Langham Hospitality Group encompasses a family of distinctive hotels under The Langham Hotels and Resorts and Cordis Hotels brands with more than 30 projects either currently confirmed or in a developed stage of negotiation from Asia, Europe and North America to the Middle East.
In light of global coronavirus concerns, and to ease the concerns for their guests and more than 8,000 employees, Langham Hospitality Group has implemented rigorous measures against its spread. Here, Stefan Leser, CEO of the Group, tells Hotel & Catering News ME about one of the biggest hospitality brands’ future plans – in face of challenges and beyond.
Please tell us a bit more about Langham Hospitality Group (LHG).
The Group takes its name from the legendary Langham in London, which was widely recognised as Europe’s first Grand Hotel when it first opened in 1865. For over 150 years, this flagship hotel has represented sophisticated and gracious hospitality, a philosophy that reflects elegance in design, innovation in hospitality, sincere service and captivation of the senses across all properties.
Currently, the group has an impressive global footprint in prime locations. Historical properties range from the iconic The Langham, London to The Langham, Boston dating back to 1922 when it was the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and the legendary The Huntington Hotel from 1911, now The Langham, Pasadena. Fifth Avenue’s The Langham, New York and the Mies van der Rohe-designed The Langham, Chicago complete the USA portfolio.
In Asia, The Langham, Hong Kong sits at the heart of the fashion district, and the super modern The Langham, Shanghai and the ultra-luxurious The Langham, Shenzhen are favourites with local residents. Both The Langham, Melbourne and The Langham, Sydney are among the most frequently awarded in Australia and soon to open are various locations in China, Japan, Italy, Indonesia, and the USA.
Cordis is an international collection of timeless 5-star hotels and resorts by Langham Hospitality Group. Offering approachable luxury paired with a service style that’s heartfelt and intuitively generous, Cordis Hotels are located in the heart of their community in the most exciting destinations, and delivering experiences that are authentic and family-inclusive.
What are your main brand pillars for The Langham Hotels and Resorts?
The Langham is a brand of luxury hotels and resorts in key international cities with its flagship in London, dating back to 1865. It effortlessly combines the personality and charm of a British classic with a passion for exceptional and unpretentious service.
Its timeless and beautifully designed hotels are market leaders in Club Lounge concepts that combine a welcoming feeling with luxurious residential design, offering a haven of peace and an escape from the city’s busy days.
Exceptional contemporary art collections are present in the majority of The Langham Hotels and Resorts as well as Michelin-starred Cantonese restaurants.
Our Langham brand is globally recognised by a playful touch of The Langham pink and the caring and friendly service delivered by its colleagues to an audience of sophisticated, smart and savvy travellers.
Please describe the experiences you offer guests, what characterises them and makes them unique?
Our brand promise for The Langham Hotels and Resorts is to deliver exceptional, personalised and unpretentious service in beautifully designed hotels with a playful touch of pink and a hint of British heritage.
How would you describe leadership style across LHG?
I’m truly privileged to be working with one of the best teams in the industry. I’m surrounded by experts in their respective fields, so what’s left for me to do is to be their guiding light. It’s as simple and yet as complex as that. In an ever-changing world and being in the travel industry that’s dominated by people, their passions, their intellect, and their desires, that can be a volatile mix.
So, keeping the focus on our values, what our company stands for, knowing who we are and where we’re going, and keeping everyone headed in that same direction are the very essence of my role as the leader of Langham Hospitality Group.
How do you face challenges of different magnitudes?
To me, there’s no such thing as being over-prepared. In such a high-touch, people-oriented industry, one never knows what will happen from day to day, minute to minute. I’m a firm believer in expecting and working toward the best outcomes, but to really succeed, I would always advise to plan for the worst scenarios: to be able to overcome adversity is what signifies strength, resilience, thoughtfulness and stability.
To that end, we have a comprehensive crisis management plan and spare no expense in training our colleagues regularly to make sure they understand the protocols, to help them be better prepared for all extraordinary circumstances.
From the tumultuous time in January 2020 when this global pandemic grew exponentially in Asia, our 13 hotels in China and Hong Kong have responded swiftly and systematically with each rapidly escalating development. I’m proud that our hotels’ leaders’ priorities were laser-focused on ensuring the safety and health of our guests and colleagues, and this was evident in the many preventive and detection measures put in place to stop the spread of the virus.
In China, our hotels have undergone (and are still going through) an extraordinarily difficult period which saw not only the hotels’ occupancies plunge to near- zero levels, but also operate on skeleton crews as most of the colleagues were unable to travel due to the transport bans, and in some cases, manage the complete closure of several of our properties for a few weeks.
We’re only starting to see some glimmer of relief now in the form of decreasing cases of confirmed infections, and our China and Hong Kong hotels are working towards a robust recovery plan for the rest of the year.
What measures have you implemented to mitigate the effects of the global coronavirus pandemic?
We remain constantly vigilant and have implemented stringent measures against the spread of the coronavirus. In the last three months, we have witnessed unprecedented global events brought upon by COVID-19. The devastating domino effect of this pandemic is still reverberating around the world as the number of infected cases continue to rise. And although Langham Hospitality Group is not immune from the profoundly disruptive effects of the virus outbreak, my confidence in our company hasn’t wavered once, and that can be directly attributed to our over 8000 colleagues around the world.
As our group has 13 hotels in Mainland China and Hong Kong, we have the benefit of applying the difficult and painful lessons they have acquired since mid-January 2020 to the rest of our hotels around the world. We have reinforced strict precautionary protocols which include conducting temperature readings for all colleagues, hotel suppliers and contractors upon arrival at the hotel and the frequent disinfection of all areas of the hotel.
The increased cleaning and sanitising regimen throughout the entire hotel includes all rooms, providing declaration forms for all guests, public spaces, back-of-house areas and especially, the front desk, elevators, elevator buttons, and room keys.
In addition, automatic hand sanitiser dispensers are placed in lift areas in the lobby, and at host stations at the restaurants and bars that are still operational. Staff who are performing these extra cleaning tasks are provided with protective gloves and masks, as are any other colleagues who need or request them.
We’re also regularly educating our colleagues and guests to observe good hygiene practices. Additional preventive actions we have taken among our colleagues to help avert the spread of COVID-19 include: washing hands thoroughly with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, maintaining social distancing, staying home if feeling unwell, and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
We will continue to respond and adopt the necessary precautionary processes based on the expert advice of the World Health Organization, local governments, public health authorities and medical professionals to ensure we play our part in stopping the transmission of this virus for the safety of our colleagues and guests.
What advice would you offer properties globally in face of such rare, but impactful conditions?
Never be complacent. These are unprecedented times we’re in, and the magnitude of this pandemic affects all countries, industries, and livelihoods. For the sake of our colleagues, guests, and the communities in which we operate, we can’t and must never let our guard down. We don’t comprise on safety precautions, and never take matters regarding our colleagues’ and guests’ well-being lightly or for granted.
In a crisis, especially during this current pandemic, it’s important to actively seek opportunities to care for our guests and members of the public who are self-isolating. Let me give you an example: the talented chefs at The Langham, Chicago quickly shared cooking recipes and techniques via social media and the award-winning bar Artesian at The Langham, London produced fun videos detailing easy step-by-step beverage-making videos to ease anxiety, and uplift spirits.
Our hotels in China rapidly mobilised care packages of handwritten encouraging notes, freshly made pastries and beverages to medical staff at local hospitals. We’re united in adversity and through compassion and thoughtfulness, we will rise together in strength.
Langham Hospitality Group has weathered many different types of storms and how we overcome them defines our resolve, fortitude and tenacity. We will positively manage through today’s challenging environment just as we‘ve positively steered through difficult moments in the past.
What’s important is the immensely resilient spirit, determination and talent demonstrated by our colleagues’ care and concern for each other, our guests, and our communities. With everyone working together to help stimulate travel and getting the hotels to welcome guests when they are ready to return, I firmly believe that our hotels and group are in very good hands. I’m very positive that we will emerge from this turbulent period stronger, together.
What are some of your most important upcoming projects?
The Langham, Nymphenburg Residence, Munich: Marking our expansion into Europe is The Langham, Nymphenburg Residence, Munich a one key, three-storey exclusive private residence located within the stately 490-acre imperial estate of Nymphenburg Palace, just a 15-minute drive from the Munich city centre.
The Langham Nymphenburg Residence, Munich is steeped in royal Bavarian history; guests will enjoy the privacy and exclusivity of this 18th century manor with a privileged location next to the Royal Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory, which is renowned for exquisite avant-garde and tailor-made designs for four centuries.
For lovers of the arts, The Langham Nymphenburg Residence’s connection to the Royal Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory is undoubtedly its greatest advantage. Founded in 1747, the unrivalled global reputation of the Manufactory for creating completely handmade porcelain – without any automated production techniques and by using its own paste derived from centuries-old recipes – make the porcelain masterpieces it painstakingly creates to be highly revered by art connoisseurs the world over.
The Manufactory has cultivated the noble art of porcelain-making using brilliant handmade artistry which has been preserved and passed on for generations. At The Langham Nymphenburg Residence, this dedication to the pursuit of beauty and the highest quality is evident in all the interior spaces, making it a living tribute to skilled craftsmanship and artistry.
One of the most remarkable features is a curated selection of pieces from the Nymphenburg porcelain workshop that will be placed throughout the 9,000 square foot Residence. Renowned for their collaborations with celebrated artists and fashion designers such as Karl Lagerfeld, Miuccia Prada, Christian Lacroix, and Elie Saab to name but a few, some of the extraordinary works at the Residence will include two impressive porcelain “Myth and Legend” sculptures by Damien Hirst in the dining room.
The Langham Nymphenburg Residence, Munich is a residence emphasises the diversity of our growing portfolio, and it’s a wonderful addition to our group of luxury hotels in major cities such as New York, London, Shanghai, Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong and Chicago.
The Langham, Jakarta: Another key opening that we’re really looking forward to is The Langham, Jakarta. It will mark our first foray into Southeast Asia. This beautiful hotel is a jewel in our portfolio and is poised to be the best luxurious hotel in the city. There will be world class F&B experiences we will be introducing and I look forward to sharing more in due course.
In addition, China continues to be a key growth region for us. We’re looking forward to and working towards the opening of Langham Place, Changsha (late 2020) and Cordis, Hangzhou (2021).