After nearly 30 years’ experience in Europe and the Middle East, Stefan Leser recently moved to Hong Kong. As the new CEO of the Langham Hospitality Group, he’ll be overseeing all aspects of The Langham and Cordis hotel brands.
Gayatri Bhaumik talks to Leser about bringing The Langham hotels into the 21st century, what business travellers are looking for in hotels and expansion plans for both The Langham and Cordis.
What are The Langham hotels doing to meet the needs of the 21st-century traveller?
The hotel industry is founded on providing hospitality and service. It’s that very essence of human connection that makes what we do so special and memorable and this will continue to be the basis of what we will continue to do to meet the needs of all 21st-century travellers.
For the past year, we’ve been talking to our guests and doing these internal deep-dive discussions on what travellers really want from their luxury hotel experience, and it was clear that people come to The Langham to remember. They come to us, trusting us with their most special occasion, be it big or small.
So this is the basis of The Langham hotels’ new campaign, “Celebrate The Everyday.” We’re here to help out guests celebrate the little moments when they visit The Langham hotels, not just the big celebrations of weddings, anniversaries and births, but things like the start of the weekend after a busy work week, or a romantic weekend staycation.
What have you noticed about the evolution of business travel?
Business travellers are getting younger and there’s definitely more accountability with tighter budget controls. We also see a blend of work, life and play taking place for business travellers today.
We see the need for tailored experiences to meet the varied requirements of business travellers. For example, those on the move want grab-and-go breakfast options, while others prefer to start their day catching up on the news with a full breakfast. We have these options and more at our Club lounges.
How are The Langham hotels catering to business travellers?
We see the need for tailored experiences to meet the varied requirements of business travellers. For example, those on the move want grab-and-go options, while others prefer to start their day catching up on the news with a full breakfast.
They can get both and more at our Club Lounges, which are inspired by the legendary private clubs of London. The Club lounges also offer complimentary pressing and access to meeting rooms, along with personalised check-in and check-out services.
We also understand that delegates and business travellers may not have time to experience local delights, so we bring it to them during their meetings at our hotels. For example, Cordis, Hong Kong recently introduced seven new themed coffee breaks highlighting local experiences including, the Mongkok experience, The Chinese Five Elements, and Wellness in the City.
For the Chinese Five Elements, nourishing dim sum delicacies and freshly brewed Chinese tea will be served while flowing water movement on LED screens help restore inner balance. Chuan Spa therapists will also help guests to relax and recharge with a 5 to 10 minute massage session.
Are there any particular initiatives you’d like to be able to implement within the Langham Hospitality Group, whether it’s within the hotels or the company?
Instead of focusing on particular initiatives, I’d like to instead emphasise a few things:
– I believe in high touch, not high tech in the luxury hospitality business.
– We don’t need to be different. We just need to be excellent.
– Managing hotels is serious business but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun along the way. We don’t take ourselves too seriously; there must be a twinkle, a playfulness, to make consumers remember you, and to motivate the team.
Finally, as CEO of Langham Hospitality Group, I am very honoured to have the opportunity to have a positive influence over people’s lifes, to make clients, guests and colleagues happy. I hope the knowledge I share my years of experience is useful to my team, and I am learning from everyone I have the privilege of working with every day.
How do the clients for The Langham and Cordis properties differ? Do you think business travellers would be more likely to choose one over the other?
The Langham is an international luxury brand. The Langham, London opened its door in 1865 and has evolved into a portfolio of hotels that combine the best of British heritage with personalised, unpretentious service and a playful touch of pink.
Cordis, on the other hand, is an international collection of timeless five-star hotels and resorts located in the heart of the local neighbourhood. It offers approachable luxury paired with a service style that is heartfelt and intuitively generous.
Both brands appeal to business travellers – it all comes down to preference based on the individual’s personality and style.
What’s driving the expansion of The Langham brand? Is this different to what’s behind the Cordis brand?
Our goal is to have The Langham hotels in key capital and gateway cities around the world, but we are very measured and focused in the pace of our growth. The key priority is to be in the best location in these cities and as we will not compromise on this detail. We’d rather take our time than lend our brand name to a subpar location.
Cordis, on the other hand, is located in the heart of the community of the most exciting destinations and delivers local experiences that are authentic and family-inclusive, so the locations for Cordis and The Langham hotels differ. For example, at Cordis, we also curate free local tours that offer our guests local experiences. At Cordis, Hong Kong, we have local market tours taking our guests to experience the sights, sounds and tastes of the real Hong Kong.
What new properties can we expect to see over the next year?
We plan to open six to eight The Langham hotels in the next five years. A lot of people may not realise it but we have 16 Langham hotels across four continents; currently they are in the U.S. (Boston, NY, Chicago, LA,) the U.K. (London,) China (Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Ningbo, Haining, Hefei, and Haikou), Hong Kong and Australia (Sydney and Melbourne.)
Within the next 12 months, we’ll be opening The Langham hotels in Jakarta, with potential management deals in key cities in Europe and southeast Asia. We’ll also be opening a Cordis hotel in East Bund, Shanghai, and Hangzhou.
Most of your hotels are urban properties. Why the focus on cities?
Cities are key travel destinations and starting points for leisure travel before people head to the other regions. Strategically located hotels in key cities are also crucial for business travellers.
But cities are not our only focus, we are also looking into other unique destinations and resorts. For example, we’ve recently opened our first Cordis resort in Ningbo, Dongqian Lake. Inspired by its proximity to the serene Dongqian Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake in Zhejiang province with over 1,200 years of history, this newest Cordis property provides panoramic views as it creates a luxurious, yet authentic resort experience.
What’s your focus within the Asia market?
Asia will continue be a strong focus for the group. We are looking forward to opening The Langham, Jakarta next year. Poised to set new benchmarks in luxury hospitality and residential living, The Langham, Jakarta is strategically located within the prestigious new complex of District 8 at Sudirman Central Business District and is in close proximity to the city’s most important financial, cultural, lifestyle and retail centres.
The Langham, Bangkok is slated to open in 2023, and so is The Langham, Tokyo which is located at Roppongi. We are also in discussion with a number of projects and are looking into both hotels and resorts in Asia which include Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Colombo and China.
More Mile High Club…
Lani Tao: The Frequent Traveller
Matt Thurber: The Need for Supersonic Speed