Hyatt Hotels Corporation is a leading global hospitality company. As of 30th June, 2021, its portfolio included more than 1000 hotel and all-inclusive properties in 68 countries across six continents, including the Park Hyatt️, Andaz️, The Unbound Collection by Hyatt️, Destination by Hyatt️, and Hyatt Regency️ brands.
What does your current position involve?
For the last five years I have enjoyed a dual role. I’m based at the beautiful five-star Hyatt Regency London - The Churchill, where I am GM, and simultaneously, I am the area VP for Hyatt Hotels in the UK & Ireland – to date, I overlook 11 properties in this region.
This means that in addition to overseeing the management of all aspects of Hyatt Regency London - The Churchill, supported by our hotel manager and the team, my day can go from discussing internal operational considerations, to a strategic pipeline planning meeting, discussing the opening of a new UK-based Hyatt hotel. The UK and Ireland are incredible, exciting markets, and we are positioned for strong growth over the forthcoming years.
There is no average day, which is why I enjoy this role so very much. Whether working on a macro or micro level, the goal is always the same – with our leaders in each hotel, we focus on getting the detail right so that all our UK and Ireland properties can deliver the best environment and experience for our guests and colleagues.
You celebrated a wonderful 20 years with Hyatt recently. What fascinates you about the luxury hotel industry?
In my experience, people that work in hospitality care about each other as much as creating the personal touches and experiences that make a memorable stay for their guests. I’ve been fascinated throughout the decades by the nuances and the different interpretations of luxury.
It is a remarkable and inspiring environment to work in, centred around human connection, and that’s why the goal for Hyatt isn’t just luxury, but providing opportunities to experience different cultures, learn and share connections. I feel blessed to have experienced that with my colleagues at Hyatt throughout my 20 years here.
Undoubtedly, travel opens the mind and heart. I’ve been fortunate enough to call both Asia and Europe (and now the UK) my home. Being exposed to different cultures and perspectives is not only fascinating, it’s more that learning and understanding these ways of life have helped me to become (I hope) a more empathic, confident leader.
The pandemic made global travel temporarily disappear, and these years have undoubtedly been difficult for many within the luxury hotel industry, but this unique period in history has only confirmed my passion for the industry. I’m proud to belong to such an ebullient and resilient industry.
"It is a remarkable and inspiring environment to work in, centred around human connection, and that’s why the goal for Hyatt isn’t just luxury, but providing opportunities to experience different cultures, learn and share connections"
What are the most challenging issues you are facing in your current role?
Brexit, combined with the Covid-19 pandemic, has led to an industry-wide problem in recruitment. At Hyatt we believe this is an opportunity to showcase our industry and the opportunities for everyone.
Tourism as a whole hasn’t always been perceived as having the best routes for career progression – at Hyatt we are committed to helping and developing our global wave of talent, regardless of age, gender, background or experience. You’ll be hearing more from us on how we plan to do this soon – but now is the time for this to change.
Beyond this, the continued uncertainty around international travel still presents challenges. Although we continue to expect restrictions to impact us, our portfolio is varied and agile, and as domestic leisure travel now dominates our bookings, we have seen strong successes in our F&B outlets upon our reopenings, exceeding our expectations.
We know there is pent-up demand for travel, and we see these strong domestic records as a clear sign of that consumer demand. These results give us cause for optimism for the future. We’re excited to be able to develop further and strengthen Hyatt’s place in the UK hospitality landscape.
What role does Europe play in Hyatt’s growth?
Europe is an integral component of our growth strategy. We currently have 71 hotels in Europe in 23 countries, and this now features nine distinct brands.
Our acquisition of Apple Leisure Group (ALG) will extend Hyatt’s footprint by 11 new European markets, a critical region for global growth in leisure travel.
We are also expanding organically, and expect our European portfolio to grow significantly, with plans to open more than 20 hotels by 2023, and 10 new hotels by the end of the year.
As part of this, we will be expanding our footprint into nine new countries in Europe including Cyprus, Portugal and Iceland, as well as increasing our presence in seven key markets. The UK will play a significant part in this growth, which will begin with our Hyatt Centric Cambridge (Sep 2021), Park Hyatt London River Thames (mid-2023) and Hyatt Regency London Olympia (2024).
But how we grow is just as important. Each of our hotels brings its own story and experience for guests, bringing the customer on a unique journey, from the Andaz in London’s Shoreditch – undoubtedly the cultural hub of London – to the Hyatt Regency Manchester, located at the heart of the city’s Innovation District … or in Birmingham, just overlooking the canal. Hyatt’s diversity of brands means there is something for everyone, and we will continue to further our presence within the luxury lifestyle sector in Europe, with increased offerings across our Independent Collection brands that include Destination by Hyatt, The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, and JdV by Hyatt.
Is there anything exciting you’re working on now that you can tell us about?
We have a rich pipeline across Europe, and exciting plans for our portfolio in the UK. Luckily for us, we have a very proactive development team who have been much in demand looking at new opportunities throughout the pandemic.
Most recently, Hyatt Place London City East opened, located right next to Aldgate, with a stunning rooftop bar and terrace overlooking the City of London.
We are particularly excited to have welcomed our Hyatt Centric brand in Cambridge, its opening in September marked the brand’s first entry into the UK and is another exciting milestone for our growth within the UK market. The Hyatt Centric brand is all about embracing the local area and lifestyle, and this hotel is very much focused on the city and University of Cambridge, with bicycles provided for guests to rent to explore the best places in town, such as the famous colleges of Cambridge, only a 15-minute bicycle ride away.
Can you give us an update on Park Hyatt London, and what we can expect from this iconic luxury property?
Park Hyatt London River Thames will be located just opposite Chelsea Westminster, which offers the perfect backdrop for our luxury Park Hyatt brand, sitting right on the South Bank of the River Thames.
Park Hyatt London River Thames will bring the very best of design, and service at the highest standard, as well as immersive and rare culinary experiences, unlocking unparalleled enrichment for guests. Guests will also be able to unwind in the signature Park Hyatt Living Room, designed by the firm Super Potato, and enjoy world-renowned artwork and design, as well as host events in a large ballroom.
As with other Park Hyatt properties, this new 203-room hotel will provide discerning travellers with a luxurious base from which to explore the city. From the hotel, travellers will be able to visit nearby attractions like Tate Britain and reach areas such as Sloane Square and Kings Road on foot.
The opening is planned for 2023, and we are thrilled to be bringing the luxurious Park Hyatt brand to the UK – a very exciting step for the Hyatt UK family.
“Brexit, combined with the Covid-19 pandemic, has led to an industry-wide problem in recruitment”
How important is interior design within your hotels?
The interior design of all Hyatt hotel brands is integral to our vision for the guest experience. The cornerstone of this is the sense of individuality and personality all our hotels bring, carefully curating a sense of the local area into the hotel as part of the guest’s journey.
At Hyatt, all our hotels tell their own story through design. Hyatt Regency London - The Churchill is a great example of this. Designed by BJB, it showcases the heritage that the name commands, with artwork curated by Churchill Heritage. Recent upgrades to The Library and The Gallery also reflect the passions of Sir Winston Churchill.
Hyatt’s independent collection of hotels, which features The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, Destination by Hyatt and JdV by Hyatt brands, is a fantastic place to see some of the most compelling examples of the importance Hyatt places on interior design. Each hotel within Hyatt’s independent collection has its own distinct identity, which is amplified by expert-led interior design, which is sympathetic and true to its location.
Great Scotland Yard Hotel, for example, was the first within The Unbound Collection by Hyatt in the UK. It stands on the site of the iconic former headquarters of the Metropolitan Police, and underwent a major restoration and full-scale renovation. The hotel tells its own story, and its history is incorporated throughout the hotel design. The exceptional skills of art consultant Sarah Percy-Davis of Hollandridge Group and HBA, one of the world’s leading hospitality design firms, helped bring to life the individuality of this famous London landmark, and turn it into what is now a luxurious and beautifully unique hotel.
And then Andaz London Liverpool Street provides a dynamic guest journey, weaving the history and heritage of Shoreditch into the building through vibrant restaurants, bars and rooms, as well as bringing the creative street art feel into the lobby, designed by ARA.
How does design play a role in driving customer loyalty?
Great design undoubtedly plays a role in the guest experience, and at Hyatt we want guests to feel a connection to the local area through our designs.
But for us it’s more than that. Customer experience at our hotels is all about how the design makes them feel – whether warm and homely, vibrant and connected, or relaxed and ready to unwind. Their connection to how our design makes them feel, with the alchemy of warmth of our teams, is what drives our customer loyalty.
“Our acquisition of Apple Leisure Group (ALG) will extend Hyatt’s footprint by 11 new European markets, a critical region for global growth in leisure travel”
In what parts of the hospitality experience is good design most important?
Across our brand portfolio, good design is always central to a memorable stay for our guests. Our brands allow us to be flexible and tell a story, and following the pandemic we have reflected on the design of all of our UK hotels to ensure we are able to meet new expectations.
At Hyatt Regency London - The Churchill, we renovated public spaces across the hotel, as part of both pre-planned projects and new projects that were a reaction to the pandemic. For instance, we developed new small and medium meeting spaces on the ground floor to cater for meetings and social events, and we developed the two new family room categories for the domestic market.
Additionally, we fully renovated our top suite and renamed it The Churchill Residential Suite. This development was always planned as a celebration of our 50th year, but we amended the project to suit it to a post-pandemic world and post-pandemic guest – we want to appeal not just to the diplomat and the business traveller, but to families who want to reconnect and spend some much-needed time together. With this in mind, we made the design more contemporary and gave it an apartment feeling, to make leisure guests feel at home.
In addition to the renovation of the Churchill Residential Suite, we have refreshed the lobby, which features works by British artists curated by our neighbours, Thompson’s Gallery. We have also redesigned the al fresco, heated terrace at The Churchill Bar & Terrace, just launched our pop-up Montagu Winter Terrace, and introduced two new family room categories – Two-Bedroom Garden View Suite and Family Room Garden View.
“Great design undoubtedly plays a role in the guest experience, and at Hyatt we want guests to feel a connection to the local area through our designs”
How important is choosing the right designer for each hotel?
We’ve always prided ourselves on our design, and choosing the right designer for each hotel is therefore a critical ingredient for success. For us at Hyatt, the process is always a collaborative one, working closely with the owners and other stakeholders who have a view and a vision for what the hotel should embody, and I think we have really benefited from this approach.
So our hotels offer a true sense of place, we begin with honouring the individuality and history of each hotel, and then seek to embrace its originality within the design. Andaz London Liverpool Street, for example, is located in the heart of East London, where ‘the City meets Shoreditch’. Each Andaz hotel is one of a kind in every sense, with an authentic and stylish product reflective of local culture.
World-renowned designers Conran + Partners carried the Andaz brief to perfection by taking inspiration from the crisp, detailed formalities of London’s City, and playfully teamed them with Shoreditch’s edgier, artistic, and cultural influences to create interiors that sit equally alongside modern design and historic architecture, and skilfully bring to life the story of these two places coming together.
We are conscious about all the choices we make. Across the entire portfolio we seek to be increasingly efficient in making use of natural resources and, especially for the new Hyatt Centric in Cambridge, sustainability was a key focus. Located within Eddington itself, a whole new area of Cambridge that has been designed for 21st century sustainable living, globally renowned design studio AvroKO embraced this hotel’s particular story to bring a true essence of the hotel’s local area and lifestyle indoors.
What plans and aspirations do you have for Hyatt?
We occupy a unique position in the marketplace in terms of our scale, footprint and diverse brand portfolio. Our strategy towards growth has always been one of intent, as we look to expand in destinations we know our guests want to visit.
Hyatt’s entrepreneurial spirit is strong. We are focusing on increasing our lifestyle offering and extending our brand presence into more resort destinations, extending our appeal to families and luxury lifestyle travellers.
We have a strong plan for growth within the UK and across Europe, and our diverse portfolio of brands – particularly those within our Independent Collection – means we can continue to provide guests with the unique experience that they desire, where they desire.
What’s your biggest dream in life?
Travelling is one of my biggest passions, but, like many people over the past few years, I haven’t been able to, due to the pandemic. I’m really looking forward to being able to start travel safely again to keep opening my horizon, creativity and global mindset! Ideally, I would love to spend a year travelling around the world, engaging with and learning about different people and cultures – that’s definitely in my retirement plan!