In an era when seeking to re-invent or redefine the codes of luxury seems to be the ultimate goal in all the sectors, a recent stay at the Swisshotel The Bosphorus Istanbul has made me pause and reflect on understanding luxury nowadays.
As one of the first international luxury hotel branded properties to open in Istanbul, Swissotel The Bopshorus has earned a solid reputation from its very early years, not only among international travellers but most importantly with locals and domestic guests too.
As a new-built structure, the property has been delivering a product which has stayed relevant from the opening to this day. The hotel enjoys a superb location in the very heart of the city, with spectacular WOW factor defined by un-compromised direct views of the Bosphorus and surrounded by its very own greenery (almost the size of a park) with high trees and a beautifully manicured garden. Without realising, the hotel was actually from the very beginning a luxury urban resort, which remains probably the most challenging luxury hospitality models to not only achieve but maintain.
Two decades ago, the owners / developers chose an ideal spot in the city with a common sense reasoning of how this particular area will always be considered as being central and most importantly prestigious. No matter how many new luxury hotel properties would be developed or how the general landscape of this huge metropolis might have changed over time, it was obvious that this location would maintain its WOW factor but also its practicality of being close to most attractions, while addressing both corporate and leisure stay guests.
While the building cannot be compared to a heritage or historical one, the structure was again ideally chosen from the beginning, with all rooms and suites boasting floor to ceiling windows, enhancing and reflecting magnetic views of the Bosphorus in its splendour at all times of the day.
Who would have ever thought that a pandemic would come one day so that it would be mostly appreciated that partial glass windows can still be open in each room while the AC system has the functionality of switching entirely to injecting 100% fresh air? Not to mention the majestic grand lobby that would make social distancing natural or the fact that the property boasts large indoor and outdoor swimming pools – the outdoor swimming pool can also be heated.
The product has not only been maintained very well but, with the renovations, it was also genuinely improved to make it more relevant and appealing from an aesthetic point of view, again without the compromise which some luxury hotels appeal to, which is actually ‘refreshing’ the product and not actually making comprehensive changes. With direct views over its own greenery, impeccable sound-proofing has always been assured for all type of accommodations.
Exceptional attention has always been paid to comfort, beyond the requirements or ‘standards’ of the chain or the brand – in two decades Swissotel as a hotel brand is today part of Accor, the third hotel group since it was established. Interestingly, the Swissotel The Bosphorus Istanbul has never much relied on a ‘given’ reputation or positioning that a chain or a group may be perceived as lending ‘by default’. Instead, it has achieved very high standards through hard work and most importantly, over time, it has proven not only consistency but also reliability and relevance.
The property has always had one of the largest luxury hotel Spas in the city with a comprehensive wellness offering, succeeding in consistently attracting both hotel guests and non-resident customers. It never had to develop a ‘sophisticated’ offering, with such fantastic facilities – not only the two large pools but also state-of-the-art gym and fitness facilities. The resort-style landscaping and the incredible amount of outdoor spaces – make the property truly unique especially considering its location in the heart of the city.
When it comes to dining, the hotel has always succeeded in developing concepts that would be considered not only relevant but also desirable, where locals non-resident guests would are drawn to an exceptional experience, with some enjoying ‘to see’ and ‘be seen’, show-off being an essential luxury factor.
Who would have anticipated that the property can succeed in delivering the same consistency in regards to dining during the current pandemic? The hotel’s expansive rooftop outdoor terrace, 16ROOF, is unquestionably the best dining and entertainment venues among all the luxury hotels in the city – with an ideal mix of notorious live DJs and performers as well as an exceptional F&B offering. It has defied not only other luxury hotel F&B concepts but also stand-alone independent F&B concepts in the city.
Mention must be made of the present context with luxury hotels in Istanbul which have not even managed to re-open after the lockdown and over with over a third of the luxury hotels currently are running at under 20% occupancy. Swissotel The Bosphorus is proving that building up a reputation which translates into financial feasibility takes a long time and cannot be achieved over-night.
The hotel has taken the current pandemic most seriously, understanding the importance of showing consistency and reliability in regards to implementing strict Covid-19 hygiene and safety measures so that not both hotel staff and guests feel equally safe and taken care of. More than ever, the quality of service relies on the motivation of staff who would make an extra effort, feeling re-assured about the future and anticipating realistic levels of predictability. If staff feel confident and safe, guests will do so equally.
Adaptability is yet another essential factors in the continued success of the property, despite times of political or economic instability, not to mention for instance the current pandemic. For instance, despite missing key revenue sources such as weddings, the hotel is still achieving a reasonable feasibility standard which allows it to extend un-compromised service standards – while other luxury hotels have been reducing their staff, closed venues (ex wellness and dining) or even introduced limited dining offerings including smaller menus.
Swissotel The Bosphorus is a remarkable achievement considering the many serious challenges it has been facing and overcoming in its two decade history. The unique visionary spirit based on hard work, shared by owners and equally management and staff, as well as the loyalty of many of its customers, is probably one of the essential factors. Not aiming to redefine luxury but to enforce over and over again, while maintaining a realistic balance on expectations and a certain degree of humbleness – is probably another success factor.
Oliver Petcu in Istanbul
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