'Service is just the start. Every detail counts'
Where do the world's top hoteliers like to stay if it can't be one of their own hotels? What ingredients do they believe make a hotel great? And how did they fall in love with hotels in the first place? Six industry giants offer a glimpse behind the concierge's desk
Sunday 13 March 2005
Chris Blackwell, Founder of Island Outpost and Island Records
Chris Blackwell: Founder of Island Outpost and Island Records
I love the Amandari in Ubud, Bali, in Indonesia, because it is beautiful in every sense. The location is incredible, the interiors stunning and the service and staff are amazingly warm. It's a perfectly designed escape. It's people who make holidays special, so having friendly staff is vital. So too is a great location. And the interior should reflect the surrounding area and culture. People want to relax on holiday so we try to create the right vibes by providing music for the rooms. Clever design means you can always find a corner by yourself to chill out. With me, it all goes back to visiting Round Hill in Jamaica in 1957. It had a fabulous location and was Jamaican hospitality at its best.
Claus Sendlinger: Chief executive of Design Hotels
The Amanjiwo in Java, Indonesia, is my favourite because of the way the architecture is integrated into the natural surroundings. Time has a slow-motion feel to it there. It is the most peaceful place on earth that I have ever been and maybe the best experience I have ever had staying in a hotel. What makes a great hotel really depends on the purpose of the trip and whether it's business or pleasure, but of course it needs to be great architecture and have intelligent interior design matched by fantastic service. Then again, I didn't grow up staying in fancy hotels. A love of travelling is how I got into the world of hotels and I have certainly done the range. When I backpacked, I was in Monte Carlo and can remember going with my toothbrush to the little coffee shop around the corner every morning to brush my teeth. I was standing in front of the Hôtel de Paris when I saw a famous actress and I thought to myself, one day I will stay in this place. I did.
Ian Schrager: Chairman and chief executive of Morgans Hotel Group
Claridge's in London is one of the finest hotels in the world. Even the staff give off that impression. That sort of confidence and secure air translates to a customer, so when I am there I just feel that I am in a special place. A hotel should lift your spirits when you stay there. Every fact and detail is important. Visuals are only a small part of it. The sum of all the parts added together result in creating a certain magic and it is that magic that is the most important element that a hotel can strive to accomplish. I got into hotels in the late 1970s, when I first stayed at Claridge's. I ordered room service, which at that time was served from a pantry on the same floor. I had never seen anything like that before, and it opened my mind to the limitless possibilities of what one could do in a hotel - that you could do anything you wanted to make the experience special.
Grace Leo-Andrieu: Managing director of GLA Hotels
The legendary Peninsula in my home town, Hong Kong, is one favourite. I had never stayed there until last year. I was impressed and finally understood what "The Pen" experience is all about. Another favourite is Les Airelles in Courchevel in the French Alps. It all comes down to the service, which is remarkable. I have never stayed anywhere else to equal it. It costs a fortune to stay there, but you come back thinking, 'wow that was worth it'. Being a hotelier, I know how hard it is to get it right every day, year after year. The wow factor is also about decor, and about how staying in a hotel is not like being at home. Some people say they like a home from home, but I like to feel that I am somewhere completely different. There is a French expression, "depaysé", which means that you feel like you have been transported somewhere else.My father owned a hotel in Hong Kong called the Astor. I went there every week, ran down the corridors, watched people and saw the pastry chefs making Chantilly cream, which was all fascinating to me as a little girl. All these things subconsciously inspired me to go into the hotel business and I've never looked back.
Jocelyne Sibuet: Co-owner of Compagnie des Hôtels de Montagne
One of my favourite places is Amanwana on Moyo Island, near Bali in Indonesia. The hotel is on a small island and the rooms are tents. It is a unique and beautiful spot, where you are surrounded by nature and the sea. I love the concept of that hotel. Three ingredients that make up a great hotel. The first is to respect the authenticity of the region and reflect the local culture and surroundings. This is what we try to do in our different hotels in France, such as Bastide de Marie, which is set in 25 acres in Provence. The second is the lifestyle the hotel offers - a mixture of lots of small details such as flowers and antiques. The third ingredient is the staff, who have to make guests feel welcome and at home. Both my husband's family and mine were in the hotel business in France in and around Mégève. We spent our whole lives in hotels. We began our company with one small property, Coin du Feu, which was our first hotel. After that we just wanted to do more and more.
Edouard Ettedgui: Group chief executive of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group
I love La Mamounia in Marrakech. I was born in Morocco and my parents had their wedding at the hotel. I often used to play in the hotel's gardens, which are extraordinary. It's one of those legendary hotels and its status is still deserved to this day. Each time I visit Marrakech, I take time to go there and wander around - it's an absolute feast of serenity. For me, the gardens bring all the magic of the Orient in one spot - they are out of this world. I think a luxury hotel really only becomes great when it is a reflection of the best things in the city or in the country where it is located. This is not just about design, but also about service and how it has to be an all-encompassing experience. This aspect also explains why so many iconic or legendary hotels are also embraced by the local community, which I think is just as important as the success you have with international travellers. The Mandarin Oriental belongs on the river in Bangkok and you could never imagine it anywhere else. I came into the hotel business late, but when I was around 17 my family opened a four-star hotel in Marrakech. I still remember the general manager - a veteran gentleman from Austria with white hair - who told me 35 years ago that the best way to judge how a hotel was performing was simply to sit in the lobby and observe the scene. I still do this today. In every hotel I always put myself in the corner of the lobby, ask for a drink and observe. If a lobby doesn't function, and people are not happy or smiling, there is something wrong with the hotel.
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