Luxury hotels in London have chosen to re-open at different times, some argue as being too early. What are the key factors you have considered in reopening your hotel?
The safety and security of our guests and colleagues is always of paramount importance so once we had understood, trained-in and implemented additional stringent protocols during closure, when government allowed hospitality to reopen, we were prepared, safe and ready to reopen our doors on 23 July. The hospitality industry employs millions across the UK, many of whom were unable to work during lockdown, so it was important to us to take the earliest opportunity to recover and help bring London back to business.
Which were the major challenges and opportunities of the re-opening?
The changes in UK travel restrictions and quarantines have had a significant impact on our international guest’s ability to travel. Careful planning for when this is able to resume is being constantly monitored as government guidelines are constantly changing and we must adapt to new ways of doing business. We have however seen a considerable surge in domestic visitors who have loved visiting a somewhat calmer London than usual, and have embraced the great outdoors with our picnic hampers and Peter Pan boat experience in Hyde Park.
Changing consumer behaviour also means we have to think more creatively, and while we embrace digitalization, even more importantly is how we drive emotional engagement through engaging on our social media and relevant digital platforms to keep our clients inspired and reassured.
With key international feed markets such as the Middle East and the U.S. unlikely to return to London this year, how do you anticipate your guest profile to change, if in any way.
After our £100m renovation in 2019, we positioned our hotel as being ‘reimagined and reinvented’ and are continuing to capitalise on unique location between the glorious Royal Park and bustling Knightsbridge. By focusing on London as a world class destination we have identified new international customer segments while focusing on bespoke staycation experiences in the meantime.
London is gradually reopening across all sectors and we are hoping to consistently deliver many more personalised experiences through partnerships with the wealth of nearby exclusive retail stores and unique attractions.
To what extent you are still expecting to cater to local patrons? Are you considering proposing different offerings?
Since reopening we have seen great interest in both our F&B offerings and our Wellness programmes. For the very first time, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is offering alfresco dining on our Royal Park Garden Terrace as well as brand new ‘Dinner at Home’ menus via in-room dining or from the comfort of your own home or residence. The Rosebery is now offering afternoon tea hampers for picnics in Hyde Park and we will shortly be introducing monthly Wellness programmes with visiting practitioners as well as virtual fitness sessions on our digital platforms.
To your perception, are guests nowadays more focused on safety and hygiene in regards to Covid-19?
There is certainly a heightened awareness of safety and hygiene. We have implemented the Mandarin Oriental ‘We Care’ programme with stringent protocols designed to uphold our commitment towards the comfort, safety and health of both guests and colleagues as well as gaining independent external accreditation of almost 200 new standards in the new ‘Stay Safe’ program. We recognise that some guests may be ‘COVID super-sensitive,’ while many are ‘COVID cautious’ and some are indeed ‘COVID fatigued’ so we have defined different measures to understand and address our guest’s needs, with personalised solutions.
What are your expectations for the rest of this year?
Notwithstanding global uncertainty, we have been quite encouraged by the response since reopening and I am very cautiously optimistic that there will be a gradual strengthening of traveller confidence to enable us to at least in part rebuild the business towards the fourth quarter and into 2021.
How delicate is training of staff on Covid-19? How do you alleviate pressure so that all employees instil a safety feel to guests?
Most of our colleagues have been on furlough and we have been consistently communicating with them via weekly 1:1 calls by our Managers, on our internal platform ‘MyMO’ with weekly team meetings, global news and where I upload an update video every Friday. The platform also offers a voluntary Virtual Learning Hub led by our HR team on various topics from professional development to new personal skills. We communicated updates on the We Care program I described above over the past 6 weeks and each colleague attends a 3.5 hour MOve Back training session, introduced by myself and which covers all the new COVID protocols, NLP to understand and empathise with our guests and to ensure our colleague’s own confidence in returning to a safe working environment.
What novelties we should be expecting?
There are new but discrete health and safety protocols in place though out the property from arrival to departure, it however remains our objective, to delight our guests through kind and generous service,
While restrictions apply across all hotel divisions, how do you ensure that guests experience the same high customer service and product standards?
I would like to think there aren’t restrictions, but rather a guest experience that keeps everyone safe in a respectful way and that exceeds our guests expectations. As every guest pre-COVID had different reasons for choosing to stay, this is the same post COVID but with different sensitivities to the virus. It is our priority if possible to communicate with the guest before their arrival, otherwise on their arrival in order to understand what they are seeking and how we can best make them comfortable, safe and to deliver a wonderful experience.
Amanda Hyndman is General Manager of Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London and Area Operations Vice President. Hyndman was voted Hotelier of the Year at the 2019 Virtuoso Best of the Best Awards at the 31st annual Virtuoso Travel Week conference in Las Vegas.
With over 30 years of experience in the luxury hospitality industry, Hyndman joined the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group in 2007 as General Manager of The Excelsior Hong Kong, before taking on GM roles at Mandarin Oriental Washington DC, and Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok where she oversaw the completion of the Authors’.
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