in all that we do. Guests are looking for new things to try and explore. Providing the same things on menus time and again is not going to inspire our guests or our colleagues and so we are working hard on that. We are also working on a new Champagne bar on our Garden Terrace. This is a unique space with superb light and atmosphere and is an area where we can develop pop up offerings depending on seasonality.
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