Beyond Luxurious Hospitality

Michael Hobson, CMO, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group tells us about the group's vision: To be recognised as the world's best

THE DEMAND for luxury travel continues to grow strongly, which is encouraging. However, the luxury hotel landscape is evolving at a rapid pace as global high net worth travellers increasingly look for unique experiences, while competition becomes more intense and diverse. New players are emerging in various forms, whether that be additional luxury brand operators producing new offerings, or disruptors seeking to enter the luxury hospitality space with alternative accommodation facilities. We speak to Michael Hobson, Chief Marketing Officer, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, who tells us about the group’s vision – to be recognized as the world’s best luxury hotel group and continues its focus to grow within the evolving market environment.

BW Hotelier: What are your views on the global hospitality market? Any specific goals for the Indian market?

Michael Hobson: We have an extensive Sales and Marketing team across the globe including market-specific experts for India. Our research shows that Indian travellers are increasingly discerning and sophisticated and travelling further afield more and more. I feel that all Mandarin Oriental guests are discerning luxury travellers that enjoy excellence and innovation. We strive to ensure that all of our properties provide guests with a true sense of place. 

BWH: What according to you are the most important points to be considered in an organisation in order to maintain workplace ethics?

MH: We believe that true luxury lies in creating legendary hotels through the perfect combination of tradition, quality and innovation. Our strategy, which is to be widely recognised as the best hotel group in the world remains unchanged. We rely on our team of 12,000 passionate and loyal colleagues across the globe. We are committed to service excellence across the Group and continue to invest behind our core brand attributes of creative design, innovative dining and award-winning holistic spa concepts – all of which we believe sets us apart from the competition. Finding the best employees is a challenge for everyone in the industry. Mandarin Oriental works hard to attract the best colleagues and provides solid training, excellent rewards and the opportunity for career advancement.

Our team has a total of 22 Michelin stars across 15 restaurants, as well as 12 Forbes 5-star spas; both more than any other hotel brand in the world. A true testament to the skill of our team and pride they take in our mission to delight every guest.

BWH: Can you please share international expansion plans?

MH: Under the leadership of our CEO, James Riley, we are focused on growing our brand in new and exciting locations. In the past 12 months we have announced 10 new projects around the world, bringing our total portfolio to 31 operating hotels and a further 17 under construction. In 2017, we added two new properties that will be re-branded as Mandarin Oriental hotels this year. Hotel Santiago, in Chile is our first property in South America, and the Pink Sands Club on Canouan Island is our first Caribbean resort in St Vincent and the Grenadines. We have two Asian properties – the first, Mandarin Oriental Wangfujing, Beijing, and the second Beijing hotel, Mandarin Oriental Qianmen, where guests can experience luxury living in a ‘hutong’, made up of authentic, preserved Beijing courtyard houses.

Next will be our first property in the Middle East in 2019, on Jumeirah Beach in Dubai, with Mandarin Oriental, Doha due to open shortly afterwards. We have also announced a second hotel and residences in the heart of London’s Mayfair district. This project will complement the Group’s flagship Knightsbridge property, which will complete its extensive restoration soon, confirming this historic hotel’s position as the best in the London.

Other announced projects due to open in the next five years include Bali, Chengdu, Shenzhen, Manila, Melbourne, Istanbul, Hawaii, Boca Raton, Vina Del Mar in Chile, Ho Chi Minh City and Muscat in Oman.

BWH: When do we see a Mandarin Oriental in India? Do you have any agenda for the region?

MH: India is certainly a growing market for Mandarin Oriental. We are delighted by the support our brand enjoys from India. Ultimately, the greatest form of marketing for our brand in India will be in the form of a Mandarin Oriental hotel in one of the key inbound and outbound markets in India. We are focused on our leisure and corporate customers via our agents and marketing partners as well as communicating directly and frequently with our Indian-based consumers. The Excelsior, Hong Kong is our only non-Mandarin Oriental branded property. However, we do not have plans to introduce any other brands into our portfolio or India.

BWH: What kind of trends do you see in the luxury market globally?

MH: We have been adapting many of our services to recognise that guests have less time, for example, we have introduced express treatments through our Spa Studios which allow guests to enjoy their wellness activities within a shorter timeframe than usual holistic wellness experiences such as having a pedicure and a facial simultaneously. We recently announced in-room Grokker programmes which allow guests to keep up with wellness activities such as meditation, yoga and pilates without having to leave their rooms. Cutting edge Food and Beverage activity is increasingly important. Mandarin Oriental efforts include The Aviary at Mandarin Oriental New York and PDT at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental. In both instances, we have are working with experts in their fields to pair food with drinks rather than the usual way round – both are extremely theatrical experiences. Residences have been a natural extension of our brand. Current residence projects include Bangkok, Mayfair, Munich and Melbourne.

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'The Food & Beverage Issue '

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