How is Hyatt positioned in the region you are overseeing? Tell us more about the upcoming properties.
Hyatt Hotels Corporation has exciting plans for growth in the leisure travel industry, especially across the UK and Ireland.
Our first Hyatt Centric is opening in Cambridge this September; this stunning new lifestyle property has pioneering, sustainability credentials and is built within Eddington – a new sustainable community developed by Cambridge University. We also look forward to the return of our luxurious Park Hyatt brand with the Park Hyatt London River Thames opening in 2023 and then our fourth Hyatt Regency at London Olympia will be opening in 2024. We also saw the opening of Hyatt Place London City East this summer, just a short walk from Liverpool Street, it features a destination rooftop bar and terrace which overlooks the City of London.
More broadly, we have a rich pipeline of new properties across Europe, where we will be expanding our footprint into nine new countries including Cyprus, Portugal and Iceland as well as increasing our presence in seven key markets. We will continue to further our presence within the luxury lifestyle sector in Europe, the UK and Ireland, and with a keen focus across our Independent Collection brands namely JdV by Hyatt, Destination by Hyatt™️ and The Unbound Collection by Hyatt®️ – our diversity of brands means there really is something for everyone.
Which are the biggest challenges with the post-pandemic reopening? Are smaller or larger properties more or less impacted?
The pandemic years have been difficult for the luxury hotel industry. Many colleagues were impacted when hotels closed and as they reopen, we are facing an industry-wide challenge to recruit talent which is impacting our small and large properties alike.
Beyond this, the continued uncertainty around international travel still presents challenges. In the UK and Ireland, domestic leisure travel dominates as more and more UK guests discover and fall in love with a Hyatt hotel, alongside bookings in our F&B outlets which have exceeded our expectations.
We know there is pent-up demand for travel and these strong domestic bookings give us cause for optimism. We’re excited to be able to develop and strengthen Hyatt’s place in the UK hospitality landscape.
What has been your approach to staffing shortage? Are there measures which authorities could implement to indirectly provide support?
As I mentioned, there is a recognised industry-wide staffing shortage. I understand that tourism as a whole hasn’t always been perceived as having the best routes for career progression but I believe this presents us with an opportunity to put that right, showcasing our industry and the opportunities that are available for everyone.
At Hyatt we are committed to care for people so that they can be their best, helping and developing our colleagues, regardless of age, gender, background, or experience.
In the first instance, we start by treating them with respect and offering opportunities for development and personal growth, they are our best ambassadors after all. We are also evolving our approach to how we recruit so we have a greater online presence and invest more in local job opportunities.
You’ll be hearing more from us on how we plan to do this soon. But now is the time for this to change.
How important is adaptability and creativity nowadays?
At Hyatt, we have a strong entrepreneurial spirit which means we are very agile and pride ourselves on how quicky we can respond to change. Across our entire brand portfolio, adaptability and creativity has been more important than ever to create memorable stays for our guests, and right now we are focussed on increasing our lifestyle offering and extending our brand presence into more resort destinations.
I think this is where Hyatt’s Independent Collection really comes into its own; made up of three correlative brands, JdV by Hyatt, Destination by Hyatt™️ and The Unbound Collection by Hyatt®️ the Independent Collection offers a portfolio of diverse properties, each true to its destination. Each hotel within this collection delivers one-of-a-kind, enriching guest experiences for every occasion. We have exciting expansion plans for our Independent Collection as they encompass the many differing interpretations of luxury travel, offering everything from luxurious hotels with a rich history, artistic, vibrant boutiques, and immersive resort retreats.
Looking at adaptability and creativity at a property level, I think that just as travel patterns have changed over the last two years, so have the expectations and needs of travellers. Following the pandemic, we’ve found the way our guests travel is slightly different than before, perhaps staying longer but travelling less often, and bringing families too to enjoy the trip.
Undoubtedly there is more demand for family rooms and so that, coupled with the world-wide increase in people working away from the office, has led to a greater demand for creative yet luxurious communal spaces for relaxing, connecting and working. We therefore reflected on the design of all our UK hotels to ensure we not only meet but exceed these new expectations.
What about motivating your team?
As the General Manager for Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill and the Area Vice President for Hyatt Hotels in the UK & Ireland I’m fortunate enough to work amidst many teams within Hyatt!
A huge part of Hyatt’s company’s purpose is to care for people so they can be their best, and this purpose is directed as much towards guests as it is to our colleagues. Recognising and rewarding the creativity of our teams ensures they feel empowered and confident to be the best they can be.
The success of Hyatt rests on the hard work, creativity and flexibility of our people and I openly encourage all colleagues to contribute their ideas. For example, the transformation of our outside smoking terrace at Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill into a delightful pop-up restaurant and bar was a result of a suggestion by a colleague in our restaurant team, which we immediately saw the value in and implemented. I couldn’t be prouder of my team there and I try to tell them that as often as possible.
What is your take on the speed of recovery?
We occupy a unique position in the marketplace in terms of our scale, footprint and diverse brand portfolio. Our strategy towards growth has always been one of intent as we look to expand in destinations we know our guests want to visit.
We know there is pent-up demand for travel and the strong domestic bookings we’re seeing give us cause for optimism for the future. However, we recognise that it will take several years before our business recovers to pre-pandemic levels.
Hyatt’s entrepreneurial spirit is strong. We are focusing on increasing our lifestyle offering and extending our brand presence into more resort destinations, extending our appeal to families and luxury lifestyle travellers. We have a strong plan for growth within the UK and across Europe and our diverse portfolio of brands, particularly those within our Independent Collection, mean we can continue to provide guests with the unique experience that they desire, where they desire.
Has the perception of luxury changed? What about the consumer profile?
Since the first lockdown we have seen some developments in consumer attitudes to hospitality, not only since the pandemic but more recently since the lifting of restrictions.
Apart from needing to instil confidence through our covid safety and hygiene measures, the biggest change for us has been adopting a slightly more laid-back approach to luxury, making our communal spaces brighter and lighter, and putting an even sharper focus on comfort and personal connection. We’ve seen more families looking to stay with us, and our regular World of Hyatt members seem to be travelling less but staying longer.
We’ve also found that guests more than ever want to experience the distinct identity of the hotel’s location, so our independent collection of hotels, featuring The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, Destination by Hyatt and JdV by Hyatt brands, which bring their own story and experience, are more important than ever.
But what our industry does so well is offer personal connections and experience, and people’s fundamental desire to seek out that human connection hasn’t changed.
With the recovery post pandemic, there has been a constant pressure on rates. What is your view?
There has always been a need to balance occupancy levels and affordability, and that hasn’t changed post pandemic.
But for us at Hyatt, the more pressing issue is getting the right team members to help us provide the high quality and luxurious customer experience our guests have come to expect. We don’t compromise our customer service so bringing in the right people into the Hyatt team is our priority.
Hyatt Regency The Churchill has been undergoing renovation before and during the pandemic. To what extent does a ‘renovated’ product offer a competitive advantage nowadays?
To mark the 50th anniversary of Hyatt Regency London The Churchill we made some exciting renovations to celebrate our history and the local area of Marylebone. Designed by BJB, it showcases the heritage that the name commands, with artwork curated by Churchill Heritage. Recent upgrades to The Library and The Gallery also reflect the passions of Sir Winston Churchill.
We renovated public spaces across the hotel, as part of both pre-planned projects and new projects that were a reaction to the pandemic. For instance, we developed new small and medium meeting spaces on the ground floor to cater for meetings and social events, and we developed the two new family room categories for the domestic market.
Additionally, we fully renovated our top suite and renamed it as The Churchill Residential Suite. This development was always planned but we amended the project to suit it to a post-pandemic world and post-pandemic guest: we want to appeal to not just the diplomat and the business traveller, but to families who want to reconnect and spend some much-needed leisure time together. With this in mind, we made the design more contemporary and gave it an apartment feeling, to make leisure guests feel at home.
In addition to the renovation of the Churchill Residential Suite we have refreshed the lobby which features works by British artists curated by our neighbours, Thompson’s Gallery. We have also redesigned the alfresco, heated terrace at The Churchill Bar & Terrace, just launched our pop-up “Montagu Winter Terrace” and introduced two new family room categories: Two-Bedroom Garden View Suite and Family Room Garden View.
We think thoughtful renovations such as this, listening to what our guests want and based on our wealth of feedback, is a huge advantage in ensuring we provide a unique guest experience.
Some luxury hotels have been cutting down on certain services, reducing selection of dining or operating partially the accommodations inventory and F&B outlets. Is there a recipe for achieving an ideal balance between demand and offering?
At Hyatt, we believe it’s all about listening to guests’ priorities, and how they want to experience a connection to the location they are staying in. Across every one of our hotels, everything we do is grounded in listening and fuelled by care. Really understanding our customers’ needs is what helps us to build truly personal connections and experiences for our guests.
We haven’t seen any compromise on these core expectations but driven by our customers, we have adapted based on the current environment and made small adjustments such as no room service during night hours in some hotels.
Is there an ideal approach to attracting locals? (non-hotel residents)
At Hyatt we want locals to enjoy the luxury experience our hotels can offer. They are vital in creating the unique local culture at each of our locations and our ability to offer enriching experiences to guests at each Hyatt property.
For us, this starts with high quality offerings and service which offer personal, authentic connections.
But there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach and each of the local areas in which we operate are different so understanding what is important to them is key. This means communicating online and via social media, especially against the backdrop of the pandemic, is crucial.
We seek to be meaningful members of our communities, we make sure we invest in the areas where we operate through our ‘Hyatt Loves Local’ initiative, which is designed to support local small businesses across our portfolio. Guided by creativity and care, this is about reigniting the joy of travel and I think this passion to strengthen local communities and enrich these destinations translates
Arnaud de Saint-Exupery is General Manager for Hyatt Regency London – The Churchill and the Area Vice President for Hyatt Hotels in the UK & Ireland
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