Mandarin Oriental Barcelona has been the undisputed leader of Barcelona’s luxury hotel sector. Tell us more about the pillars and the DNA which has maintained Mandarin Oriental Barcelona at the forefront.
Mandarin Oriental leading position is a consequence of multiple factors.: the undeniable level of service, a key pillar of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, its unbeatable location on Passeig de Gracia in the heart of the city, the incredible design of Patricia Urquiola. All these elements, and others blended perfectly over the past years to create a very unique, modern and luxurious oasis
Many five star hotels in Barcelona have still not reopened. How important and how significant is the reopening of the hotel despite the many challenges?
I hope that the re-opening of one of Barcelona best hotel, is a significant sign of better days to come for the city, a sign of optimism. We looked at possibilities to re-open this incredible hotel on several occasions over the past six months, but faced at times circumstantial challenges (second and third waves, restrictions). We felt that it was important to take the step of re-opening despite the uncertainties. It was important to re-engage with our 200 colleagues, who, for a large part, had been in furlough for a year. The re-opening of the hotel is a sign of hope, and has been welcome by our colleagues with enthusiasm and energy. Of course being open is also the opportunity to engage with our fans and Mandarin Oriental World of Fans. I do not consider it like a re-opening, but more like an opening, and taking this leap give us momentum.
To what extent the reopening is important for the locals? (non-hotel guests)
Being part of the community, in my view, is critical for a city hotel. Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona, with its range of Food & Beverage offering is a destination of choice for the people of Barcelona: of course the amazing, Two Michelin Star, Moments by Carme Ruscalleda, but also the airy Blanc, the roof top Terrat or the courtyard Mimosa. I am pleased to be able to welcome back Barcelonians. With current mobility restrictions, we are offering a luxurious Staycation alternative. On the upcoming re-opening of Moments in a couple of weeks, we will be launching an exclusive Stay & Dine offer.
Even before the pandemic, Barcelona has been flooded by a large number of small ‘five star’ boutique hotels which were on par in terms of rates with Airbnb. Wouldn’t there be an immediate comparison in terms of safety & hygiene measures? – implementation and consistency of protocols etc.
I am confident that all have implemented the relevant measures. But I can only vouch for the program in place across all Mandarin Oriental properties: We Care. Designed in collaboration with Lloyd register, the program further enhances Mandarin Oriental level of hygiene and cleanliness, with adapted measures, at both front and back of the house. I believe that critical points as you mentioned are the consistency and the enforcement of the protocols. With regular internal and external audit, I feel that we are able to provide a safe environment for both guests and colleagues.
What has been your approach to rates since reopening?
We have decided to maintain our rate at pre-covid level. It is probably a long term strategy, compare to possibly lower rate in an attempt to increase volume, a different choice that I can understand this choice, and may be relevant in some scenario. We have taken a different approach. It is also an approach that allow us to maintain our service standards.
Because of the long period of closure but also additional investments requires by the pandemic measures, some travellers tend to question whether they may face a compromise when it comes to service standard.
Our guest expectation remains on par with the reputation of quality of service that the property has built. We endeavour to meet their expectations and even exceed them. Whilst some of our outlets will re-open sequentially over the coming weeks, we are not compromising with the level of service. It has required us to re-invent our organization, toward efficiency, in order to deliver outstanding service.
Mandarin Oriental Barcelona sits at the heart of Spain’s leading luxury shopping high-streets? With what the city has to offer do you these times as an opportunity to reposition the destination as luxury / upscale?
Absolutely it is indeed a moment to redefine tourism, to reinvent ourself, and reposition Barcelona as a luxury destination. Some initiative are in place, such as the Association of Passeig de Gracia, regrouping all the luxury brands, located on the street, which allows for networking, collaboration, marketing and reinforcing the exclusiveness of the destination in the destination. The last year has presented opportunities to discuss synergies and perhaps transcend competition for a more collaborative exchange. It cannot be a sole effort but the association of forces and ideas, that will allow to redefine the destination.
For all those considering returning to Barcelona but also for the first comers, tell us more about the wealth of attractions Barcelona is attracting? Can these experiences (i.e. art tours, museums ec) be enhanced with Mandarin Oriental Barcelona providing more of a bespoke / private experience? (avoiding random taxi, car share or even public transportation)
As you know, I arrived in Barcelona, only a few months ago, and I feel that I am still looking at the city as a tourist. The range of offer is quite extraordinary. Architecture lovers can experience an amazing display from of course Antonio Gaudi, but also: Josep Fontserè, Luís Domènech i Montaner, Ricardo Bofill, Jean Nouvel… The gastronomy in Barcelona and Catalunia region is of course another attraction. Outdoor activities, in a city surrounded by hills, and facing the sea, plethoric. Shopping frenzies, Picasso Museum, the list goes on and on. We have been working over the past few months on several, very unique experiences, which we will be launching in the coming months, amongst which a very unique breakfast in one of Gaudi most incredible house.
What would be the one key initiative which you would expect from authorities in order to support your re-opening and also the recovery of the market? (for example priority Covid-19 vaccination of hospitality employees or free weekly Covid 19 testing of staff)
There has been discussion about vaccination for the hospitality employees, which would definitely provide confidence to the market. Uniformization of the measures across regions in Spain would also facilitate mobility and cross border tourism. Improvement on communication on required procedure to enter and exit the country would be beneficial, today guests vaccinated are not sure if they still need PCR test. Providing an easy access to PCR test for the tourist, could be organized. At Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona, we have worked with a private clinic to provide PCR test to guests in the comfort of their room.
When it comes to luxury, do you think travellers nowadays have a different perception of luxury?
I think luxury, these days, is about convenience and comfort. Can I book easily, can I cancel, amend, without fuss? Is it safe? Will all precaution measure be in place. Will the hotel have access to all relevant information, requirements? Can they assist me swiftly? I think that seamless has taken a new high. Once these elements in place and confidence built, I believe that the luxury more than ever will rhyme with personalized experience, self-actualization, uniqueness, privatization..
What novelties shall be expect in the short / mid term at the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona?
This time off has allowed us to engage with artists, companies, brands, both locally and internationally. And we are finalizing some exciting collaboration and partnership, which will line 2021, culinary, wellness, lifestyle… All will take place in the from of pop up, short term exhibition, and unique rendez vous. It is very exciting for all of us here, and we look forward bringing these events to life.
More from LEADERS
India’s luxury market remains defiant – Gaganmeet Singh CEO and Co-founder of luxury retailer Bquest Group (Exclusive Interview)
How has the pandemic impacted your business? Which are the major hardships you are facing? What about opportunities? During the pandemic …
What motivated the choice of Dubai for the opening of the first SLS Hotel in the EMEA region? Dubai is one …
The Set Collection redefines luxury with properties positioned as ‘Modern Grand Hotels’ – Brian Gore, VP Marketing, Brand & Digital (Exclusive Interview)
The Set Hotels began 10 years ago with the opening of our first hotel, the Conservatorium in Amsterdam. We grew …