Luxury Hotels Worldwide

Archive for November, 2007

Four Seasons – the early days…

Monday, November 26th, 2007
Meet Isadore Sharp, one of four children of Polish parents who immigrated to Toronto before his birth in 1931. Issy, as he is known to his friends, worked at his father’s construction company after college, and while building a motel for a client, formed the ambition of building and running a motel of his own. Sharp opened the Four Seasons Motor Hotel in 1961 with 125 affordable rooms in a rather seedy area outside the core of downtown Toronto.At that time, a would-be hotelier had two choices. He could build a small motel with fewer than 200 rooms and simple amenities. The capital requirements were modest, and per-room operating costs were low. The alternative was the large downtown hotel catering to business travellers. Such hotels usually had at least 750 guest rooms and extensive amenities, including conference facilities, multiple restaurants and banquet rooms. Sharp’s fourth hotel, a 1,600-room downtown convention hotel featuring a huge shopping arcade, met that description. Like Sharp’s first motel, it was profitable and popular.

Each type of hotel had its advantages, as well as distinct drawbacks. For all its comfort and intimacy, the small motel wasn’t an option for the business traveller who needed a well-appointed meeting room or state-of-the-art communications facilities. Large hotels produced a big enough pool of revenues to fund the features the market demanded, but tended to be cold and impersonal.

After opening that fourth hotel, Four Seasons Sheraton, in 1972, Sharp sought, in his words, “to combine the best of the small hotel with the best of the large hotel.” He envisioned a medium-sized hotel – big enough to afford an extensive array of amenities, but small enough to maintain a sense of intimacy and personalized service.

Sharp reasoned that if the Four Seasons offered distinctly better service than its competitors, it could charge a substantial premium, boosting revenue per room to the point where it could offer top-of-the-line amenities. Before he could ask guests to pay a super-premium room rate, though, Sharp understood that he would have to offer them an entirely different kind of service.

Salience at Four SeasonsWhen he considered what his guests, mostly travelling business executives, were looking for, Sharp’s view of salience more nuanced and humane than that of his rivals. “Luxury, at that time, was seen chiefly as architecture and décor,” says Sharp. “We decided to redefine luxury as service – a support system to fill in for the one left at home and the office.”

Four Seasons became the first to offer shampoo in the shower, 24-hour room service, bathrobes, cleaning and pressing, a two-line phone in every guest room, a big, well-lighted desk, and 24-hour secretarial services. Defying the traditional approach in the industry, which was to set a relatively fixed standard of physical and service quality across the entire chain, Sharp made sure each city’s Four Seasons reflected the local colour and culture.

Sharp also recognized the salience of the hotel’s ownership structure. To his rivals, operating and owning went hand in hand. But ownership tied up capital and exposed the hotelier to fluctuating local real estate values, and diverted valuable senior management time. Four Seasons shed those burdens by becoming the first big hotel company to manage, rather than own, the hotel facilities that bore its name.

Causality at Four SeasonsCertain causal relationships are obvious to anyone in the hotel business. The traditional belief was that a full-service business traveller hotel needed at least 750 rooms to generate the revenue to pay for its amenities. Sharp saw a more complex relationship between hotel size and amenity. If he could provide his guests with a higher standard of service, they would pay significantly more per room per night.

How could Sharp attain that level of service? By seeing the causal link between the way a hotel treated its employees and the way employees treated their guests. Rather than treating its employees as disposable, Four Seasons distinguished itself, in Sharp’s words, “by hiring more for attitude than experience, by establishing career paths and promotion from within, by paying as much attention to employee complaints as guest complaints by pushing responsibility down and encouraging self-discipline, by setting performance high and holding people accountable, and most of all, adhering to our credo, generating trust.”

Sharp’s management has generated enough trust to establish Four Seasons as the employer of choice in the hotel industry. When the New York City location opened in 1994, more than 30,000 applicants applied for 400 jobs. And until 2007, the company appeared on Fortune magazine’s list of the ‘Top 100 Companies to Work’ every year since the ranking first appeared in 1998. Architecture at Four SeasonsIn architecting Four Seasons’ competitive strategy, Sharp did not proceed sequentially. Instead of first deciding how big a hotel would be, then establishing service standards, and then setting human resources policy, he kept the chain of considerations in mind while working on individual links in the chain.

One organizing principle runs through the entire Four Seasons organization. Everyone is guided by the Golden Rule: in Sharp’s words, “to deal with others – partners, customers, coworkers, everyone – as we would want them to deal with us.” Every phase of hotel operations coheres around this strategy. Significantly, Four Seasons has no separate customer service department. Everyone at the Four Seasons is not just a member of the customer service department, but in charge of it.Resolution at Four SeasonsSharp set out to create “a reputation for service so clear in people’s mind that Four Seasons’ name will become an asset of far greater value than bricks and mortar.” The results speak for themselves. With 73 hotels in 31 countries, and with 25 properties under development, Four Seasons is considerably larger than the next biggest luxury player. Condé Nast Traveler ranks 18 Four Seasons hotels in its global Top 100 list, more than three times the next most cited chain. A Four Seasons signifies that a city has become a global destination.

Sharp succeeded because he was willing to consider a broader set of salient features, delve into more complicated causal relationships, and architect holistically the decision facing him. His resolution produced a system of reinforcing activities, each of which fits with and strengthens the whole. In the process, he did nothing less than fashion a new way to succeed in the luxury lodging business.

Wednesday: Bob Young and the rise of Red Hat Software

Reprinted from The Opposable Mind: How Successful Leaders Win Through Integrative Thinking by arrangement with Harvard Business School Press. Copyright 2007 Roger Martin. Prof. Martin is Dean of the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. He holds the Premier’s Chair in Competitiveness and Productivity and serves as Director of the AIC Institute for Corporate Citizenship at Rotman.

New Orient-Express Developments in Mexico

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Casa de Sierra Nevada, an Orient-Express Hotel, announces the opening of Casa Limón, the newest addition to its collection of historic Spanish colonial mansions in San Miguel de Allende.
Just a brief stroll from El Jardin (the center of town), Casa Limón features six distinctive suites, an outdoor heated swimming pool with a wall fountain, a cozy library, a new business center, and a butler assigned exclusively to the casona.

Casa Limón is an 18th century style mansion with remarkable features including cloistered outdoor courtyards with fountains, small gardens and al fresco corridors. This stunning new addition to Casa de Sierra Nevada captures the rich history of the area and is decorated with hand painted tiles, polished copper sinks, claw-foot copper tubs and original regional arts and crafts. Some suites boast rooftop Jacuzzis and views of the city, and all have flat screen TVs. 

Directly across from Limón is the lively new fine dining restaurant, Andanza (meaning ‘an adventuresome and serendipitous walk’), which is reflected in Executive Chef Gonzalo Martinez’s dishes, combining traditional and contemporary Mexican cuisine. The six unique rooms that make up Andanza include: a beautiful open air courtyard with orange trees and a cascading wall fountain, the Art Room, with a cozy fireplace and oversized leather chairs, the decadent Wine & Cava room, the elegant private Dining Room, and the Game Room entices guests to unwind with snug chairs and board games. The Blue Bar’s stylish wooden interior with antique hand-stenciled walls is home to a vast tequila and beer selection. House made sangritas – a tomato-based drink usually spiked with hot chilies and lime that accompanies a tequila – are a must, and live modern Latin music, jazz, and international sounds complete the experience. It will be open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Andanza is the second of three restaurants that will be part of Casa de Sierra Nevada’s culinary offerings. The current Parque Restaurant offers traditional Mexican cuisine in a garden setting with an adjacent bar. The third, Limón, is scheduled to open in early 2008.

One and a half blocks from the Parroquia and main city square of San Miguel de Allende, the boutique hotel of Casa de Sierra Nevada is a mixture of 16th to 18th century Spanish colonial buildings. Its 32 rooms and suites are spread amongst nine colonial mansions, including a 17th century fort, and the former residence of San Miguel de Allende’s Archbishop in the 16th century. With the hotel’s buildings situated around the town rather than in one location, the experience is akin to living in a beautiful, historic apartment, but with the fresh, new amenities and genuine Mexican hospitality provided by Casa de Sierra Nevada, making for a true cultural immersion. Founded in 1542, the town of San Miguel de Allende is a National Monument of Mexico. Sitting at 6,400 feet above sea level, the cobble-stoned streets of this colonial town are lined with palasios that today are a mixture of personal residences, galleries, restaurants and boutiques.

Wyndham Brand Introduces The Wyndham Grand Collection

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Wyndham Hotel Group today introduced The Wyndham Grand Collection, an ensemble of elegant, one-of-a-kind hotels within the Wyndham Hotels and Resorts brand aimed at guests looking for unique experiences in distinctive destinations around the world.

The Wyndham Grand Collection locations feature regionalized design reflecting local surroundings, culinary experiences featuring local and international cuisine, expertise in regional events and attractions, well-appointed spa and wellness services and facilities and attentive service.

“Properties flying The Wyndham Grand Collection flag are luxury or upscale properties with special features that offer guests world-class service, elegant surroundings and thoughtful touches on a grand scale,” said Peter Strebel, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts president.  “With luxurious amenities, flexible spaces and sophisticated entertainment and presentation capabilities, these high-end properties are the ideal choice for both business and social events.”

Properties in The Wyndham Grand Collection are the Wyndham Grand London Chelsea Harbour, London; Rio Mar Beach Resort and Spa, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico; Grand Bay Hotel, Isla Navidad Resort, Manzanillo, Mexico; Corinthia Towers Hotel, Prague, Czech Republic; Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal, Budapest, Hungary; Corinthia Palace Hotel and Spa, San Anton, Malta; Corinthia San Gorg Hotel, St. Julians, Malta; Corinthia Lisboa Hotel, Lisbon, Portugal; Corinthia Nevskij Palace Hotel, St. Petersburg, Russia; Corinthia Bab Africa Hotel, Tripoli, Libya; and Veneto, Panama City, Panama.

Hyatt Place Opens Its First Hotel in Massachusetts

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Hyatt Place Boston/Medford – just minutes from downtown Boston – opens today, bringing a new type of hospitality experience to Massachusetts. Hyatt Place, a new kind of hotel that complements Hyatt’s full service brands, combines contemporary design with innovative services and amenities to create an atmosphere of casual hospitality.

“People’s lives have changed in that they are constantly multitasking, often simultaneously performing professional and personal tasks. Until Hyatt Place, there wasn’t a hotel that provided an environment that allowed guests to make a transition from their daily 24/7 lifestyle to life away from home,” said Alison Kal, vice president of marketing, Hyatt Corporation. “Now, thanks to a combination of technology, service and amenities, Hyatt Place guests can seamlessly shift from home to the hotel in a way they couldn’t before.”

Hyatt Place Boston/Medford features 157 completely renovated guest rooms and public areas. The hotel also offers guests a complimentary shuttle service within a four-mile radius for transportation to Tufts University and Davis Square in addition to nearby shopping centers, restaurants and office buildings.

HYATT PLACE BACKGROUND

Hyatt Place was inspired by the changing landscape of contemporary, multi-tasking business travelers, who have successfully adapted to today’s “24/7 lifestyle,” seamlessly merging personal and professional activities. To help guests achieve this,Hyatt Placeoffers an atmosphere of casual hospitality with a balanced mix of comfortable and functional amenities.

Similar to what travelers might experience at home, guests can take advantage of free Wi-Fi access, stretch out on the eight-foot Cozy Corner sofa-sleeper or work at an oversized desk in an ergonomic chair. They can also catch the evening news, the big game or the latest feature movies on the 42-inch flat panel, high-definition television offering 11 channels of high-definition programming in addition to an already impressive channel selection.

Hyatt Placeguests will also have access to DIRECTV® Sports service, which includes NFL SUNDAY TICKET(TM) and NBA LEAGUE PASSSMas well as other professional and college sports programming. Hyatt Place guests can stay connected through the innovative Hyatt Plug Panel(TM), which allows guests to connect their own entertainment media to the high-definition TV, including laptops, MP3 players, DVD players or any other portable device. The signature Hyatt Grand Bed(TM) ensures guests can enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep in the bedroom area.

Hyatt Placehotels also feature the Gallery, an innovative welcoming arrival area where guests are personally greeted by the Gallery Host who assists guests with everything from check-in to providing personal tours of the hotel. In the Gallery, guests will also find a self-registration kiosk, an intimate coffee and wine café and bakery, free Wi-Fi, a TV den and an e-room with free access to public computers and a printer. Guests atHyatt Placemay purchase signature hot breakfast entrées along with Starbucks® specialty coffees or enjoy a free continental breakfast.Hyatt Placealso offers a variety of freshly prepared, café quality items, including made-to-order entrées, sandwiches, soups, salads and pizza which guests can order 24 hours a day, seven days a week via a touch screen menu in the Guest Kitchen or from the Gallery Host.

Travelers are raving about Hyatt Place hotels already open in and around Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix, Cincinnati, San Antonio, Nashville, Washington, DC and Louisville. There will be more than 100Hyatt Placehotels open by December 2007, including locations in Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, Atlanta, Tampa, Miami, Orlando and Detroit, in addition to other key business and leisure markets throughout the country.

About Hyatt Place

Hyatt Place, a new kind of Hyatt for today’s relaxed lifestyle, combines The Hyatt Touch® with stylish design, purposeful amenities and forward-thinking technology. Catering to today’s discerning travelers, 120 Hyatt Place hotels are to open across the U.S. by March 2008.

Austria switches the ski lifts on early…

Monday, November 12th, 2007

Schladming-Dachstein opened for the season on Thursday, one month earlier than originally scheduled.

The resort had initially coincided its opening with its fellow Ski amadé resorts, comprising Gastein, the Großarltal, Hochkönig and Salzburger Sportwelt on November 24th.

However, with the excellent early snowfall dumping at least 12 inches all the way down to middle station, as well as the revamped snow-making facilities, the resort chiefs decided to open early in what is one of the earliest non-glacier ski openings of the year. With 270 lifts covering the 860km of slopes, Ski amadé is Austria’s largest network of ski lifts and excellent value for money.

Taj Announces $100 Million Renovation for the Pierre

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007

Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces announced today that The Pierre, New York’s landmark hotel on Central Park and Fifth Avenue, will enter the second phase of renovation beginning January 1, 2008. All 200 guest accommodations, including the 11 Grand Suites with apartment- like quarters and private terraces, 41 suites and all guest rooms will be upgraded and renovated, as will the corridors, public areas, Cafe Pierre and the bar. Estimated overall cost associated with the renovation program is $100 million. Overseeing the design is James Park Associates, whose past projects include the Taj Lake Palace Hotel, Udaipur, India; Taj Exotica Resort & Spa, Maldives; Taj Exotica Resort, Mauritius, as well as the redesign of Singapore Airlines’ first-class cabins.

The first phase of the Pierre renovation was completed in January 2007 by Alexandra Champalimaud & Associates, and included the Grand Ballroom, the Cotillion Room and foyer. All banquet spaces on the second floor will remain open, fully staffed and operative throughout the second phase of renovation, and will remain accessible by a private entrance on 61st Street. Advance bookings for 2008 are very strong, according to General Manager Heiko Kuenstle, with weddings, non-profit charity events, bar/bat mitzvahs, corporate events, holiday parties and financial conferences planned.

While banquet business continues as usual, the hotel will cease taking guest reservations December 30th and the guest rooms and restaurant will not be open as of noon, December 31st. The Pierre will fully reopen in early 2009 and will begin taking reservations for the newly renovated accommodations in late 2008.

“As stewards of this hospitality icon, our goal is to retain the classic ambiance of The Pierre while adding a fresh look of 21st century elegance and technology that will appropriately transform the property,” said Mr. Kuenstle. “We know our loyal guests will be pleased and we look forward to welcoming them back.”

“Taj has a 105-year history of luxury service and is dedicated to restoring this hotel to perfection,” added Mr. Kuenstle. “Sensitivity and taste are hallmarks of how Taj refreshes a classic, as can be seen in their acclaimed renovations of authentic Indian palaces.”

Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces

Established in 1903, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces is one of Asia’s largest and finest groups of hotels, comprising 56 hotels in 39 locations across India with an additional 17 international hotels in the Maldives, Mauritius, Malaysia, Seychelles, UK, USA, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Africa and the Middle East. From world-renowned landmarks to modern business hotels, idyllic beach resorts to authentic Rajput palaces, each Taj hotel offers warm hospitality, world-class service and modern luxury. The Taj, a symbol of Indian hospitality, has recently completed the centenary of its landmark hotel, The Taj Mahal Palace and Tower, Mumbai. Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces is part of the Tata Group, India’s premier business house.