I recently had the privilege of meeting with Stefan Leser, CEO of Langham Hotel and we’ve shared our hotel vision during the ILTM show:
What are your biggest challenges in the guest experience going forward? What trends do you see that you want to incorporate?
The challenge is about how you bring your message across because with all the amounts of impressions that are hitting the clients at all channels, it is very difficult to differentiate between what is noise and what is the truth behind it. It’s about how you get this voice of a brand across in a consistent way, that you then communicate what you then deliver. We want people to say, “It was what I expected and even more,” rather than just, “Ok.”
That’s the biggest challenge since we have so much going on in terms of communication and travel as we’ve also heard over the last few days. It’s one of the most relevant topics. People have time and money. But people have seen an awful lot. I don’t think that the challenge is so much about competing with other forms of travel or whatsoever. People will select different forms for different purposes. For us, it’s more about how we can make sure to communicate appropriately what the guest can expect and then we have the opportunity to deliver with it.
What is the role of sustainable development in your hotels?
This is one of those parts where, again, maybe we are too humble. We are one of the furthest advanced organizations when it comes to sustainability. In terms of Earth Check, all of our properties are Earth Check certified; some are advanced and have almost reached platinum status. They are not only City first but also country first. It goes back to what the owning family has as values. This is not something that we need to do because people want it; it’s something we believe in.
When it comes to what other hotels have done, I don’t want to comment on others, but sometimes their announced goals are too far out. I don’t want to make an announcement about 2022 or things like that. I want to see how we stop things tomorrow and how we progress and how we implement it. There, maybe our advantage is our size. You’ve been in Operations. Sometimes it’s not the willingness; sometimes it’s the operational challenge that prevents you from doing it tomorrow.
In the Langham in London, we’ve gotten rid of plastic bottles. We have a system that basically gets rid of food waste completely because it crushes the food so we can basically flush it. There is no landfill happening from waste anywhere. We have a lot of attention and resources dedicated to that issue. We had a meeting on sustainability bringing on other industries and experts on what they think we should do as an industry, whether it’s insurance or IT companies. They are looking at it from a different perspective.
There, I say we don’t do too little, but we maybe don’t communicate it enough. It’s also not tricky, but I’d much rather overdo it than overpromise in that area. It’s very close to our heart, but I want to see the action before I communicate about it.
How do you motivate your staff team to give the best of themselves at the Langham?
I hope that I legitimately come across to my colleagues that it’s a service and people’s business. The infrastructure is our right to play in the market, but it’s not the thing that will make us successful. It comes down to whether our people deliver in an authentic manner with fun and passion the service that we promise and make it memorable for our clients so that whenever the next travel comes up, they think about us again. That’s the part that is very close to my heart, and that’s what I try to implement as an organization.
One of the first prerequisites in our industry is that you hire happy people. It’s not that I only want to deal with happy people, but if you are not positive, you will not survive in our industry because the energy that you will need to bring to work just to show up will obviously not make it a sustainable profession for you. It’s difficult, but it’s an industry challenge for us. We need to get out of our corner and work on the reputation of our industry. We are an industry that has talent that deals with situations that are unscripted and that come up with no warning, and we have people who are so fantastic with handling those situations. A lot of other industries don’t have that kind of character or emotional intelligence or even stress systems. I’ve worked in this industry now for 30 years, and from tsunamis to ash clouds to personal tragedies, you have all kinds of things as well as things you have on the positive end, be it a celebration of milestones in life that you want to make sure they are delivered in ways that our clients want. We need to work on the reputation of how proud our people can be to be in that and not look down as a service industry where a production person or a car manufacturer has a higher standing by respect from that aspect. That’s what I feel is also, as an industry, our duty.
Laurent Delporte, an editor and conference speaker, is a strategic expert in the sector of hotels. A visionary, he brings his unique look on hotels in service to the decision-makers in the industry, whether to enhance the development of new projects or strategic visions.
Laurent has visited and audited over 350 hotels across the world and also participates in mystery visits to provide quality control for the world’s finest hotels.