How has the Rosewood London performed? What are your expectations for the rest of the year?
2019 has been an exceptional year. Exchange rates are so advantageous now for overseas visitors that the UK has never been so attractive – especially for our US customers. Almost 50% of our clientele now are American. However, we have seen growth in all markets. Clients originating from Asia have also increased substantially in 2019 and the indicators are that this trend will continue for the next number of years as this market begins to travel increasingly more internationally. For the rest of the year – November looks challenging however December is set to be one of the most successful months yet since the hotel has opened. We are also seeing exceptional growth in F&B – people are still eating and drinking especially! Even in areas of the business that we had thought had matured we saw growth this year.
What is the profile of your returning guest? Has this profile changed if in any way?
We are definitely seeing a younger more affluent consumer staying and dining in the hotel and as mentioned before especially from Asia and the US. These clients are really focused on exploring London and the surrounding area with full schedules being created to hit all of the cultural sights and the newest bars & restaurants. More often than not they have a clear idea of what they need to see and experience before they arrive, well informed already about all of the hot spots.
Staff turnover is a major challenge in London. What is your approach towards recruiting and nurturing talent?
We haven’t experienced large staff turnovers like many of the other hotels in London. Our turnover is low. Turnover quite often occurs when the right people are not being hired into the business in the first place through the interview process. Many people leave the business within 3 to 6 months of joining and that is what business needs to focus on. Is the interview process robust and detailed enough with the right people involved. Then when employees start is on the onboarding process captivating and informative enough. Once they start in the job – has what we promised been delivered and are we offering enough coaching and support to ensure that these newest members of the team are going to be successful.
How is the Rosewood London’s very competitive luxury hotel market? What is your comp set?
The market is incredibly competitive – you can no longer just look at your comp set. For every market there are different competitors and I don’t just mean other hotels – at times we are up against private residences, long stay apartments or hotels that are 4 star and in the past would not have come up as a competitor – however now they do perhaps because they are brand new, offer a unique service or have an exciting food and beverage aspect to them. If we have a middle east client looking for suites, then the selection of hotels they are choosing from is very different to that of an entertainment client. I would doubt that the same hotels would appear on either list. Logically your comp set is based on their proximity to you, so we have hotels such as the Corinthia or the Savoy included in ours.
To what extent Airbnb is still a disrupting factor? Are there other ones? Beyond the challenges, what opportunities you envisage?
If I look at the business levels of this year, I don’t believe that Airbnb has affected us. Guests looking for a full-service luxury stay don’t find that at Airbnb. An opportunity that we saw this year was in Food and Beverage – we started our own outside catering company. So many of our clients were having events in their offices or their retail stores and using caterers so we have now started a service so that we can offer such catering.
You have taken several innovative approaches to branding communications. How important is nowadays to think outside the box?
It is critical to the business that stay relevant and attract new customers, new markets and don’t relay upon the same business channels you always have. In the world we live today that is fast changing politically and economically it is vital. Our latest innovation is Room Hunt which is an immersive competition that hotel guests partake in. A number of clues have to be solved whilst discovering the hotel, it is timed, and you are playing against other guests to find a key that will open the door to one of the hotels finest suites. The winner then spends the evening in that suite which is filled with surprises and gifts. The Room Hunt will be on Saturday November 23rd.
What is your view on collaborations with luxury brands from other sectors?
I view these collaborations as great learning moments. I try to surround myself and the business with other great brands in other fields – you learn so much from them. Other sectors of the travel industry are light years ahead of hotels such as airlines – especially when it comes to revenue yielding or retail when it comes to marketing. So partnering with other luxury brands opens our eyes and pushes our boundaries to be better. Like all partnerships – each has to give equally and work equally as hard at the execution. When one side is doing more than the other it rarely works out as good as it could.
What is the secret behind maintaining desirability for your F&B offerings?
You need to have concepts that work with the community and neighbourhood around you. We have a large number of businesses around us – every high-end law company in London is within a 5 minutes’ walk from us and countless other international businesses. Holborn Dining Room & Scarfes Bar are the perfect venues for entertaining clients and socialising with work colleagues after work. They are vibrant spaces with high quality food and beverage offerings that represent good value. Value at any level is so important. Our service is also in tune with what people want currently. Engaged, happy and upbeat wait staff that love their job and are knowledgeable about what they are selling and serving. These basics are quite often missed by competitors and as a result their F&B is quiet and not interesting.
You recently won a prestigious award. Tell us more
Yes I was honoured to travel to New York City to pick up on behalf of the Rosewood London team: the Conde Nast Traveller Readers Choice Award. We were awarded – No.1 hotel in London. This award means so much to us, as it is the readers of the magazine that voted for us – over 600,000 people voted.
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